I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

This is my favorite book of all time. It is about a girl named Skylar Evans who lives in the trailer park with her alcoholic mom and Josh Mitchell, a Marine come back from the war without a leg and demons in his head.

Personally, I had never read a book before I’ll Meet You There that made me feel so many emotions. I was torn apart by these beautiful characters as they struggle to find peace in their lives and find hope in one another. I cried, laughed, and screamed. The immense emotions I felt made me read this book again, and then again. And again.

If I could I would make everyone read this book. I received an insight into the mind of someone with PTSD. The short passages from Josh’s perspective made this book worth wild. I believed that I was there right next to Josh, watching the war around him tear men, who had become his friends, apart.

I cried more than I expected at the end of this novel. Sure, a happy or sad ending can be a tear jerker, but Demetrios wrote this young adult novel with a purpose, and boy did she achieve it. I see that there is still a battle to be fought against ableism when Josh is uncomfortable by the “special” treatment he receives for his injury. I see through Skylar’s eyes the poverty that has overtaken this country and makes it almost impossible for her to achieve her dream.

Overall, please read this book. It has an amazing, fun plot with serious underlying themes.

Read I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios!

-Sophie W.

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

The novel Shooting Kabul by N.H. Sense is about a boy named Fadi who lived in Afghanistan. His family had no choice but to leave Afghanistan because the Taliban rose to power and they didn’t bring the good like they promised.

Fadi’s father, Habib, had secured the family a safe passage to America in the summer of 2001, as long as they crossed the border. The plan was to meet a truck that would carry Fadi’s family across the Peshawar, Pakistan. While Fadi’s older sister, Noor, was helping her sick mother, Fadi was in charge of taking care of his sister Mariam. All was going according to plan until the Taliban showed up.

Mariam is accidentally left behind because she dropped her barbie doll and she jumped off the truck to get it back. The rest of his family made it safely, but they were unable to properly move on with there lives until they knew Mariam would come back safely. While staying with his relatives in San Francisco, school had just started and he had to adjust to a new life. His new friend, Anh convinced him to join the school’s photography club and there was a competition where the first place winner gets a new camera and a trip to China, Kenya, or India. Then Fadi realized that India is right next to Afghanistan and if he won the competition, he could fly there, find Mariam, and bring her back home. Fadi spent all his time photographing the sights of San Fransisco. He knew that failure wasn’t an option, so he took the perfect picture of his grandparents and submitted it.

Later, there was news that terrorists had crashed planes into two skyscrapers in New York at the Pentagon in Washington DC on September 11. Many people believe that all Muslims are terrorists who support the men who hijacked the planes. Bullies at his school started picking on him because of his Muslim faith. Fadi truly believed that he would win the photography competition, but when he heard that he didn’t win, he was devastated. Fadi isn’t able to go to Afghanistan to find his missing sister. But, he did get an honorable mention for his entry, which attracted the attention of one judge who specialized in photographing war zones. The judge offered to show him some of his most recent work, which was taken along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. While looking thorough the photos, Fadi saw a picture of Mariam playing with some other children at a refugee camp. Mariam was tracked down and she boarded a flight to San Fransisco to be reunited with her family.

I would would recommend this book to anyone who likes novels that involve historical background. This book was interesting and it involved the tragic event of 9/11.Throughout the the novel, you get to see the journey Fadi went through to save his sister in Afghanistan.

-Vanessa T.

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Antigone by Sophocles

oedipus_sophocles“Antigone” is one play in the book of The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles. Antigone starts after Oedipus passed away in Colonus. It is a famous tragedy set in the disastrous city of Thebes. Some popular themes featured in the play are male vs. female, family ties vs. civic duty, and morality vs. law.

Antigone and her sister, Ismene, decide to return to Thebes to help their brothers, Eteocles and Polynices. When they arrive at Thebes, the sisters come to know that both brothers have been killed. Eteocles has been given a proper burial, however, Creon refuses to do so for Polynices because he thinks he betrayed the city.  Antigone disobeys the law and buries Polynices anyway, in order to honor her brother and the life he lived. Creon finds out about the illegal burial soon enough, and when he locks Antigone up in a jail cell, she kills herself. The blind prophet Teiresias, Haemon, which is Creon’s son and Antigone’s fiance, and the Chorus beg to release her from prison, without the knowledge that she is already dead. Creon eventually surrenders, only to realize that she has killed herself. At the end of the play, Creon is left sorrowful and lonely, since nobody believed that his actions were justified.

-Nirmeet B.

Antigone is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

allquiet_erichremarqueSet deep in World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front follows young German recruit Paul Baumer as he details his wartime experiences from signing up for the war with his graduating class to fighting in the trenches of the unforgiving Western Front. The war novel was written by German war veteran Erich Maria Remarque, and was published in 1929 to the dismay of the Nazi regime. It tackles ideas of loss, hope, adolescence and growth, and provides an in-depth look in the human condition.

