Authors We Love: Ruta Sepetys

Ruts Sepetys is one of the most well known young adult historical fiction authors ever! With historical fiction being my favorite genre, I consider myself proud to say that Ruta Sepetys is my favorite author of all time. I have read all of the books she has written and I consider every single one of them to be some of my favorite books. 

Unlike many historical fiction authors, she doesn’t exclusively write about one event in history. With a setting like New Orleans, Barcelona, and Siberia, Sepetys takes us into a plethora of historical events, with different time periods, people, and settings. 

One specific thing I love about historical fiction is you learn something along the way, and all of Ruta Sepetys writes about overlooked events in history. These aren’t things you learn from your history textbook, they’re much more than that. Her books take you on a journey through events like the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that took 10 times the lives the Titanic did, and is the biggest maritime disaster of all time. But for some unknown reason, nobody talks about it, except for Sepetys.

Not only does she shed these huge historical events to light, but she does also these events justice. Although what she writes is fiction, the historical events they’re based on are all too real. Sepetys does an amazing job of research. In her most recent novel, The Fountains of Silence, the back of the book offered more details about her writing and research process, as well as pages of her notes. Sepetys do years and years of research for just one novel, and by reading the books you can tell how much effort was put into them. 

As for her World War Il novels, she has interviewed countless figures, both strangers and family, that were involved in those events, and based some of her books off of real events her family has gone through. 

Another part that I really love about her books is her writing style. With short and quick chapters, the writing allows you to be constantly engaged. The constant point of view switches keep you on your toes and makes every single one of her books a page-turner.

Between Shades of Gray (2011): Not your everyday World War 2 novel, Between Shades of Gray shows the dark side of Polish deportation and labor camps. With a knowledgeable protagonist and a family trying not to fall apart in the face of war, this brutal novel is a must-read. My Rating: 9/10

Out of the Easy (2013): Out of the Easy is a novel describing the life of the daughter of a prostitute longing to be free and live her own life outside of the bustling city of New Orleans. When a customer at her bookstore is found dead, she finally finds the escape she’s been looking for. My Rating: 7/10

Salt to the Sea (2016): The biggest maritime disaster, and the long path refugees are forced to take to flee Germany, this story tells the tale no one wishes to tell about World War 2.  In this novel, everyone has a secret to tell, and with them come guaranteed tears. My Rating: 10/10

The Fountains of Silence (2019): the Fountains of Silence tells the unknown story of how the Spanish people recovered after their own civil war. Told through the eyes of a photographer tourist from Texas, and a hotel employee who works hard for every penny she earns. This novel shows the trials and tribulations of most families during the reconstruction, but the star of this novel is truly the romance. Greatest of all, you get to learn about what’s really happening with the Spanish government behind closed doors. My Rating: 9/10

-Asli B. 

The works of Ruta Sepetys are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Sadie by Courtney Summers

This book is not for the faint of heart. It contains very graphic and mature scenes and themes, but nonetheless, it’s a beautiful book. 

Sadie tells the heart-wrenching story of a girl trying to get revenge for her sister’s death. It’s told through her own narration, and through a podcast following her trace. 

As a non-avid reader of mysteries/thrillers, this book was nothing like what I had expected. Although it could be a bit slow at times, what is lacked is made up of impact. This book hits so hard, and it’s important to recognize these types of actions as something that sadly is a part of society today. 

As you learn more about Sadie and what she’s been through, and the stories of the people she meets, you find everything that happens is the absolute worst things imaginable. Society is a gruesome and horrible place, and reading this book gave me biggest reality check I ever could’ve gotten.

The most horrible thing is, that these predicaments are what some people live in, it’s all they know, and that thought repulses me. The idea that people can relate to this piece of work is truly a reflection of the worst parts of society today. 

But all that aside, I highly recommend reading this book. Again, it gave me every sort of feeling imaginable and left me wondering about each and every one of the characters we had the honor of meeting. The podcast format for some chapters is such an ingenious idea and executed so well, I regret that I read the physical copy and not the audiobook. 

Our main character is the strongest and most resilient person I’ve ever read about. She has been through so much in her life, and as the book goes on and on, the situation gets worse and worse. Sadie is such a broken and mistreated character that everything she does, and everything she goes through is remarkable to me.

In short, if you want an impactful read, this is it.

If you’re struggling with anything that Sadie encounters or is going through in this book please reach out for help. You are not alone. 

    National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 

    National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

    National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357

-Asli B. 

Sadie by Courtney Summers is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

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A dark shadow looms over the seemingly-picturesque world of Alagaësia, where humans roam alongside elves, dwarves, and werecats – the wicked and powerful emperor Galbatorix, who rules with an iron fist. For nearly a century, the innocent inhabitants of this mythical land have suffered under the evil king, but all of that is about to change with the birth of a boy named Eragon.

