Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Privacy? Or Security? Which would you prefer? Little Brother takes place a few years into the future, in a San Francisco that’s already well-monitored. After a terrorist attack, the surveillance tightens to catch the terrorists, but also monitors everyone else without their permission. The Department of Homeland Security has decided that the Bill of Rights can be ignored in the name of “freedom”—a freedom that allows the DHS to monitor everyone without their consent.

Marcus Yallow skips school with his friends, but then his world forever changes after the terrorist attack—and getting picked up by the DHS. He determines to take revenge on them, and in doing so, raises questions about rights: the right to privacy, the right to liberty, the right to justice, the right to stand up for ourselves. Marcus’s technological prowess is admirable, but perhaps isn’t completely surprising considering that almost everything is under surveillance. However, his abilities with technology allow him to do what he does, and he does it well, eventually bringing others—many others—into his fold.

Although I didn’t always agree with everything Marcus did (mostly regarding his personal life), the book was a really good discussion about freedom and privacy and the lengths the government and citizens can go to—from trusting the government unconditionally, to taking issue with it when they’re doing wrong.

-Aliya A.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is available to download from Overdrive

Film Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a really great film, but as a classic Star Wars film it really didn’t strike me. That’s the problem with many fans. They are torn between whether they should like this movie or not, which is why I’m writing this review. After I saw the movie, I was a little confused. The whole point of the movie was about admitting your mistakes and finding yourself. They where the two big main ideas that made an impact on the story.

Other people were mad with the choices that director Rian Johnson made. Fans where stating that The Last Jedi didn’t live up to The Empire Strikes Back‘s name. Which they where right. It was a perfect film to have in the middle of a trilogy. Even more fans just wanted to see J J Abrams direct the movie. He was wonderful with The Force Awakens and I wouldn’t mind if he directed the next trilogy. If there are any J. J. fans out there don’t worry, he is directing the next movie.

Rian Johnson changed Luke’s character a little bit to be very funny on the big screen to balance his inner conflict. People were still having trouble understanding Luke’s character in the movie. Even Mark Hamill didn’t understand why Johnson put him in the position he made for the movie. Fans strongly disagreed with Luke in The Last Jedi. Ryan Johnson also made the planet that Luke was on with a lot of detail. For example in the background you could hear the Porgs do their little cry.

But hands down it was an excellent film. I just wonder what Rian will do with the next trilogy considering the events that close out the movie. This was the longest Star Wars movie we have gotten but if you’re patient and a huge fan of the franchise, then I recommend you see it.

-Max U.

Want by Cindy Pon

Vividly conjured from bestselling author Cindy Pon’s colorful imagination comes an alluringly dark society set in near-future Taipei, where sickness and pollution plague its inhabitants. A thriller spun into sci-fi, the book depicts a story about a group of teens who try their hand at changing their society for the better by toppling the empire of the rich minority.

With stunning prose dripping with imagery so powerful it induces incredibly lifelike images, Pon does a brilliant job highlighting the stark contrast between the privilege of the rich and the scraps the poor pick up behind them, illuminated by its futuristic setting. It’s a story about division, unity, and vigilante justice, highlighted with an ever-so-sweet touch of friendship and romance. The novel does a brilliant job of conveying a message that today in society we like to turn a blind eye to: the manipulating and unorthodox methods used in business to make money. Creating a problem to sell a solution. Eradicating those who try to stand in the way. It’s the harsh truth we always knew existed.

There are so many reasons this novel stands distinctly apart from others for me. For one, it hits close to home: the Taiwanese heritage runs in my veins as potently as it does in the novel, with its allusions to language and culture exposing the often overlooked traditions of the Taiwanese. And then, of course, the characters, so different from one another and yet sharing both a powerful bond and a common goal, become comrades on the way along the journey.

Finally, Zhou, the main character, has a voice that stays with you long after the turn of the last page. “I was going to become what I wanted to destroy,” he says bitterly, of trading his street-rat identity for esteemed upper-class socialite.

Ultimately, Want reflects, in its intrinsic essence, humanity’s inevitable tendency to divide itself, whether by wealth, race, gender, religion, sexuality, or pure hate. It’s a powerful message to recognize those who cannot speak for themselves because we do not listen.

Here’s to hoping that that message is amplified throughout the world, throughout time, and proclaimed as a lasting testament to human nature, so that we ourselves can be bettered.

-Esther H.

Want by Cindy Pon is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also free for download from Overdrive

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent was one of those books that everyone had read and I hadn’t and everyone loved when it came out. So I didn’t read it thinking that it was all talk and not a very good book. But, when I eventually got around to reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised.

This book is based in the future, in the city of Chicago.  It is divided up into five factions, the Abnegation who believe in selflessness, the Dauntless who believe in bravery, the Candor who believe in the truth, Erudite who believe in intelligence, and Amity who believe in peace.

