Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

The recent representation of Asian-Americans in film and literature has been thundering the media. From the more obvious success of Crazy Rich Asians and Fresh Off the Boat to the smaller-rooted Netflix film “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (and it’s soon-to-be sequel), the portrayal of Asian families has skyrocketed, building new stepping stones in which the small society of its own is rendered in society as a whole.

Kelly Loy Gilbert’s second novel, Picture Us in the Light, is a beautifully crafted story revolving around the Asian-American cultural hub in San Francisco. Picture Us in the Light follows eighteen-year-old Danny Cheng, as he struggles with his pursuit of artistic inspiration (post-college acceptance to an art and design school) and finding footholds in his graying, mysterious family life. Accompanied by long-time friends Harry and Regina, Danny unearths his family’s deep past piece by piece and discovering small realizations about himself and the relationships he has with those he loves most in his life.

As Danny jockeys with the slow, difficult reveal of his parents’ secrets and tries to find some balance over what he does and doesn’t know about his own identity, the audience is presented with the intense and haunting realities of global immigration. Every turn of the page brought a new feeling of suspense — each time we were given new information, the plot became more and more complex, heading a dozen different ways at once.

Being Asian-American myself, I found the story delightfully relatable in a small-scale way that it was powdered with concise “Asian insider” instances that I could relate to — the abundance of food, the hefty trips to Costco and Ranch 99, the intensive preparation for big exams.

The featured family in the novel, the Chengs, center the majority of their conflicts and victories over meals, which is extremely relatable to me in the way that family bonds over food. Just this seemingly insignificant instance opens up huge discussion for literary meaning (communion occurs over cuisine, perhaps?), but also exhibits how striking and intimately real the characters and situations Gilbert creates are.

Picture Us in the Light, published just over a year ago, is one of YA’s most down-to-earth and honest storylines thus far. Gilbert brings together shattering occurrences with the small moments of merriment, joining together two of our center emotions into a heart wrenching and, slowly, heartwarming book.

     So, as we are, picture us enchanted by Gilbert’s authentic and profound capability for storytelling.

—Keira D.

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

For the last couple of weeks, my English class read the novel, The Catcher in the Rye. For a book we had to read in class, it was actually quite interesting to read a book that really captured that teenage “angst” that some teenagers actually go through in real life.

The book is about a teenage boy named Holden Caulfield who is narrating the book and recollecting the past. He touches on touchy topics like the death of his younger brother Allie and of his friend James Castle. We see how he goes through different situations and how he acts upon it.

What was interesting about this book was that since it was all narrated by Holden, he would sometimes over exaggerate the story. However, it would seem that at times, he would lie which was quite enjoyable to read. This novel points to topics such as: social awkwardness, death of close ones, innocence, and finding oneself. The main character tends to struggle with these topics and constantly lies through it all, to the readers, to other people, and to himself.

Another part of the novel I enjoyed was all the different characters that were mentioned in this book. All the people at his school, the people he meets on the streets and in bars, and old teachers and the interaction Holden has with them.

If you have not yet read this book, I highly recommend this novel because it really captures the struggle of adolescents and the overcoming of it.

-Phoebe L.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I recently read this book for my English class, and it was surprisingly good to read. Normally reading books for English feels like a chore, but for this book, it was entertaining to read. 

The book is about young boys from England who crash land onto a deserted island. It is never specified where they crash land but we predicted it was somewhere in the Pacific. The main boys in the book are Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon, and Roger. The boys have to learn how to survive in this harsh society they have made. 

They first start off by appointing a leader and making up rules that are essential to follow. Throughout the book, however, we can see a natural progression of rules being broken and people fighting for power, doing whatever it takes to achieve that–even killing. The book Lord of the Flies is mainly about the innate evil in the boys and if they are affected by the environment around them, or if they naturally had the evil inside of them. 

During the book, there are sometimes where we are going to have to say goodbye to some characters (no spoilers), but overall it is an amazing book. It is probably the best book I’ve read in English ever!

-Phoebe L. 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Generation One by Patticus Lore

Generation One by Pittacus Lore is the first thrilling book of a new series that takes place in the same world as the best-selling Lorien Legacies series. It can be read without reading the previous series, and it starts a year after the end of it. To win the war that occurred in the Lorien Legacies series, humans allied with the alien called Garde, who used a special energy called the Loric energy in order to defeat the occupation of earth. Now, this energy has caused human teenagers across the globe to develop special powers called Legacies.

In order to control and develop these powers, and to protect ordinary people, the United Nations has set up a special academy to train them in the hopes that they can help all the people of the Earth. The book follows six teenagers from all corners of the globe and their journey to the Academy. Some of them had been there for a good amount of time, but some were late bloomers when it came to developing their powers, so they arrived later.

