If I Stay
For such a short book, If I Stay by Gayle Forman left me feeling so many things. It’s about choices. It’s about relationships. It’s about how important the “ordinary” things really are. It took me from her present to her past and back again, to explain who she was, and to lay the backdrop for the decision she was to make. This is the story of 17 year old Mia who has a pretty great life: she has a sweet boyfriend who is in a band, she is an exceptional cello player who may be off to Julliard soon and, maybe most bizarrely of all for a teenage girl, she has a really cool, quirky family that she loves to hang out with. On an unexpected snow day, Mia, her mom, dad and little brother all pile into the family car to visit relatives in the next town. Mia closes her eyes, and suddenly her world quite literally explodes. There is a huge accident and then, everything is quiet except for one sound: the car continuing to play on the radio. Mia can hear it, so she believes she must still be alive, but looking around for her younger brother, she spies a hand sticking out of a nearby ditch. Reaching the outstretched arm, she realizes she is looking at her own bleeding, badly damaged body. She is now a spirit, and whether she stays or goes is up to her.
The characters are wonderfully thought-out. They just leaped from the pages so that I knew why she loved them and you knew all you needed to know about them despite the absence of any long winded descriptions of them. Rather, it was the simplicity of her recalling things that they did together that effectively had them winding their way around my heart: Teddy, more than a brother almost a son; her father, former punk rocker turned teacher. In all her memories, I saw a family linked by an uncomplicated sort of affection and love. Then Adam, her constant doubt as to where she stood with him showed me her insecurities and kept her grounded in my eyes. She was not perfect after all. Her recollections of Kim, where they met and how they bonded injected the book with humor that kept the book from becoming depressing.
There was nothing morbid in the way death was handled here. The attention to detail showed sensitivity; again this was what kept the book from being morbid. Yes, there’s death, but the book is not about that; If I Stay is about her past, her feelings, her thoughts, and life. This is just so heartbreakingly beautiful. Just, beautifully written, illustrated. I have never experienced such author to write this way. Brilliant. You won't throw away anything in this book, every page, every line and every word means something, something huge in one's life, in Mia's and others' life. I give this book 5 stars.
Written by Victoria, high school junior, June 2011 The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Written by Victoria, high school junior, June 2011
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
The Looking Glass Wars is an alternate history retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass books. Beddor reimagines the children’s classic as non-fiction: Alyss Hart, a Wonderlander, comes to Earth in a time of crisis (her evil aunt Redd has attacked Wonderland in her quest to become the Queen of Hearts), and she finds herself in a far different reality. On Earth, she is just a young girl with no allies and a fading Imagination. When she is adopted by the Liddell family, and comes across the young deacon Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) she thinks she has found a sympathetic soul. She tells him her story -- which he then publishes in the drastically altered tale that we know. Disheartened, Alyss (now Alice) tries to adjust to life on Earth and forget about Wonderland. But all is not right in Wonderland, and the two worlds Alyss knows are about to collide.
For much of this book, I was fairly indifferent. It came highly recommended by a number of friends, and I am completely drawn to the Alice story and will read/watch anything having to do with the insanely fabulous world Carroll created. So I really wanted to love this, and at times I did. But for some of the book, I just didn’t. I felt Beddor struggled to find the balance he wanted; it waffled back and forth between an imitation of Carroll’s light, irreverent style, and a more current, action-drama feel. Also, with attention divided between the two worlds, Wonderland and Earth, it never felt like either got the attention it deserved, and I never got to really live in either and experience it, which was disappointing. But there were moments when I got what I wanted, when the worlds became real and the action was compelling, and the tension was high and I was in it. I just wanted that to be more consistent.
Eventually, the book did find a middle path and start to come together, and I will say that I saw enough in it to like that I will certainly keep reading, and do not really regret taking a chance on this modern spin of Carroll’s world. I am not saying this is not a good book just that I wanted more, and didn’t quite get it. On a side note, the card soldiers (idea and illustrations) were absolutely brilliant. If you are in to the world Carroll created, and don’t mind some innovations brought into the storyline this is a book I think you would enjoy.
Book review of Halo by Alexandra Adornetto
Written by Victoria, high school junior, May 2011
Halo by Alexandra Adornetto an interesting yet typical storyline. I must say the general idea is really interesting, but it is very obvious that the majority of her ideas came from Twilight. A few examples are people's eyes turning from vivid colors to coal black, going to a nearby city to buy prom dresses with her 2 friends, "There are 2/3 things that I am absolutely certain", etc. It is pretty annoying as you progress into the book, because I felt I was reading Twilight over again, but with even more helpless, selfish characters.
Three angels are sent to Earth on a mission to fight dark forces in Venus Cove, a small beach town in Australia. Beth, the youngest and most naive angel, is sidetracked from her mission and falls in love with a teenage boy named Xavier. Beth and Xavier form a very close relationship, which is against the laws according to Heaven. The majority of the book is lacking in plot or conflict, and is usually Beth going around with Xavier and her friends at school or at restaurants and stores.
