The Young Elites By Marie Lu, 9/10

“The Young Elites” by Marie Lu is a definite page turner. It begins at the house of young Adelina Amouteru, a beautiful young lady, whose only imperfections are her silver hair, and the jagged scar running over her left eye socket. She is known as a Malfetto, one of the few children who survived the harsh blood fever, and walks among the rest of society. The kingdom looks at malfettos like they are abominations, an insult to the gods, filth among the streets. However there are a few diamonds in the ruff, malfettos said to possess strange and terrifying powers, “I knew what my father spoke of. He was referring to very specific malfettos—a rare handful of children who came out of the blood fever with scars far darker than mine, frightening abilities that don’t belong in this world. Everyone talked about these malfettos in hushed whispers; most feared them and called them demons.  People said they could conjure fire out of thin air. Could call the wind. Could control beasts. Could disappear. Could kill in the blink of an eye. If you searched the black market, you’d find flat wooden engravings for sale, elaborately carved with their names, forbidden collectibles that supposedly meant they would protect you—or, at the least, that they would not hurt you. No matter the opinion, everyone knew their names. The Reaper. Magiano. The Windwalker. The Alchemist. The Young Elites”. Adelina Amouteru is one of those chosen few. With her ability to create illusions, she finds herself in league with the Young Elites, and soon becomes a part of a conspiracy to overthrow the king. Read in wonder as Adelina finds herself torn between saving her sister, love, duty, conspiracies, and the threat of what lurks in the night.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare 8/10

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a fictional story that starts when Egeus comes to the duke, Theseus, complaining that his daughter, Hermia, won’t marry his husband of choice for her, Demetrius. Hermia refuses to marry Demetrius because she is in love with Lysander. Since she refused, it is decided that if she doesn’t marry Demetrius, she will either be executed or become a priestess.

Her and Lysander had decided to run away to the woods at night when they came across Helena, who they told their plan to. Helena, who is jealous of Hermia because she has Demetrius’ love, tells Demetrius their plan in hopes of making him fall in love with her again. With no luck, Helena follows Demetrius into the woods when he goes looking for Hermia. In the woods, Lysander and Demetrius are put under a spell that makes them fall in love with Helena. Helena and Hermia argue while Lysander and Demetrius fight for Helena’s love. In the end, the spell is reversed by Puck, the fairy who caused the chaos.

In this story, there are multiple layers of reality and illusion. Also, there are three different groups of characters whose worlds merge in the end. I thought this was interesting because Shakespeare blurred the lines between the human world and the magical world by having the different groups interact with each other, fall asleep, then wake up thinking it was all a dream.

I believe that an audience who enjoys and can follow Shakespearean language will appreciate this book. This story has romance, magic, and comedic moments that make this story enjoyable. Personally, I recommend buying the No Fear Shakespeare version of this story. The No Fear version has the original play on the left page and plain English on the right page. This is sure to help anyone who is struggling with understanding Shakespeare.

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Half-Brother by Kenneth Oppel 8/10

“Half-Brother” by Kenneth Oppel is a fictional novel about a boy, Ben, who has to adjust to living with a baby chimpanzee, Zan, that his dad was going to be teaching sign language. Although Ben is standoffish at first, he soon grows to love and accept Zan as a part of the family. Ben realizes that chimps and humans are not as different as he had previously thought and develops a deep connection with Zan. Unfortunately, his dad does not feel the same way, and only sees Zan as an experiment, something to be studied. Something, not someone. Later, when Ben’s dad realizes that the sign language experiment wasn’t going as well as he had hoped it would, he decides to send Zan to a research institution, not fully realizing how much pain he was causing Ben, who had to stand by and watch Zan, who he had come to think of as his little brother, being given away in the hands of a complete stranger. Things later take a turn for the worse after Ben’s family realizes that the person who bought Zan was planning on selling him to a biomedical research facility for animal testing. Knowing what kind of life Zan would live if he became an animal test subject, Ben was desperate to save him and would have to overcome all odds in order to do so.

This book also deals with the conflicts of going to a new school and coming of age. Over the course of the book the reader is able to see Ben grow as an individual as he realizes what is most important to him. Another conflict that this book deals with is the conflict that Ben has with his father. Ben was not on very good terms with his dad at the start of the book, and his relationship with him gets even worse over time as it becomes apparent how different Ben and his father are. However, near the end of the book, Ben’s father realizes how much Zan means to Ben and they learn to work together in order to save Zan.

