One Flew Over the Cockoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey

February 11th, 2014

One Flew OverPatients at the mental hospital, like narrator, Chief Bromden, have continually followed the dictatorial rule of Nurse Ratched. Never has anyone questioned her authority until Randle McMurphy checks into the ward.  He challenges the patients to defy Nurse Ratched, and he urges others to embrace ideas that may not be viewed as acceptable to society. His efforts towards resisting authority end in a series of heartbreaking results.

I rated this book a definite ten out of ten.  Kesey created characters that never failed to interest me.  From page one I was intrigued by the thorough visuals given by the narrator, Chief.  The details Kesey uses crafted images that rang true.  The strong characters and precise descriptions created a tragic, thoughtful story.

This novel is an allegory, but the rich sensory imagery created text that felt authentic, like a memoir. Symbolism is a technique utilized throughout this story. Kesey crafted an emerging theme through his characters. He dealt with the ideas of responsibility and freedom, through acts of rebellion— an idea inspired by the American culture throughout the mid twentieth century. Kesey’s experimentation with character development was brilliant and resulted in a touching theme that continues to disturb me.

I recommend this novel to mature readers who enjoy strong character-driven plots.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was not only the best book I read last year, but it is also part of the Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century.  For decades this book has astonished the minds of its readers, and I hope it will astonish you, as well.

Sophia

Publisher: Penguin Group, 277 pages

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

February 11th, 2014

FangirlEighteen-year-old Cather Avery isn’t ready for college.  When she’s not in classes, she’s holed up in her room, snacking on granola bars and writing fan-fiction.  Wren, Cath’s twin sister, is the complete opposite.  She can’t wait to get away from her eccentric father and spend her nights partying.  But Cath doesn’t let go of her problems that easily.  She can’t stop worrying about how her father is managing without her, and she’s not ready to face the prospect that her mother, who left when Cath and Wren were children, may re-enter her life.  She misses her sister, who insists on being in a different dorm, saying it’s better to be separated.  And she can’t seem to figure out her feelings for Levi—her moody roommate’s ex.

Thus, Rainbow Rowell sets the stage for a heart-wrenching, hilarious, and bittersweet novel.  Told mainly in first person, but including excerpts of fan-fiction, Cath comes to accept her own identity.  The character development is amazing.  Without giving away the ending, I can promise that Cath will not be a disappointment.  She’s witty; she’s intelligent; she’s resolute.

The content of Fangirl seems appropriate for any teenager.  However, the characters often express themselves through strong language—a.k.a. f-bombs.  I thought the extent of the profanity was unnecessary.  Rowell is an amazing author.  She doesn’t need swears to prove a point.  However, I liked the book so much that I managed to ignore the cussing.

Fangirl is a book about trust, family, and change.  Cath is terrified of meeting new people.  She misses her father.  She’s afraid her sister has left her for good.  She never wants to see her mother again.  She struggles with her inability to trust anyone—even herself—enough to cope with her emotions and problems.  Every teenage girl who has had trouble facing their fears will be able to relate to Cather Avery.

Payton

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin, 448 pages.

Monument 14, by Emmy Laybourne

February 11th, 2014

Monument 14 In 2024 in America, a sequence of natural disasters is taking place and millions of people are dying— a volcano erupts in the Canary Islands, which causes the island to explode; this creates hail and a ‘megatsunami,’ which triggers the largest earthquake ever recorded. All of this inflicts damage on NORAD’s storage facility, which causes a toxic chemical to leak into the air. At the same time, fourteen kids get trapped in a superstore on their way to school while trying to escape the hail.

I read this book in three days and I rated it a ten. Monument 14 had a fast-paced plot for the most part, but when it slowed down, it was the fascinating premise and the character interactions that kept me reading. The secondary characters all had distinct and different personalities.

Something I found interesting was that the main character, Dean, isn’t too memorable; there isn’t anything about him that makes him stand out when compared to protagonists of other books. I think that this actually contributes to the story because the plot is complicated, so having a stand-out lead character might overwhelm the reader.

Another thing I found interesting is that although there are thirteen other kids in the superstore, Monument 14 is told only from Dean’s point of view. Typically, in a situation like this, authors choose to switch among perspectives. Emmy Laybourne didn’t, which helped me get to know Dean better because I spent the whole book in his head. This also added some originality to Monument 14 because not many authors would choose to do this.

I would recommend Monument 14 to anyone who likes dystopian survival novels; this book fits perfectly into the genre.

If you like this book, the next installment is called Sky On Fire— I can’t wait to read it.

Sara

Square Fish Books, 294 pages

Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell

February 4th, 2014

Eleanor and ParkEleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a charming novel that won the Young Readers Book of 2013 Award. It is about two sixteen-years-old opposites in the year 1986. First they are uninvolved in each other’s lives, but they soon start talking and find they have similar interests. Over time they start hanging out and develop a relationship. The only problem is Eleanor isn’t allowed to have a boyfriend because her controlling stepfather won’t let her. So they keep their relationship a secret.