Born as a simple, illiterate farm boy in a small village, Eragon was raised by his uncle alongside his cousin, unaware of anything beyond his home in Palancar Valley and, occasionally, the deep forest known as the Spine. It is in the Spine, however, that his life is changed forever when he comes across a peculiar sapphire-like jewel. After he sneaks it home, though, he quickly realizes that the “stone” that he found was actually a dragon egg, and that he was now a Dragon Rider, who were fabled peacekeepers, scholars, and healers during the Golden Age – the era before Galbatorix. 

Unfortunately for Eragon, being bonded with a dragon is one of the most dangerous occupations in Alagaësia, so he and his newly-hatched dragon, Saphira, are forced to flee from Palancar Valley with the help of Brom, the village storyteller who knows more than he tells, to find the mysterious rebel force which is known only as the Varden.

All in all, Eragon, written by Christopher Paolini, is an intriguing book containing new ideas imbibed with the same adventurous atmosphere featured in other popular series such as The Hunger Games and Percy Jackson. However, it can be said that the writing is rather childish, and so takes away from the overall excitement of the book. Nevertheless, while Eragon may not aspire to the same heights as Harry Potter, it is certainly a classic in its own right. 

-Mahak M.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Morning Watch by James Agee

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This is a short autobiographical novel composed in 1947 and was finished by the author in 1950. Being at the age of puberty, John Huston, a young boy at a Christian boarding school experiences teenage isolation, curiosity, and priggishness. I thought that he was a very pitiful boy at first who was blindly sent to the boarding school because his parents half-abandoned him.

However, my pity for his family background did not stop me from reading this book due to my interest in his bewilderment in the faith of God. It just seems to me that he kept on telling himself he belongs to God when internally there is a turmoil of atheism stirring, stimulating him to commit actions of blasphemy.

-Coreen C. 

Quest For A Popstar by Katie Hamstead

I literally could not read this book, at all. It was so darn cringey, well, I know I called The Football Girl the cringiest book I ever read but  nope, it is now this one.

So let’s see… the book was written as if by a 12 year old, which was a turn off in the beginning. But I thought to my self “Skylar, it may get better, just think of all those other great books that you hated in the beginning but then loved.” Nope, nope, nope. That didn’t happen here in the slightest. But here is the part that I stopped reading:

“I grit my teeth. There are guys in the group who look worse than me and didn’t get such severe criticism.”

And with this, I DNF’d. I do not need to read a book with a female character playing the “Oh look, the man is treated better than me, must be because I am a woman.” No thank you. If you don’t want to read a book that a Junior High school student wrote, do not read this.

-Skylar N.

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

Prisoner B-3087 is a true story of Jack Gruener. Alan Gratz was the person who made Gruener’s story into a novel. The novel tells a tale of Yanek, a boy who was put in a concentration camp.

I choose this book because I needed something to read. When I found it I saw that it was about the Holocaust. I thought that it would be very interesting and it was.

I haven’t read every Holocaust story but this one was very deep. The way Gratz wrote this was very in depth. That is what I think that more of these stories need. They need a more detailed story.

It really made you feel like you where there. Right next to Yanek in the concentration camp. I also learned many news things about the Nazis. Like how they hired convicted criminals to be Kapos in the camps. At the start of the book Yanek was a boy about 10. He was just a innocent boy. Then when the Nazis came he was coming on 11 or 12 maybe. Then when they took him he was going on 14.

The important thing about 13 is that it means its time for your barmitzfah. Before they took him and his uncle had his barmitzfah. Now they couldn’t have had it in there house or else they would’ve been shot. What they did was they had it in the basement.

This was one of my favorite parts of the book because usually Jewish people have a huge celebration for there barmitzfah. I mean my friend rented out half of the Los Angeles stadium for his barmitzfah. Yanke’s family could’ve had a big celebration for his barmitzfah. The only down side is that they would’ve been shot dead on spot.

Another thing that shocked me was the cruelty of the Nazis. There was one point of the book where they would make prisoners move huge rocks for no real reason. They just wanted to see the Jews suffer. In the novel you could see how Yanek changed over time. In the beginning of the novel he was a innocent little boy. At the end of the novel he was a grown man who didn’t fear death.

I thought this book was great and I wouldn’t mind reading it again.

-Max U.

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Image result for the distance between usThe Distance Between Us is about 17 year old Camyen who thinks that the poor and the rich shouldn’t be together. Camyen helps her mom in their doll store. Her mother sees rich people as customers, as profit, as people who wouldn’t care at all about her well being. She grew up listening to her mom explain that rich people associating with the poor is just a game to them. Since Camyen’s father’s family didn’t help her mom when she found out she was pregnant, they both hate rich people in general.

