Book Review: Looking for Alaska, by John Green

looking_for_alaskaLooking for Alaska is a realistic fiction novel by the recently famous author John Green about an awkward teenage boy who finds love for the first time. Although the plot may sound cliché, Green adds relatable elements to the book that most authors don’t.

The book begins with a 16 year old named Miles Halter spending his last day at his home in Florida before he leaves for a prestigious boarding school located in Alabama. Upon arriving to Culver Creek Boarding School, Miles is introduced to plenty of his soon-to-be friends. But on that day Miles falls in love with the outgoing and crazy Alaska Young. Throughout the school year, Alaska and Miles share countless adventures when suddenly one day changes his life forever.

I thought the story had everything it needed to be overall an amazing book. It lets the reader connect with the characters and allows us to feel and experience the troubles the characters are going through. This book proves to be funny, emotional, and captivating as the reader takes a journey to Miles’ version of a “Great Perhaps.”

I would recommend this book to any teen looking for an engrossing yet simple read and hope to see it someday made into a movie.

-Sara S., 10th grade

Book Review: Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

speak_coverHigh school should be one of the greatest experiences in freshman Melinda’s life, but instead it is twisted into a horrible nightmare as one secret rips her life apart. One party was turned into a complete disaster when she called the cops. However, there may be more than is seen on the surface.

Melinda finds herself rejected by her classmates and former friends, closed off from her parents, and unable to reveal the truth behind a trauma that has left her private and social life in ruins. As she faces more and more pain and harassment from school, she becomes increasingly isolated and soon refuses to talk at all. Melinda slowly loses touch with those around her, building walls around her to protect from the shame of what happened on that one fateful night. The safest place for her to be is her own head. But where can you run to escape from yourself?

Through her art class she finds some solace, and it is from an art project that she finally finds the  strength to face what really happened at that party– and this time Melinda fights back and refuses to be silent.

In this powerful Printz Honor novel, a realistic, believable heroine delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school with her ironic bitterness, and finally speaks up about her pain. She speaks for any teenager that feels like an outcast while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself

Warning: This book may not be appropriate for children 12 and under due to mature content.

-Julia D., 9th grade

Authors We Love: John Green

john_greenOne of my favorite contemporary authors by far is John Green. He has inspired me to become an author myself. He primarily writes young adult fiction.

He is also well known on Youtube for his channels Vlogbrothers and CrashCourse; both of which are shared with his brother Hank Green. His works include but are not limited to: The Fault In Our Stars (which is set to become a major motion picture), Looking For Alaska, and Paper Towns.

The Fault In Our Stars is John Green’s most recent novel. It was published in 2012 and was ranked #1 on The New York Times bestsellers list. The title is an allusion to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It is centered around the romance of two cancer-afflicted teenagers, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters.

looking_for_alaskaLooking For Alaska is John Green’s first novel. It was published in 2005 and won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellent in Young Adult Literature in 2006. It is a novel of firsts. It documents Miles “Pudge” Halter’s junior year of high school. Miles is obsessed with famous last words. He transfer to a boarding school in Alabama from Florida upon Francois Rabelais’ last words: I go to seek a great perhaps. The greatest “perhaps” is, in my opinion, Alaska Young. Alaska Young is an emotionally unstable girl with whom Pudge thinks he is in love. He never fully comprehends who she is until it is too late. She asks Pudge how will you ever get out of the labyrinth of suffering, which were the last words of Simon Bolivar. At the end of the novel, Pudge concludes that the only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.

paper_townsPaper Towns is John Green’s third novel, published in 2008. It won the 2009 Edgar Award for the best Young Adult novel. It tells the story of Quentin “Q” Jacobsen, a high school senior in Florida. Q has been in love with his neighbor Margo Roth Speigelman since they were kids. They have since then grown apart but it is not until one night Margo asks for his help that they reunite for an adventure of a lifetime. Q unknowingly helps Margo bid farewell to her life in Florida. The very next day, Margo runs away from her “paper town.” Q follows the clues she didn’t intend to leave in order to find her. Q comes to understand Margo through her clues but it is not until he finds her that he truly understands that she is not a mystery after all. There are many parallels between Looking For Alaska and Paper Towns. Alaska very well could have been the mold for Margo.

John Green is one my favorite authors not because of the stories he tells but rather because of the messages he conveys. His simple yet profound statements have continued to capture my curiosity and admiration. As they say in John Green’s hometown, don’t forget to be awesome!

-Sarah B., 11th grade

Book Review: In Darkness, by Nick Lake

in_darkness_coverIn Darkness is a novel written by Nick Lake that recently won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. This award is the teen literature equivalent of the Newbery award, which honors the most distinguished book written for children each year. Having read this book, I can most certainly testify that this novel is worthy of the award.

This novel is categorized under the genre realistic fiction, but personally, I found it to be more historical fiction. I am not and have never been a fan of historical fiction, but I found myself really touched by this novel. The story follows Shorty, a Haitian boy, trapped underneath a hospital following an earthquake. As he nears death, he ruminates on his life, and all of the things that he has done that he regrets, and all of the things that he will miss if he dies. I found this to be one of the most touching portions of this novel- Shorty is a very relatable character to the teenage audience that Lake writes to. He is angry, passionate, lovable, and honest. He has the same interests most teens have today- music, friendship, family, and school. His life in Haiti is interesting and captivating, and mostly shocking, because it shows the extreme poverty and violence that these Haitians live with.

Shorty’s story is entwined with the story of Toussaint l’Ouverture, the slave who led the rebellion for Haiti’s independence two hundred years prior. Although both of the characters are so different, Lake writes their stories together with shocking ease. Both characters are undergoing a war, l’Ouverture leading Haiti’s independence from France, and Shorty’s involvement in the gang wars. Through their stories, you see how Haiti was shaped, and the similarities between the Haiti of the past, and the Haiti of the present. Many Haitian rituals and phrases are included in the novel, making it seem very authentic and showing Lake’s passion for this subject and his dedication to his novel.

In Darkness was touching and passionate. It took me a while to get used to the switching of the viewpoints from Shorty to l’Ouverture, but I found the exchanging of the viewpoints made me more invested in each story. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen in each of the characters’ lives next. Some readers might find this story desolate and hopeless, but there were various parts of the novel that shined with optimism, most notably Shorty’s angelic lost sister, Marguerite. Other reviewers have said that the novel is inappropriate for younger readers, because of the amount of expletives and violence, but I think that it is truthful and would be a great read for any young adult reader.

I highly recommend this novel overall, and I think it definitely deserves the Michael L. Printz Award.

-Brianna M., 11th grade