Rowell starts the novel with a flash-forward from Park’s perspective.  I thought this was effective since I had a clue about the ending, so throughout the book  I was trying to figure out why certain things occur. Then, when the real story starts, Rowell puts you on the first bus ride to school where Eleanor and Park first meet. Thus begins the love roller coaster of Eleanor and Park.

I rated this book a Bella because of the unique story and how it switched between the characters’ perspectives. It is an unusual setting and features two people who you think would never end up together, which I found refreshing. They weren’t stereotypes like blond, jock, or new kid. The perspectives switch throughout the book. You might think it would be confusing, but it isn’t. It is quite interesting getting thoughts and feelings from both characters.

The theme that emerges throughout this story is that first love can’t stay perfect forever. Being that Eleanor and Park are sixteen, they know they last, and they keep their relationship a secret from Eleanor’s stepdad forever.

The genre of this book is a contemporary realistic fiction. I recommend this book to girls especially. The pace is fast; I couldn’t put the book down. You will not be disappointed if you read Eleanor and Park.

 

Elizabeth

St. Martin’s Griffin, 325 pages

Monument 14: Sky on Fire, by Emmy Laybourne

February 4th, 2014

Sky on FireJust think: it’s a normal day, and you are going to school. You forget to say goodbye to your mom, you go out to get on your bus, and your little brother is right behind you to catch his bus, too. When you are on your bus and you hear a noise—a clang, clang, clang. You see hail coming down. It gets faster and faster, bigger and bigger, and then the bus is sliding. Your bus crashes into a big box store. You finally see your brother’s bus backing up to save you—well, you hope.

That is the scene that begins Monument 14 and continues in Monument 14: Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne. It is the sequel in what is planned as a trilogy. Both books are about the main character, Dean, his brother, Alex, and their friends as they try to survive. One of the problems is that there is a bad cloud of poison. If you breathe it in, you can get terrible symptoms depending on your type of blood. Type A gets very bad blisters, B gets reproductive difficulties, AB becomes paranoid, and O gets rabid and kills all who come near.

I like how Emmy Layboune makes the people who come into the book and all the different problems so real. That is why I rated it a 9.5 out of 10. I didn’t like that the book focused so much on boy-girl relationships. But it is a good book, and I think everyone who likes action and adventure, dystopia, and teen issues would enjoy this exciting sequel.

Carissa

Felwel and Friends New York, 215 pages

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

February 4th, 2014

Ender's GameEnder Wiggin, a battlefield mastermind, is recruited at age six into battle school. After two alien invasions, the government decides to breed new leaders that could help them win a third invasion. Ender is one of them. He is brought to outer space among other “launchies” and, at age nine, is trained to be a star fleet commander. Their goal is to defeat the “buggers”.

Orson Scott Card is an amazing author. He describes the ship in such detail that I felt as if I were with Ender on his journey through battle school and through the difficulties he faced on his trip from age six to nine. Card also conveys Ender’s thought process well. Even though Card writes in third person, it feels like first person because of the amount and quality of his protagonist’s thoughts and feelings.

Card shifts between the perspective of Ender’s sister, Valentine, the authorities at the battle school, and Ender. By doing so, the reader sees the logic behind Ender’s training, as well as the political war down on Earth, which we see through the eyes of his sister. Card shifts between their perspectives smoothly and clearly.

In order to write this review, I had to read parts of Ender’s Game again. When I opened the book to a random page, I found that I couldn’t stop reading. The book was so fast-paced and captivating, that the idea of not reading the whole book again was un-thinkable. I re-read it in a day.

Card’s writing style was one of the best parts. The dialogue is written exactly how I imagine the kids at the battle school would say it. For those six-through twelve- year-olds, their grammar differed drastically. The six-and-seven year-olds used improper grammar such as “you bad,” while the eleven-and twelve- year-olds talked in long, knowledgeable sentences. It was details like those that made this book come alive for me.

Ender’s Game won the Nebula Award in 1985 and the Hugo Award in 1986 for best novel. The book deserved both of these awards. Starting with a captivating action scene and ending with an un-expected twist, Ender’s Game is a science fiction classic and by far my favorite book by Orson Scott Card.

Charlotte

Tom Doherty Associates: 384 pages

Keeping the Moon, by Sarah Dessen

February 3rd, 2014

Keeping the MoonColie and her mom used to be fat, but now her mother is fitness queen Kiki Sparks—no longer laid-back, slightly chunky Katherine Sparks. Now that Kiki has to spend time to Europe, Colie’s summer has gone from okay to absolutely devastating. She must journey to her Aunt Mira’s town and spend two months doing God-knows-what. Then she meets Norman, but she doesn’t fall for the guy and her summer doesn’t turn amazing right away. Her time consists of, well, nothing really, until the local diner needs her help during the lunch rush, and she lands herself a job. In her past, Colie was always followed by fat jokes or by people calling her names. Finally she has friends who don’t know her reputation and who haven’t heard the rumors. She hopes that this will be enough to change her life.

I rated this book a whopping ten—not just because the plot was exciting, but also because it was unique. It wasn’t simply about an overweight girl who has been teased all her life; it was about a girl whose confidence had been shattered and how her new friends help her regain that important part of her personality.