Though this book seemed a little bit slow at the beginning, it picked up the pace near the middle of the story and got more and more exciting as it progressed. I would recommend this book to both middle and high school students.

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Aftershock by Mark Walden: 8.23/10

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“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to H.I.V.E. and the first day of the rest of your lives”

Aftershock is the seventh book in the H.I.V.E. series. For lovers of adventure and thrill, this young adult fiction book is as action-filled as it gets. All of the chapters have action that has you standing, anxious to find out what happens. Some global villainy/conspiracy gets you shocked as the severity of the consequences is grave. The book is mainly about a boy named Otto Malpense and his gang of friends who are part of a school that trains villains. In each and every book, some sort of global evil threatens villains and then Otto and Co. get called on the job to save the world. Throughout these adventures, Otto and his friends experience death, betrayal, friendship, loyalty, and danger. Almost every hour they are out of the protection of the school, Otto and his group nearly get killed. One of my favorite quotes was “villains threaten the world with doomsday devices, but G.L.O.V.E makes sure they never use them.” The headmaster of the school told this to Otto and explained how the evil ruling council was made so that the world would never be demolished. There would just be too much chaos.

The main characters are Otto Malpense, a biological clone of the leader of the supervillains. Wing Fanchu, martial-arts expert and best friend of Otto. Shelby Trinity, master safe-cracker previously known as the “Wraith.” Laura Brand, computer genius sent to school for hacking into the Air Force technology. Natalya “Raven,” world’s deadliest assassin. Maximillian Nero, present head of G.L.O.V.E and headmaster of H.I.V.E. Nigel Darkdoom, son of supposedly dead Diabolus Darkdoom, once head of G.L.O.V.E (Global League of Villainous Enterprises). And lastly Franz Argentblum, overweight son of chocolate tycoon and excellent sharpshooter.

Basically, global villainy is on the brink of civil war. The ruling council has been dispatched and many are looking for revenge on the man who did this: Nero. Meanwhile, Otto and his friends are preparing for a required survival course in Siberia. However a traitor is amongst them who sends the coordinates to the leader of the Disciples, who immediately sends a strike team to attack and ambush the unsuspecting students and men. I will not spoil the book and tell you who the actual traitor was. Even though you can read this book by itself, you kind of have to read the rest of the books to get some more back stories.

I admired the imagination of Walden, as I usually think of villains who love to cause destruction wherever they go. H.I.V.E brought a new perspective as now villains were smart and kept each other in check. When villains went stray, other villains came to bring a stop to them by any means possible. My favorite part of the book was when the battle happens between Otto and his friends against Anastasia Furan, the new leader of the Disciples, mega-villains who will stop at nothing to destroy G.L.O.V.E. and rule the world. In the end, Otto won, but not without heavy losses. All of his classmates were either killed or captured except for five others.

Lastly, this book was an easier book to read, as the action kept you going without ever getting bored or stopped. It was long (around 300 pages), but was a smaller book around the size of a slightly smaller Book Thief. For a complete list of the series the website is here: https://www.goodreads.com/series/43743-h-i-v-e

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The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien: 9/10

Taking place about 50 years after The Hobbit, the first book in the LOTR series is only one-third of the story; in order to find out the ending, one would have to read all three books, which is no small task. Frodo Baggins lives in the Shire, a peaceful natural community made of hobbits. Frodo, however is given the One Ring by Bilbo. It is his task to carry the ring to the Cracks of Doom in order for it to be destroyed and Sauron to be vanquished forever. During this task he will explore the world of Middle-Earth and meet may new creatures that he had only heard tales of from Bilbo. On his journey he will meet challenges he thought to be legends, and encounter things that don’t want him to finish his journey.

The storyline and plot of this book is not the only interesting attribute of the series. The mythology behind the story provides another challenge to those who seek it. In addition of gods and fascinating creatures, there is also stories of the One Ring, human colonies, and the history of everything. Although it is hard

Although Tolkien wrote the trilogy in the 1940s, the style of writing he writes is very middle english to early modern english. If you are used to books that are written normally (which is most books you’ve probably read), and this is your first book that is written in this style it may be hard for you to understand at first. However, after you appreciate the uniques this novel and series offers with its different style, it will make the book even better.

