A Death in the Family by James Agee

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Personally, I would say that this is definitely a book that I didn’t hate about the reading list I have to go through for school. It captures the authentic emotions of the main character, Rufus, who had to confront his father’s death. But as a very little kid, Rufus doesn’t really know much about what it means to die and how feels like to have someone intimate to you die. Therefore, the author does an amazing job at portraying the internal thinking processes of the characters.

Moreover, what I really loved about this book was the focus of religion. Unlike some of the other novels, delineating Christianity and God as deities that cannot be offended or questioned, this novel, on the other hand, exemplifies characters who don’t believe, or even curse the reality of religion and hold a suspicious attitude toward the existence of Jesus.

Lastly, the detailed expression of the characters’, especially Mary, Rufus’ mother. She was generally seen as a feminine character who takes very good care of Jay, her husband, and the two children. However, when the breadwinner of the family dies, she was forced to confront the harshness of reality and be both the father and the mother to her children. Similarly, this reflects an aspect of our modern society where women can be psychologically strong and support their children even without the help of men in cases of divorce, death, and others where the male influence is missing.

-Coreen C. 

A Death in the Family by James Agee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

An Appointment With My Brother by Yi Mun-Yol

This novella, An Appointment With His Brother, talks about the unseen interaction between North and South Korea. Basically what happens is, the protagonist’s father defected to North Korea, which is unusual because it would normally be the other way around. The protagonist finds out years later that his father had a new family. Since the father lives in North Korea, visiting each other is nearly impossible. However, one day he learns about the boundary line between North Korea and China. People would cross the border with the help of a broker and essentially escape. So the main character attempts to meet his father but ends up having An Appointment With My Brother instead. Once they meet each other, they talk to each other about their lives and compare them. They come to a realization about their lifestyles after talking–their lives weren’t as different as they thought.

There was a lot learned from this story, things that aren’t usually revealed in the news, and only something that those people know. Even though the book was difficult to understand, the underlying theme and message are important to one’s everyday life. Reading this book allowed me to put the prejudice views aside and really see the true events that occur instead.

-Phoebe L.

See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles

Middle school shouldn’t be a time for people to be put under so much stress. But, Fern, a twelve-year-old girl, has to deal with much more than she should.

Her father is constantly trying to boost business for the family restaurant, and unfortunately, Fern often gets pulled into the mess, being forced to wear stupid t-shirts for ads. Her mother is always meditating, and on the rare occasion that she’s not, she’s doting over Fern’s three-year-old brother Charlie, who always gets what he wants.

As if that weren’t enough, her two older siblings are dealing with their own problems that often end up affecting the entire family. Sarah, her older sister, is taking a gap year after high school and is busy avoiding work, while Holden, Fern’s brother, is focused on making himself believe that his parents don’t realize that he’s gay.

But then something catastrophic happens – something Fern would have never expected, and it changes all of their lives tremendously. Ran is Fern’s only solace in this huge mess, with his soothing presence, and his t-shirts with positive and encouraging quotes. She must rely on his mantra: “all will be well” to convince herself that she will be able to get through all of this.

I didn’t really know anything about this book before reading it, but I was looking for something to read, and thought this book looked interesting. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was and read the whole thing in one day. The book itself isn’t very long-so it’s a fairly quick read. But, it is pretty deep, and it’s definitely filled with a lot of emotion.

Although the author, Jo Knowles, did grow up helping out at her parent’s family restaurant, the characters in this book are fictional. However I felt that she did an amazing job at describing and developing these characters. I could easily imagine a family like Fern’s to be out there somewhere.

I really love this book despite the fact that it is very sad. If you do end up reading it, which I highly recommend doing, make sure to have a tissue box nearby.

-Elina T.

The Superlatives series by Jennifer Echols

When you open up your yearbook, there usually is a Best Of page, such as Best Dressed, Most Athletic, etc. Some people don’t know that this page is called the Superlatives, or as dictionary.com defines it: being of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others; supreme; extreme. Jennifer Echols weaves together a series about how three different titles affect three best friends: Tia, Harper, and Kaye.

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The first book, Biggest Flirts, starts off with Tia, the drum captain. She bilingual, 5’ 9”, is a serious underachiever, and almost has an allergic reaction if anyone tries to put her in charge. What she thinks are her values and morals all start to change when the new guy, Will, shows up from Minnesota. She states over and over again that she doesn’t want a boyfriend, but will that change as she gets to know Will better?

 

 

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The second book, Perfect Couple, is about Harper, the yearbook photographer. She’s first dating the yearbook editor, Kennedy, and then gets voted Perfect Couple with the schools quarterback, Brody. She doesn’t understand why the school would pair her with someone like Brody.  She’s a photographer with glasses and her funky homemade dresses. So why would the school think that Brody is a perfect match for her while Kennedy already is?

 

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The final book, Most Likely To Succeed is about Kaye, the head cheerleader. She’s the student body vice president, and has exceptional grades, but her mom always pushes her to work harder. She’s dating the student body president, Aidan, for the past three years. But even though similarities at first may attract at the beginning, they sometimes don’t work out in the long run. Maybe she needs to date the school’s bad boy, Sawyer, who has a father than was in jail, dresses up as the school mascot, and tries to convince her that he’s a good fit for her.

 

All three girls first start out with the jerks at the beginning, even though one isn’t a jerk at the end of book three. Each of the girls have a rocky start with the guy they’re supposed be with, but it eventually works out. And of course you have to have the curve-ball, such as when Kaye tells Harper a shocking secret in book 2, which makes you go, wait, what?

This is a nice, relaxing series by Echols. If you want a series that will make you smile, this one is for you! These books make you rethink about wanting to have one of those titles. What if you are voted a bad one, such as Sawyer’s Most Likely To Go Jail award? On the other hand, would you really want the Most Academic Award, and feel like you have to live it up, and be more pressured to be valedictorian? This series is for ages 14 and up.

-Rebecca V., 8th grade

Biggest Flirts and Perfect Couple are available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.