The book wasn’t just plot-driven, nor was it only character-driven. It gave me enough of plot and character development so that it felt like I actually knew the people and could still follow an overall storyline. This book hooked me so tight that I read it in a matter of hours.  Not only was the plot of the novel addicting, the end was more than satisfying. I had just enough backstory to have it not be a jolt, but it was still a surprise—a nice one.

The theme wasn’t obvious until I went back and really thought about the last few chapters. What I drew out centered around the importance of self-respect and confidence.  Because Colie was overweight and fat jokes were thrown at her, her self-respect finally dwindled to almost nothing. It took building new relationships for her to rediscover the confidence she had lost.

If you want a story with characters that you learn to love—characters whose emotions echo your own—Keeping the Moon is the novel for you. This is the book that will make you cry out of both sadness and laughter.

Amelia

Viking Press, 228 pages

What Happened to Goodbye, by Sarah Dessen

February 3rd, 2014

What Happened After her mother divorces her father and she decides to live with her dad, seventeen-year-old Mclean hardly talks to or visits her mom. Mclean and her dad move from one town to another for his job. With every move Mclean takes on a different personality, friend group, and name at each new school she attends. Until Lakeview, that is, where she makes friends who like the real her. Mclean realizes that she isn’t sure who that is anymore, or if she is ready to find it out.

I rated this book a 9 out of 10 because Dessen was able to make the reader part of the story. Reading the book, I felt like I was part of Mclean’s life—like I was meant to be there and live in the story with her. Although the book started off a little slow and took about 40-60 pages for me to really get into the plot (to the point where I didn’t want to stop reading), overall it is worth your time and won’t disappoint.

The themes were pretty obvious to me. Throughout the book I became clear on what they were: family, discovering yourself, and friendship. If you read this novel, I think that the themes will become clear to you early on, as well.

Teenage girls will definitely relate to Mclean; I know that I did. Everyone, at some point in their lives, wants to change something about themselves: whether it’s to be just a little smarter, to be slightly more attractive, to be a tad funnier. Nevertheless, you cannot escape who you really are, and the journey that Mclean goes on to finally realize this is one that you will go on with her.

There are so many great moments in this book, and the end comes together perfectly. If you’re a fan of Sarah Dessen or realistic fiction, then this is the book for you.

Teagan

Viking Press, 402 pages

The Circle, by Dave Eggers

January 30th, 2014

The CircleExploring a scenario not too distant from reality, Eggers writes a dystopian novel that questions the extent to which technology has been pushed. In this book, The Circle is the Earth’s most powerful internet company, based in California; its slogan is “All that happens must be known.” A young woman named Mae Holland gets a job there, meeting up with her best friend, Annie. Mae takes a tour through the campus, and views The Circle: beautiful glass buildings, outdoor swimming pools, tanks of rare deep-sea fish, and almost everything else you can imagine. It seems perfect. When The Circle reveals a miniature surveillance camera that’s almost unnoticeable and can wirelessly stream to a larger screen anywhere in the world, the thought seems harmless. But is this new piece of technology threatening society’s privacy? The short answer is yes.

Eggers tells a thrilling story of how technology can change our lives for better or for worse. He brilliantly describes the many ways it changes Mae’s life— privately, socially, and in many ways she wished could stay the same. He describes how her relationship with Annie changes, how her personality changes, and how stress devours her everyday life. The Circle takes the reader on a fantastic journey through the life of a technology-run world.

Eggers discusses the fact that in our world, spying creates tension throughout society, but describes it through a fictional scenario. When reading this novel, one can’t help but think of current issues such as the National Security Agency spying on civilians. Eggers wrote in a way that I could see Mae change, Annie change, and The Circle change, all because of a small creation— originated by a simple thought: all that happens must be known.

The Circle is a wonderful book that opens up all sorts of questions about modern technology, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s open to understanding the drawbacks to “advances” in society.

Noah

Alfred A. Knopf, 491 pages

Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers

January 30th, 2014

Fallen Angels Imagine that it’s the middle of the Vietnam War, and you’re in the center of it. That’s how it was for Richard Perry in Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers. Richard is sent to the wrong place accidentally. He was supposed to go into a shipping company that works for the Army, but instead he ends up right in the Vietnam jungle in the middle of the war. While he’s there he makes friends with another guy in the Army whose nickname is Peewee, and the rest of the novel explores how they are trying to survive the war and how they are able to sustain their friendship.

I really liked this book because it had a great lead that included all of the background information that is needed to understand the whole plot. I also liked it because in some war novels the author gives away too much, which makes the story predictable. Myers kept it unpredictable by making readers figure out some things for themselves. I also really liked how Myers introduced each character at his own time and with his own story. For example, when Peewee is introduced they talk about where they come from and why they joined the Army. It is enough that you get to know each character without it getting too confusing. I also like how Myers gave each character his own background story.

I appreciated that Myers gave Perry problems that anyone in the Army could face. I liked this because I thought it made the book very realistic. Ulitmately, I enjoyed Fallen Angels for the plot and also for how well-developed the characters were.

Tristam

Scholastic, 309 pages.