Be prepared that this book also includes some poems, a type of literature that really adds some “oomph” to the book. While reading you may get bored, but the inclusion of poems will keep you turning pages.

As slightly mentioned above, if you can’t really understand the writing style Tolkien uses, it may be difficult for you to read it. Overall, I would recommend this book to those who want an extra challenge while reading, and don’t just want a flat story with no accessories.

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood 10/10

Margaret Atwood’s 1984 fictional novel (recently adapted into a television series) is a thought provoking and mildly unsettling novel set in a dystopian society after the overthrow of the American government by a religious military coup, a world of bodies hung from the wall, religious persecution, Jewish people purposefully sunk in the sea.  The main character, Offred (a name given to her based on the name of her male employer) is a Handmaid, one of the women who bares the children of higher class families, an occupation that is very obviously suggestive in it’s requirements. Offred struggles with the separation from her beloved husband and daughter after a failed escape attempt around the time of the coup. She is placed with a high ranking government official, a Commander and his lonely wife. Offred begins to engage in many forbidden relationships as the characters struggle against their society, ultimately leading a revolution, in a story of hope.

I must admit that I felt surprise when I discovered that The Handmaid’s Tale was not an overtly feminist novel, especially in this current political climate as women dress in the red and white uniforms of the Handmaids at protests against the current United States presedential administration. Even the author herself admits this in a prelude to the actual story. The Handmaid’s Tale does not predict a future, or the author’s concerns. Rather, the book requires readers like myself to examine an alternate version of history compared with the one we know today, to consider the shocking consequences and even the dangers of the modern world. The book causes readers to consider another world, with horrifying actions, justified under the guise of female protection, but leaves the reader to contemplate the question, why are women protected from being able to work, to support themselves, to make their own decisions? Why should one be protected from making their own choices?

The Handmaid’s Tale forces readers to consider their morals, and examine what is right and wrong, exploring the theme of freedom from versus freedom to. Atwood’s writing revolves between nostalgic, dream-like flashbacks and cold, drastic jerks to the sterilized present. I myself was able to relate my own memories to the descriptive and strangely familiar events chronicled in Offred’s memories.  Atwood’s writing is illustrative in a way that lends to the story, and the few words of vulgarity are placed in a way that lends power and realism to the story. Offred as a character is incredibly complex, at times seems like a teenager entering a new school, a risk-taking revolutionary, a caring wife and doting mother, but in the most simple terms of summary, a woman of hope. The Handmaid’s Tale is very different from any dystopian novel that I have read, a novel that seems almost realistic and relatable, with it’s references to the culture of the American 1980s. In a way, Atwood’s story seems almost like two different books that are somehow perfectly intertwined in a way that creates a very different and ultimately incredible, chilling, and provocatively timeless novel.

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The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger 9/10

      The Catcher in the Rye is based upon a teenage boy in the mid 1900s named Holden. Holden narrates and starts the story in his private school, where he has been kicked out yet again. His family is made up of his mother and father, older brother, D.B., younger sister, Phoebe, and his once younger brother, Allie, who has passed away. They are not informed of this news by Holden because he is afraid of letting them down due to his past failures in other schools. Through this lack of knowledge, Holden is able to leave his school before his official release date. He uses this time to explore New York City, reflecting on his past, present, and future. During this period, notable character mentions are Jane, Holden’s childhood friend and long-time crush, and Phoebe and Allie. These characters are related to his obsession with youth, leading to the main theme. This idea develops throughout the novel, from first starting with Holden’s longing for the innocence found in childhood, transitioning into his bias for children, and finally, realizing that it is impossible to regain his youth, so instead attempting to aid others in keeping their innocence. The author illustrates this theme through numerous literary devices such as allusions, incorporating parts of the Bible and select Shakespeare works, metaphors, including the title itself, and irony, used to develop characters who play an important role in multiple themes. Salinger, the author, makes Holden sound quick-witted, slightly immature, and sarcastic as a character, which adds another element to the book, which is humour. In certain parts, the novel does become very light, which would appeal to anyone who would like to read something that is not completely based on humour, but still has it occasionally. Also, although a few of Holden’s actions are not synonymous with teens today, his personality and decisions that he makes can be related, so I would recommend this book to all teens.

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