I Am Malala

I Am Malala is a story about Malala Yousafzai. Malala was born in Mingora, Pakistan. Mingora is a place where not many women have that many rights. Malala always wonder why this is and why she isn’t able to go to school. That rule wasn’t in place, but Mingora was taken over by the Taliban, and they enforced that rule and many other harsh ones.

Because of the circumstances she is in, Malala starts writing blogs about what has happened under the pen name “Gul Makai”. Shortly after, the Taliban start getting forced out of town by the Pakistani army. The Pakistani army force the Taliban out of town, but they still stay in the rural areas on the borders of town.

Then, someone at The New York Times sees Malala’s blogs and features her in a documentary. The documentary is about protecting girl’s rights and education. The Taliban see the documentary, and Malala becomes a target. As she’s on her way to her father’s newly reopened school, two Talibans stop the bus, and one shoots Malala in the head. Malala miraculously survives, and is taken to the United Kingdom for treatment. The news spread extremely quickly, and people around the world are now praying for Malala’s recovery. After Malala gets discharged from the hospital, she joins the rest of her family in Birmingham. She continues to this day to campaign for women’s rights and mainly for their education.

-Emilio V.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

This was yet another book assigned to me in my English class this year. Surprisingly, contrary to the other books our class has read, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Typically, I have a strong repulsive reflex to gore and all war related subjects. The discomfort my stomach feels and the immense sorrow I feel for fallen soldiers weighs my heart down. Remarque’s novel did just that but to my surprise, this book is one I’d read again.

Nineteen year old Paul Baumer narrates the daily lives of him and his German companions as they experience the horrors of World War I. Technological and warfare advancements such as trench warfare, tanks and poison gas pose serious threat to these inexperienced young boys. Paul gives a detailed account of the inhumane living conditions and terrific attacks where every man’s life is on the line and chance is the determining factor if one lives or gets blown up. A reader gets to meet and befriend all of Paul’s closest companions: Kat, Tjaden, Kropp, Kemmerich and others that Remarque reveals are the only people in the world that can understand and love Paul. Together they flirt with girls in attempt to regain their innocence and connection of the world they left behind and together they fight to survive, not only to keep themselves alive but to stay alive to support and comfort each other. There are humorous moments and there are melancholic moments that all coalesce to make Remarque’s masterpiece.

Like many war novels, the conditions and experiences sound absurd to civilians back at home. However, while majority of war novels glorify the bravery and heroism of soldiers, Remarque’s novel takes an opposing standpoint. War is not beautiful nor adventurous; war is a slaughterhouse that takes souls, strips them of innocence and leaves them fearful and desensitized. I love that Remarque chooses to focus on the negative effects of war and admonishes society for our constant exaltation of combat. Young children in our society have minds filled to the brim of the same ideals that Paul and his friends were taught in grade school. Their teacher, Kantorek, pounds patriotism into their young minds and shoves the hungry desire for glory down their throats. But the brutality of war destroyed any want to serve their country and gain homage back at home; Remarque desperately wants society to recognize his pleas of reducing war glorification.

The loss of innocence and the admonishing of war glorification is only two of the numerous themes depicted in this work. There are touching themes of friendship and there are heart wrenching themes of the Lost Generation that make the reader reflect on humanity and the value of life rather than spurring the reader into an acclaim of warfare. Remarque’s work is bittersweet, providing immense catharsis but an unsettling question in the back of one’s mind. Is war worth the pain? Are those who survive wars really surviving if they come back home only to suffer from PTSD and detachment from a life they once lived? There is no other book I’d recommend to a reader who wants a gripping but thought-provoking read.

-Jessica T.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is availalbe for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Image result for a thousand splendid suns

Mariam and Laila- Two women, born years apart and having incredibly different lives. One grew up in extreme poverty as an illegitimate child, while the other went to school and dreamed of making a difference in the world. However, both are affected by the power changes in the Afghani government, including when it started to regulate women’s lives in the late 1990’s. When they finally meet each other, their world changes despite having no initial relation to each other in the first place.

I found this book to be very well written. It was easy to read, especially compared to books such as Shakespeare. Although there are some terms in another language, they are often translated or not as much importance, but still keeps the feeling that you are in a faraway land.

On top of that, Hosseini keeps the atmosphere of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, very well. He describes food from there, yet also references places such as the Bamiyan Buddhas in order to keep this atmosphere, which is done very well.

The characters themselves are amazing. The book is in two different points of view, which are between the women, and one can see how different they are, yet wanting the same things in life.

However, the book does get into what Afghanistan is facing now. The book takes place over forty years, so it is easy to see how Afghanistan changes under local rulers to the Soviets and to the Taliban. Especially under the Taliban, we see how women’s lives are changed for the worst. However, we also see the abuse of women by their husbands even before the Taliban, which can also be very depressing. On the other hand, without any spoilers, I can guarantee that the ending is very satisfying, so it is important to stay all the way until the end!

Overall, I highly recommend this novel, and encourage others to read it.

Megan V, 12th Grade

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier

I was assigned to read this in my Social Studies class. Since we where learning about the American Revolution it was a fitting read for this topic.

The book was about Tim Meeker. His brother Sam Meeker was enlisted in the American Revolution. The only problem was that his family disagreed with him. The Meeker’s were Tories which meant they where on the side of the British. The whole story is about how the war affects people.

I thought the first part of the book was a little boring. But just like all great books they pick up in the end. That is exactly what this book did. At the end of the book I realized it was a true story. Most of the things in the story where real.

Early in the book Tim was a young boy. In the first chapter he got so excited when he was going to milk Old Prue which was a cow.  Since his brother did it he thought it was so cool when he saw Sam do it. Of course it wasn’t as cool as he thought it was. I thought this sequence showed how little brothers always look up to there older brothers.

Later in the book Tim was working in the family tavern and sometimes he would get unsurprising visits from Sam. Sam wouldn’t come all the time of course. He would just come once or twice in about two years.

When you picked up the book from the start to end you could really see how much Tim progressed from a child into a adult. You could really see him take charge after his brother was gone off into the war. Another main theme in the book was violence. Readers are really opened up how the war just doesn’t affect the soldiers it affects everybody.

The town of Redding (which is the town Tim is from) is affected a lot because they have a lot of cattle and the soldier need it because there hungry.

-Max U.

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

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