Paper Towns by John Green

Throughout my 14 years of existence, I’ve never read a book that amazes me as much as this. It’s plot consists of Quentin’s take on Margo as she goes on one of her crazy adventures once again, or is this one different from the rest? Margo Spiegelman is a rebellious and adventurous young woman who does things as she pleases. Her history of running away on an adventure and returning a couple days later had everyone constantly thinking of her. She often left clues, but they were never specific enough to find her. Her neighbor, Quentin, who shares a bit of history with her, finds love for her only to realize that maybe Margo isn’t exactly the girl of his dreams. When Margo goes on this adventure her senior year, they both learn things they didn’t know about themselves and each other.

The events that take place in this book are simply thrilling and manage to keep you on your toes. Personally, the ending really had me hooked because I had never read about an ending like this one before. That’s one of my favorite things about this book, the element of surprise it had. If mystery and adventure books are your calling, I’d recommend checking this one out. While it has a bit of romance involved, it’s more of an adventurous book. Paper Towns highlights how we all change in highschool and figure out who we are. John Green is an extremely talented writer, and if you choose to read it, it’ll sweep you off your feet

-Kaitlyn Y

Paper Towns by John Green is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book/Musical Review: Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen is a popular Broadway musical created by Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul. Its powerful storyline, incredible soundtrack, and the talented cast has made it the winner of six Tony Awards and a favorite of theater aficionados across the world. Dear Evan Hansen is also very unique and innovative, as it addresses issues such as teen suicide, depression, and social anxiety. It speaks to the audience in a new, powerful way and has increased awareness of the mental health struggles that people of all ages may be facing. Dear Evan Hansen has been re-made by numerous off-Broadway production groups across the world and has also been adapted into a novel in collaboration with Val Emmich.

Dear Evan Hansen follows the life of its title character, who struggles with extreme social anxiety. His therapist recommends that he writes letters to himself, discussing the positive aspects of the day. At school, Evan has few friends but develops a crush on a girl named Zoe Murphy, who becomes the subject of many letters. Zoe’s twin brother, Connor, has a reputation for being rebellious and aggressive and is angry when he finds Evan’s letter about Zoe in the school printer. Connor takes this letter with him, leaving Evan in fear of what he may do with it. A few days later, Evan finds out that Connor committed suicide later that day with Evan’s letter still in his pocket. This causes Connor’s family to believe that Connor and Evan were close friends, which develops a bond between Evan and the Murphy family. Connor’s mother feels guilty for his death, whereas Zoe struggles to feel grief due to Connor’s awful behavior towards her and their family. With the help of his friends Alana and Jared, Evan starts the Connor Project, which is an online community dedicated to remembering Connor’s life. As Evan grows closer to Zoe and the Murphy family, he begins to drift away from his mother, Heidi, and his old friends. Alana and Jared find out that Evan never really knew Connor, and threaten to share this information with the Murphy family. Evan then claims that the letter to himself was actually Connor’s suicide note, which gets posted to the Connor Project. As a result, many begin to blame the Murphy family for Connor’s suicide and they become the subject of hateful, threatening messages. Evan realizes he must come forward and confess and tells the Murphy family about his deception. He explains that he did it because he believed it would help them cope and because he felt like he needed friendship. Later, he also reconciles with his mother, who promises she will help him through his pain and always be there for him. 

A year later, Evan contacts Zoe, who agrees to meet with him at the orchard that has become Connor’s memorial. Evan apologizes again, and Zoe forgives him, telling him that he brought her family closer together. After Zoe leaves, Evan writes himself one last letter in his mind while looking around the orchard and reflects upon what he has learned from this experience and the impact the Connor Project had on people across the country.

Dear Evan Hansen is an incredibly powerful musical and book that really speaks to today’s younger generations. Not only does it help readers learn empathy for those dealing with mental illness, but also provides solace for those who are experiencing something similar to characters in the book. It has encouraged people to reach out to others and offer one another support and friendship during difficult times, because, in the words of Evan Hansen, “we’re not alone, none of us.”

-Katie A.

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Written in a time where topics such as mental illness were considered taboo, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye was a revolutionary novel. Catcher in the Rye tells the story of a teenage boy named Holden Caulfield who struggles to find his purpose and place in society while grieving the death of his younger brother Allie. Allie had died when Holden was only 13 years old, and 3 years later, this traumatic event still greatly affects Holden’s cynical view of society and life itself. Holden’s experiences in an upper-class family and in the boarding schools he has spent most of his adolescence in have shaped his view of adulthood and the “phoniness” of society in general. He views childhood as something precious, and adulthood as a dark world of phoniness and monotony. Spending time in all-male prep schools has also caused Holden to question the meaning of masculinity and what it means to be a man.

After being expelled from his third school, Holden decides to go to New York City alone and encounters characters he deems as “phony,” such as Sally Hayes, Bernice, Sunny, and Ernie. Holden resents these characters for their lack of authenticity and superficial interests. His search for someone who is innocent and genuine leads him to his younger sister, Phoebe. It is then revealed that Holden wants to be “the catcher in the rye,” or someone who is there to catch children playing in a field from falling over the metaphorical cliff to adulthood. Holden’s obsession with the preservation of innocence stems from the loss of his younger brother, Allie, and can be seen in his reluctance to see old friends and the museum he used to love as a child. Holden is scared of change, and of seeing those he once adored older, more mature, and, in Holden’s mind, “phony.” These experiences bring Holden to a point of emotional exhaustion and distress, which climaxes at the end of the novel when he watches Phoebe and other young children on a carousel at the New York Zoo. This display of pure innocence and joy brings Holden to tears, yet he feels truly happy for the first time in the story. The entire story is told from Holden’s perspective a year later, as he is talking to a therapist in a mental hospital. The reader never truly gains closure on Holden’s future but is left to finish the story in their own minds.

Thousands of readers have resonated with Holden’s character, and are grateful for the genuine voice of J.D. Salinger and the connection they feel with Holden. Many speculate that Holden is a reflection of Salinger himself, influenced by the traumatic events that plagued Salinger’s own life. This novel has forced readers to question societal influence and what is truly important in life. Salinger has given a voice to the cynical internal monologue many shares with Holden and brought to light countless issues that were never truly discussed or recognized in the time during which Catcher in the Rye was written.

-Katie A. 

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

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