Xavier's and Beth's love for each other is pretty sickening. They are apart for an hour and Beth feels like she could die. About 150 pages of the book repeats over and over their "undying love" for each other and that Xavier is all Beth thinks about when they are apart. My favorite character in this book is Gabriel. He is reserved and wise in his choice-making. I believe Ivy was made too happy, joyful. Gabriel has a cautious personality, and is always looking out for his siblings especially Beth. Even with all these major errors in the book, I still find Halo a somewhat enjoyable read, but I know it failed to satisfy most of the people.I give it 3/5 stars.
Amanda, high school junior, March 2011
Amanda, high school junior, March 2011
Amanda, high school junior, March 2011
Amanda, high school junior, March 2011
In the book Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick sixteen year old Nora Grey gets stuck with the most unlikely lab partner: an older, mysterious transfer student with a smoldering gaze and a penchant for the color black. His clothes reek of cigars, but that’s the least of Nora’s worries. A “get to know you” assignment turns into a cause for alarm when Patch, her partner, reveals he knows more details about Nora than she can handle. When her teacher refuses her plea to switch partners, Nora decides her fate is in her own hands and dealing with Patch becomes priority number one, but he doesn’t make it easy for her. Patch’s relaxed and flirtatious manner makes her blush as often as she becomes frustrated. To make matters worse, Patch’s appearance coincides with Nora being harassed by an aggressive stalker wearing a ski mask who sometimes sits outside her window watching her sleep. If this sounds at all identical to Twilight, let me correct you: it isn’t Twilight. It may be eerily similar, and the comparisons are going to be passed around like a bad cold, but Hush, Hush is in a league of its own. Vampires? Werewolves? Who cares? We’ve got angels.
I fell absolutely in love with this book. I couldn’t put it down. I want to re-read it and that doesn’t happen very often, if at all. The writing was very accessible, self-deprecating, and funny. Fitzpatrick nailed the dialogue between Nora and her best friend, Vee. I thought they were entertaining together. In the realm of teenage friendship their interactions were natural; Vee reacted to Nora’s level-headedness as much as Nora feed off of Vee’s drama. As the protagonist, Nora was a three-dimensional character, but don’t count Vee out: her sharp tongue and eye for adventure and drama throw out an inordinate amount of outlandish that’s just tempered enough with Nora’s skepticism and exasperation to rein her in from being too over the top. Nora’s quite competent and doesn’t flail or whine in fear. When she’s scared she stands up for herself and (however dangerous it would translate into a real life situation) even tries to protect herself by attacking her attackers, confident in her attempts to defend herself rather than submit willfully. But she’s also vulnerable as her unsuccessful self-defense tactics and anemia diagnosis prove.
While Patch and Nora’s romance is a little rushed, given that Nora oscillates in her confusion between being attracted to Patch’s persistent, swaggerish-demeanor and being frightened of the implications of finding him appearing almost everywhere she goes, I liked it. The pacing is great--you blink at how easy it is to lose sense of time as the pages are turned--and the plot is wrapped up neatly with a surprise reveal I never would have guessed on my own. At times, it’s a bit predictable, but the writing more than makes up for that. And Fitzpatrick left just enough room open for a sequel. By the time you reach the end of this book, you’ll want a sequel. And there is one, don’t worry. I’d give this book 4/5 stars.
This book was not at all what I expected. I'm going to see the musical in May, and knowing that the book had been turned into a musical, I expected something much lighter hearted. Instead, the story about the life of the Wicked Witch of the West is much darker and involves political conspiracies, repressive dictators, and religious fanaticism.
The book traces the life of Elphaba a.k.a. the Wicked Witch of the West, from birth to death at the hands of Dorothy. The first half of the book which details her childhood, her time at university, and her time in the Emerald City as a member of the underground Animal movement fighting against the Wizard of Oz. I really enjoyed this part as you gain a lot of insight into Elphaba's upbringing, character, and relationships, especially with her college roommate, Glinda (later the Good Witch of the North). Learning more about Elphaba and her disdain for the Wizard and his methods of ruling makes you question who is good and who is evil based on the movie version of the story.
I was also surprised by the amount of sex in this book. I never thought of the Wicked Witch of the West as a complex human being let alone a sexual being. The whole Emerald City section of the book centers on Elphaba's affair with one of her former college friends, and the descriptions of their encounters were quite graphic in places. I can't imagine how that's going to play out in the stage musical version. Alas, tragedy befalls her lover, which sets up the second half of the book and Elphaba's transformation into the Wicked Witch.
The second half kind of dragged for me, and throughout it there were references to the Madame Morrible character, who was the headmistress at Elphaba's college. Madame Morrible only appeared in a few "scenes," and while she did tell Elphaba, Glinda, and Elphaba's sister, Nessarose (later the Wicked Witch of the East) that they would be "adepts" for the Wizard, I had a hard time understanding why Elphaba found her so evil. It was lost on me. The book does cover Dorothy's visit to Oz but paints it in a whole new light, which was interesting, but somewhat anticlimactic. All in all an interesting read that I would recommend if you like prequels. I would give the book 3/5.