by Sarah Nicholson
So, if you take equal parts disaster flick, space odyssey, zombie plague, rogue AI system, hackers and romance you will begin to understand what Illuminae is, I mean besides freakin awesome. I started this novel with very low hopes, because I’ll be honest space stories typically do not do it for me. If you’ve read one, you’ve most of them. However, everything about Illuminae worked, so much so that I read the sequel.
The series, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, follows several characters all with interlocking narratives, but the main two, of the first book are Kady and Ezra. On the morning of their break up, their entire world literally gets blown to pieces. They soon find themselves as refugees on two separate ships trying to out run a giant dreadnought sent to wipe out the survivors from their planet. But that is only the tip of the intergalactic iceberg that are their problems. Separated and only able to communicate through Kady’s hacker skills, the two have to figure out a way to handle the ever-evolving disasters that are occurring on board each ship; all while the clock ticks down to their inevitable showdown with dreadnought Lincoln.
The real genius in the series is the layout. The entire book is a retrospective told through dossiers, text messages, video surveillance transcripts and the homicidal rationalization of the Artificial Intelligence system. It’s brilliant, because the conversations sound 100 percent genuine, complete with colorful ‘what the heck’ descriptions. Now for those who aren’t into swearing you’re still covered. Because it’s a retrospective story told through “officially compiled” reports, which means all the colorful language has been redacted, leaving the phrasing to the imagination of the reader. This makes it amazing in the written copy of the book.
As I said I did go on to read the second installment in the series, Gemina, well technically I listened to it via audiobook, but still. For those afraid that I’m about to drop spoilers to book one, chill. The second book follows completely different characters in a completely different part of space. Like I would actually tell you if Kady and Ezra make it, get real. Any way, I had heard that the audiobook was stunning because it employed a variety of voice actors, making it more of a radio show than standard audiobook. As much as I loved the first book, and I really did, I was floored by the exquisite experience that was the audio. Really, the sarcasm… wit… delivery, ugh its been like a week since I finished it and I’m still wishing there was more to hear.
I think this book series is a great example for what happens when you take a story that could be conventionally good, but by throwing out some of the rules you get something absolutely outstanding. The only drawback I could really find with it, is that I now have to purchase the hardcopies and audiobooks, a verifiable first for me. *Sigh* It’s a hardship I shall endeavor to bare, and I hope you get a chance to endure this particular struggle too. Happy reading!
by Emily Wedell
Freedom Writers is a movie based off of the book, The Freedom Writers Diary. The novel, which was published in 1999, and did not come out on film until 2007. The movie can be found in most libraries, especially school libraries, and is available over Netflix DVD. The film, like most books that are also produced as movies, doesn’t quite do justice to the intricacies of the novel or the characters of the students, but is still an inspirational film. The movie is about the students of Classroom 203 in Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. Ms. Erin Gruwell is a first-time teacher who is propelled into a classroom divided by race and gang affiliations. Gruwell uses her unique teaching style to reach and educate the students, despite resistance from her husband, father, and fellow teachers. While a movie about education may not sound particularly exciting, the movie, produced by MTV, offers a modern, fairly accurate presentation of the struggles of racism and how violence can manifest. The scriptwriters and actors had believable interactions and dialogue; there weren’t many parts that were glaringly scripted. The hip-hop music used was a good fit for the theme and tone of the movie, and added a little authenticity to the film.
I think students from suburbs or small towns, especially those in the Midwest who have had minimal exposure to racism and gang activity outside of the news, could learn a lot from this movie. The first time I saw this movie, I was in high school, with what I thought was already decent knowledge of this subculture. However, the one thing my knowledge lacked was the humanity: the struggles and pain of the victims and participants alike. While Ms. Gruwell’s education strategy may not work in all situations, it gave a different angle to the situation. I think students from the Midwest are very sheltered when it comes to seeing this violence and struggle in real life; movies are definitely different from real-life, and I think that this movie helps bridge that gap and makes audiences gain a higher level of understanding.
by Abigail Fellin
“The universe may forget about us, but it doesn’t matter. Because we are the ants, and we’ll keep marching on.”
If aliens gave you the chance to save the world that took your boyfriend away from you, would you do it? This is the question Henry Denton faces in the young adult novel We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (2016). The sluggers, or aliens, have been abducting Henry since he was thirteen and he doesn’t know why. He doesn’t know why his grandmother is losing her mind to Alzheimer’s, or why his brother is deciding being a college drop out with a pregnant girlfriend is a good idea. He doesn’t understand why his boyfriend committed suicide. What he does know is that the aliens have given him 144 days to decide whether or not to save the world from impending doom. Henry is set on a path until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a mysterious past who leads Henry to question what really matters.
This stunning novel delves into the complex mind of teenagers as they deal with issues such as depression, bullying, sexual orientation, and loss. Hutchinson beautifully crafts complex characters that capture your heart. His poetic lines, such as “Sometimes I think gravity may be death in disguise. Other times I think gravity is love, which is why love’s only demand is that we fall” are the diamonds sprinkled in this treasure trove of a novel.
We Are the Ants originally interested me due to its promise to look at topics such as suicide and sexual orientation. I’m always looking for young adult novels that accurately portray mental illness since I think it is important to have healthy representations of these issues for young adults. The sci-fi angle originally was a put off for me, however, the unique way Hutchinson weaves science and aliens into the story only added to my love for this book. Overall, We Are the Ants is a great novel for young adults due to the topics it looks into, the interesting and complex characters, and the beautifully crafted lines. Not only will this book play with your heart strings, but it will cause you to ponder big world questions.
by Benita Kamikazi
The Great Gatsby is a novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925 and was set in 1922. This was a period where there was excessive drinking, partying, and people’s morals flew out the window because of the booming economy. In 2013, Moulin Rouge’s director Baz Luhrmann, directed The Great Gatsby movie that starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan. The movie that is also set in 1922 has Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) narrating his life story about how he met Jay Gatsby, Jay’s love for Daisy Buchannan, and chasing the American dream. Long Island is divided according to old and new money; West Egg and East Egg. Nick lives in West Egg and is the neighbor of a mysterious man who throws lavish parties every weekend. Everyone in New York attends these parties without any invitation. However, the only exception is Nick, until one day an invitation to Jay Gatsby’s party arrives at his house. Once at these parties, Nick becomes enchanted by the extravagant life and discovers that not one person at these parties has ever met Gatsby. Nick eventually meets Gatsby and is drawn by his charisma and crazy world.
The soundtrack of this movie is what made me love The Great Gatsby even more because I love the concept of having a 1920s scene with flappers alongside 21st century music in it. There is something almost nostalgic about listening to Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey and seeing Jay with Daisy in the Jazz era. We grew up listening to songs like Amy Winehouse’s classic Back to Black and Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love which is why it made the movie familiar to the audience. It will be interesting for hip hop lovers to hear Jay Z, Kanye West, and Andre 3000 because of the juxtaposition of the fact that there was no hip hop in 1922.
One can find The Great Gatsby on Amazon video or on iTunes, and I recommend this movie especially to teenagers because they can learn about a classic book and still enjoy great music.