But Camyen’s whole mindset is changed when she meets Xander. She first sees him as just another rich boy that she’ll never care about. She acts rude and sarcastic, like she normally is. But Xander doesn’t sneer, or act like she’s below him. Instead, we find out that he actually thinks she’s funny and later, deeply cares about her.

I didn’t actually read this book, and I instead listened to it as an online audiobook. I don’t think I’ve listened to an audiobook in years. It was a completely different experience. When you’re reading, everyone tries to get a good image of what’s happening in their head. For me, I feel that the audiobook gave me a much better imagery. I was imagining what the doll store looked like, with all those creepy dolls staring back me. It felt like some horror movie where all the dolls come to life.

I felt that it wasn’t a bad book overall, but the ending was rushed and not that great. When you’re reading an unrealistic love story, it can only be so unrealistic before you start to dislike it. The realistic part of me, just thought that the whole ending would not end up that way. And the two characters that were introduced in the end were just shoved into the book. They didn’t really flow with the whole daughter rebellion thing. I agree with the Goodreads rating of 4 stars. But if you’re a fan of Kasie West, it’s what you would expect from her, and I would say to read it. And of course, I’m on Team Mason and not Team Xander.

-Rebecca V. 9th grade

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West is available for download from Overdrive

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

This book by Elizabeth Scott is unlike any book that I’ve read before. The book follows a girl named “Alice” who has been kidnapped by a pedophile, Ray. It shows her life five years after Alice has been kidnapped by him and all the horrible things she has to go through everyday.

I recommend this book only to readers who are able to read books like this. Some parts of this novel were definitely really hard. I really enjoyed reading this book because of all the intensity it had and suspense. I read this book in one sitting, I couldn’t put it down. Although this book is short, it contains so much. I couldn’t believe how much Elizabeth Scott had fit inside.

If you think you would be able to read this book, I would recommend trying it out. This story is one I will never forget, and for some reason this book made a really big impact on me. After finishing, I shut the book and just stared into space. There was so much to say about this story, so I hopped on to this blog and wrote about it.

-Kyndle W.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

One of Us Is Lying

One of the best books I have read, One of Us Is Lying by Karen M, McManus, kept me hooked till the end. The plot revolves around five high school students: the jock, the brainiac, the troublemaker, and the princess. Cooper, Bronwyn, Nate, and Addy all are in detention together for having cell phones in their backpacks when they were supposed to be left in their backpacks. Each one claims that the cellphone was planned by someone else because each kid claims to have left in their locker, but the teacher does not believe them. Figuring that it must be a prank, they go to detention. Along there with them is Simon, a fellow senior. He is there for the same reason, but does not fit into any of these said stereotypes. While the students are serving detention, Simon goes to fill a paper cup with water. All of the sudden, he collapses and is rushed to the hospital. There, he is proclaimed dead from a severe allergic reaction to peanuts. The whole community is shocked, and blame is placed upon the four other students who were in that room with him. Each claims to be innocent, but each also has secrets to hide. Did someone in that room do it, or was it a group of them, or was it someone else with their own motives? To find out, read this novel and be prepared for a great plot.

I absolutely enjoyed this book because of the plot and the characters. As a fan of thriller novels, I especially enjoyed the high school aspect of it. It helped make it more relatable and added to the suspense. Another great aspect of this book is the characters and what each of them brings to the plot. As the story went on, their secrets were revealed. Those various revelations helped to make the plot more twisted. The main question of who did the crime was on my mind the whole novel, and the answer was delivered in an interesting way. As clues were revealed, I started to figure out the answer, but it was close to the end. I would recommend it to any high school student looking for a thrilling read.

Across the Great Barrier by Patricia C. Wrede

Across the Great Barrier, by Patricia C. Wrede, is the second book in the Frontier Magic series. The novel is set in an alternate universe—the American frontier is being settled and explored, but there’s magic. Eff, a thirteenth child, has always considered herself unlucky, and therefore has never really tried learning her spells, but helps out at the menagerie where she takes care of magical and non-magical animals. Eventually, she crosses the Great Barrier, where the Professor finds something extremely interesting. This is a pretty dry run of it, but the book was more interesting, I promise.

When I picked this book up I didn’t realize that it was the second book in a series. Oops. Still, it was really good, and the author gave enough information about the main events from the first book that I could make sense of things. The book is told from Eff’s point of view, so it doesn’t go into too much detail about things that she doesn’t consider important, and spends more time on things that she’s interested in or that are important to her. I like this book because it has a good plot line and gives a new way of looking at the American frontier when it was still being settled. There were no Native Americans in the book, so I’m not sure if I missed something in the first book or if they just aren’t there. The end of the novel doesn’t give complete closure and pretty obviously sets it up for the next book because not everything gets resolved.