Taylor Cook is peacefully living her life in South Dakota on her farm with her Father, only hearing about rumors of teenagers suddenly developing powers. She does not think it could ever happen to her, but that all changes when she is able to heal her Father in a tractor accident. Sent to the academy, she meets others like her who are being trained to save the world one day. Her Legacy of healing is very rare, and it is something that makes her a target to other groups.

I have read a wide variety of science-fiction novels, and this one is definitely one of the best ones. It was a non-stop, thriller ride with the right mix of teenage lightheartedness. Generation One was able to develop and trace each character throughout the story. By doing this, the reader can see the significance of each character and how they contributed to the storyline. The end is satisfying in relation to what occurred in the book, but there is definitely room for more with the sequel, Fugitive Six.

-Anmol K.

Generation One by Patticus Lore is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

How We Roll by Natasha Friend

How We Roll by Natasha Friend is a coming of age story of a young teenager named Quinn who must deal with something very few have to: she is bald. As an eighth grader, she was diagnosed with alopecia, and lost all of her hair. Unfortunately, the kids at school made constant fun of her, and she slowly lost her closest friends. She got a fresh start when her family decided to move in order to have her brother Julius, who has autism, attend a special school. In a new school now, Quinn decides to wear her wig permanently in the hopes that she will be treated nicely. Fortunately, she finds a group of girls who quickly adopt her into their friend group.

In addition to these friends, Quinn meets a boy named Nick. Once the star football player, he lost both of his legs in a car accident. In the grueling recovery process, Nick has become silent and recluse. However, Quinn and him make an unlikely bond that is strong enough for Quinn to reveal her secret and for Quinn to keep pushing Nick to the road to recovery. With a beautiful ending, I would say that this book is for anyone looking for a touching story.

Personally, I enjoy novels with either fantasy or adventure, but this one was a great contrast to my typical repertoire. Quinn’s personality was real; one could feel her happiness, anger, success, and fear. Her character was like any other teenager trying to fit in among her peers, and her ability to forgive her previous tormentors took a great deal of maturity. The friendship between her and Nick also showed how she grew as a person. In the novel, Quinn’s family was the backdrop for the story, and it was beautiful to see her interacting with her parents and little brother. Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a feel-good read.

-Anmol K.

How We Roll by Natasha Friend is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien is a science fiction, dystopian novel. It takes place in the Forge School of the Arts, which is the site of a reality TV show. The school had 100 kids enter in each year, but 50 of them are cut, and do not receive this world-class education. The cuts are based on each person’s ranking, and these ranking are determined by the viewers, who watch the kids 12 hours a day. They vote, and the ones with more votes rise in rank, and make the cuts. The rest of the 12 hours are for the kids to sleep because it is believed that more sleep allows them to have more creativity. Each kid is given a pill to take, and its purpose is to help them sleep better and allow more creativity.

The main character of the book is Rosie Sinclair. She is in the school for film editing, and is ranked very low days before the cuts. Because of this, she skips taking her pill one night and goes out to explore because she does not have any regard for the consequences. In her exploration she finds a whole new world beyond the cameras. This encourages her to put more effort into staying up in the ranks in order to unearth the dark secret that the school is covering.

The premise of the book for me was interesting enough to pick it up off the shelf. I started to read it, and it was a bit difficult to get into. The story started with a pretty simple plot line, and a lot of the beginning was what I already read from the book summary. However, I loved to read about Rosie’s backstory because it made me root for her. Then, a few expected “turns” happened, and the story sort of plautead. I continued to read, and was happy to see the action pick up again. This propelled me to read the rest of the story, and I enjoyed the ending. Even though the beginning was a bit difficult to get through, I would recommend this book for an interesting, thought-provoking novel.

-Anmol K.

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Plague by Michael Grant

Image result for plague michael grantImagine a world in which everyday people gain supernatural abilities. A world without any adults or rules. A world where animals are starting to mutate horribly. A world surrounded by an impassable barrier, stopping anyone from entering… or getting out. Welcome to Michael Grant’s FAYZ, or Fallout Alley Youth Zone.

Every human above the age of 15 have disappeared, leaving the kids in a world that’s theirs for the taking. In this fourth installment of the Gone series, Drake has returned, bringing with him a terrifying concept of the perfect killing machine: beetles. They start off as invisible threats, but the true horror begins when you see a small pair of mandibles poking through the inside of your skin. They slowly begin to grow and emerge from your body, secreting a numbing liquid as they do so. When incubation is complete, they burst from inside you and eat your remains.

As if this and Drake weren’t bad enough, kids are coughing up a lung… literally. A plague is wiping out the population of Perdido Beach, a sickness that nothing can heal. Tensions are high as the fight for survival sweeps up some new faces and old, exposing new problems, and new solutions.

-Luke D.

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