Beatrice Prior, a 16-year-old that grew up in Abnegation transferred to Dauntless on the day of her choosing ceremony carrying a very dangerous secret. She is one of the divergent, she had an aptitude for more than one faction, something many of the factions leaders consider very dangerous.

Like most other dystopian society books, Divergent starts off as a utopia. Everything seems perfect. But it isn’t. The flaws in this perfect society show through and eventually chaos breaks out.

Overall, this book was great. It might not be as amazing as everyone has said it was when it first came out. But it is still a great read. So, if you haven’t read this book a would defiantly recommend it. It is fairly long though, but I would say it is worth it.

-Ava G.

The Divergent series by Veronica Roth is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available online from Overdrive

Monster

What if the world suddenly obtained impossible abilities? Would you use your power for good? Bad? All of the above?

In Michael Grant’s Monster, this choice becomes a reality. If you enjoyed his Gone series, this follow-up will definitely not disappoint you. Instead of just some kids inside a small dome getting powers, people around the world are starting to change, morphing into amazing creatures with seemingly limitless power.

From napalm breath to creating “meat puppets”, Grant’s genius really shines in these vivid, fabulous characters. Each line makes you feel closer and more relatable to each one. But for fans of this trilogy’s predecessor, Gone, you will be pleasantly surprised by the characters brought back for one more round.

– Luke D.

Monster by Michael Grant is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Road By Cormac McCarthy

Image result for the road by cormac mccarthy

Anyone who has read Lord of the Flies, or seen the Walking Dead television show, knows that when the world comes to an end, people are going to do whatever they can to survive (ie cannibalism, children killing other children). This is the same with The Road- people shouting “You would have done the same!” as they try to steal and murder each other. But wouldn’t it be just nice if even in this dystopian world, everyone was nice to each other?

An unnamed father and son travel down a road to the sea and try to survive amid the thieves and not knowing who to trust. We don’t fully know what caused the world to be like this- earthquake? extremely hot temperatures? But we do know that rations are limited and they must keep traveling in order to survive. The father always seems to try to resort to a dark side- giving up food for his son, trying to kill everyone who crosses them- but the son keeps him on the road- noticing when the father tries to give the son bigger portions, begging the father not to kill anyone.

All in all, it is a very pleasant story to read, especially since it gives a theme that man will not fully go down the evil side even when there is no hope. However, there are a few writing styles that will turn a few people down. First of all, there are not quotation marks- whenever the character speaks it is either its own separate paragraph or embedded in another paragraph, which makes the reader go back a couple of times in order to figure out who is talking. Additionally, most of the book is written in camera style- the story’s plot moving along because of dialogue, not because of what they thought. This narration is often considered boring by some readers.

However, the story is beautifully written to me, with a compelling message and a heartfelt plot. It is also a quick read compared to some other books. For those who are looking for a twist on the dystopian genre, it is a worthwhile read.

Megan Villagracia, Eleventh Grade.

The Road By Cormac McCarthy is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Imagine if aliens lived among us. Not the aliens you might think of immediately (like E.T.), but aliens who cloud blend in, who look just like us. We would never know, they could be anyone: your next-door neighbor, your own best friend.

John Smith, to everyone around him, appears to be a typical teenage boy beginning his sophomore year of high school in Paradise, Ohio. But in actuality, John Smith is but one of many of his fake identities. His real name, if you could even really call it that, is Number Four. He comes from a planet far, far, away called Lorien. He is one of the nine powerful children who were taken to Earth about ten years ago, before Lorien was attacked by another alien planet: Mogadore.

Before the nine children were sent to Earth, they were each assigned a number (one through nine), and a Loric elder cast a charm, making it so that, should the Mogadorians ever go after these nine remaining Lorien descendants, they would only be able to kill them in order of the their numbers. Thus far, numbers one through three have been hunted down and killed by the Mogadorians, and John Smith, who is number four, knows that he is next.

When I first heard of this book, and was told that it was about aliens, I honestly didn’t have very high expectations for it. That probably wouldn’t have been the case for everyone, I just don’t typically like stories/books that are about aliens. But, when I started reading it, I immediately knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop. Luckily for me, this is a series, and three of the books were out when I started. Now, there are a total of seven in the series, the most recent having come out last year.

I can’t really pinpoint what it is about this book that sets it apart from other stories about aliens. Maybe it’s because the Loric look like us? I really don’t know, but I do really love this series, and I love all the characters that are introduced later on in the series as well. Despite the fact that three different authors have contributed to this series (all under the pseudonym of Pittacus Lore), the story flows very smoothly, and I could never wait for the next book to come out.

I don’t know how many times I’ve re-read this book, but it must be a lot because my copy’s falling apart (the only thing that’s holding it together is scotch tape). It’s definitely a great read, but don’t start unless you haven’t got anything planned for the rest of the day because trust me, you won’t be able to put it down.

-Elina T.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.