One thing I noticed right away was Remarque’s uncanny ability to describe the setting at which the book was taking place, whether at a training camp, the Western Front, or Paul’s hometown in Germany. The author detailed descriptions of the hardships in the trenches, from the gnawing rats to the constant pounding of shells above, is so well written that you can’t help but get immersed into the setting.

The characterization is also very well done in this novel. You get a good feel for the camaraderie between the characters in war, and how important that is to survive in such a harsh setting. Remarque also introduces the various characters very distinctly so confusion wouldn’t be an issue. He lists certain traits they have at first, then elaborates and expands on those traits as the story goes on and different events take place. A few examples include:

  • Katczinsky- the oldest of the group, a crafty man who is a master at finding food and supplies
  • Tjaden- a defiant young man who loves to eat yet is somehow incredibly skinny
  • Detering- a peat digger who misses his life at home, works well with animals

The characters all interact with each other in a realistic, believable manner for the time and dialogue is heavy with dialect and references. The character development is great, and is one of the major themes of the story. The impact of the war on the soldiers is apparent and is shown subtly through differences in actions and speech.

I felt that the pacing of the story was excellent for the most part as well. The story starts o ff near the battlefield, then switches between the trenches, training camps, or in other locations far from war. This keeps the setting fresh and doesn’t drag on in one specific location for too long, except the hospital chapter where I felt it was dragged on for a little too long.

The effect of the war on the soldier is a huge theme. Men in war lose all identity and the futures of the young recruits are ruined. PTSD plays a role along with various coping strategies and defense mechanisms soldiers use to compensate for the horrors of war.

Because of these, the story has a lot of dark and mature themes, coupled with explicit violence that makes this a story that none under the age of 13 should be allowed to read.  For anyone else though, this is a phenomenal war novel that analyzes human race as a whole, I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an insightful, historical novel.

-Ahmed Hussaini, 11th grade

All Quiet on the Western Front is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Axis360

Book Review: Taken, by David Massey

takenSix teenagers on a trip across the ocean. Four are military veterans disabled in combat. The other two are “able” sea hands to help along the way. Things are cut short when they become prisoners of war of a man called Moses Mwemba.

Rio Cruz, is one of the two “able bodied” crew that was hired to help four teenage veterans, Ash, Marcus, Charis, and Izzy, who have been disabled in combat sail around the world for charity. Even before the six start the voyage, tension starts building between Rio and the other “able bodied” crew member, Jen. The tension only grows when Rio’s fondness for Ash emerges and when she finds a hidden letter. But all the tension and strife that was building gets cut short when they are captured to become political pawns.

This was a rather strange story. Unfortunately, I found it a bit too rushed. There were also some things that I would have like have a bit more explained. It is written in a first person point of view which does limit what explained in the story. Even so the plot was interesting. It is one of the types of plot that I have not read very much of. The characters were okay. I do believed they could have been a little more developed or described but the fact that they were disabled veterans, who were determined to show that they were not helpless, made up for some of it. I some times mixed up the characters due to the lack of explanation at the beginning of the book.

One of the themes of this book does make you think a lot about what people are. This is a book I would only recommend to at least high-school or older. There is quite a bit of violence in the story and there is many themes in this book that are hard to explain and hard to understand. To give this book a rating: 5/10

This is only what I think so read it for yourself and decide.

– Sarah J., 10th grade

Book Review: Never Fall Down, by Patricia McCormick

never_fall_downHave you ever heard of the Khmer Rouge?  Or the infamous Killing Fields?

During the mid ’70s in Cambodia the communist group, Khmer Rouge, were the force behind a terrifying genocide.  Patricia McCormick tells the true story of a young boy’s horrifying experience during this time.

Never Fall Down is a true story that takes you on the shocking and terrible life experience of one boy who lived in Cambodia at this time.  The boy’s name is Arn and he was taken first from his home, then from his family by the Khmer Rouge. Arn was taken to a camp based on his gender and age.  At the camp Arn was forced to work on the rice fields. The lifestyle was very tough. One day, the Khmer Rouge soldiers asked if any of the boys could play an instrument.  Even though Arn has never played anything in his life he volunteers because he knows this will save his life. Later, Arn somehow find himself in the middle of the place we know today as the Killing Fields.  Then Arn is handed a gun and is sent to battle with the other boys still alive. “He lives by the simple credo: ‘Over and over I tell myself one thing: Never fall down.”‘

This story exposed me to a huge event in history that I never knew happened.  I had never heard of the Khmer Rouge or the Killing Fields.  Never Fall Down made me come close to tears. Arn’s struggles are so traumatizing.  It made me wonder what I would do in a situation like his.  It is a very touching story.  This story showed me how scary it is to be a child in the middle of a war.   At times while reading this book I forgot I was reading about history.  Instead I thought I was reading a survival novel.

I personally don’t like to read books on history or war but Never Fall Down is one of my few exceptions.  It takes you on a boy’s journey that starts in a happy home and ends with his search for freedom.  I recommend this to every teen.  It helped me understand the life struggles of the many immigrants that came to America during the ’60s and ’70s.  I advise that you be prepared for many deaths and heartbreaking moments.  I love this book so please go check it out.

-Erika T., 8th grade