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The Blind Side by Michael Lewis reviewed by Ashton Sparks


The Blind Side by Michael Lewis



The young man at the center of this extraordinary and moving story will one day be among the most highly paid athletes in the National Football League. When we first meet him, he is one of thirteen children by a mother addicted to crack; he does not know his real name, his father, his birthday, or any of the things a child might learn in school such as, say, how to read or write. Nor has he ever touched a football.


What changes? He takes us football, and school, after a rich, Evangelical, Republican family plucks him from the mean streets. Their love is the first great force that alters the world’s perception of the boy, whom they adopt. The second force is the evolution of professional football itself into a game where the quarterback must be protected at any cost. Our protagonist turns out to be the priceless combination of size, speed, and agility necessary to guard the quarterback’s greatest vulnerability: his blind side.


Who would want to be living either on the streets or just going from place to place staying the night? To me that is no way to live and that is exactly the type of life that Michael Oher was living at the beginning of the novel The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. There are three main things that I enjoyed are the theme. The second is the way I really got a sense of who Michael Oher really is, and the third is the strong protagonist of the novel.

The first thing I really enjoyed was the challenging theme of the novel. To me the theme is that no matter where someone comes from or what type of life they live they do not have to live that way forever. The theme is very strong and inspiring and reaches out to many audiences not just one set group. I feel that this is one of the best themes out of the novels I have read so far this school year. The main theme to me is don’t give up, don’t ever give up. This novel really inspired me to work hard at everything I do, not only to better myself but to make a good life for myself also. Everyone should just remember that no matter how bad things seem they can always get better if you try to make them better.

The second thing element that I enjoyed was the way I really got a sense of who Michael Oher was. At first he wouldn’t talk hardly but then he really came out of his shell. I think that Leigh Anne Tuohy had a lot to do with this. She was the first person he really talked to and would really listen to. Michael Oher was one of the most surprising students that Briarcrest Christian School had ever seen. He had a GPA of 0.6 and didn’t know any of the things that normal students his age had known for years. When they looked at his records his teachers had basically passed him to get him out of their class. Everyone was shocked by the outcome of Michael Oher’s football career.

The third and final thing that I enjoyed was the strong protagonist. I feel that Michael Oher was the protagonist. He is because he went through a big change throughout the story. He went from nothing to one of the best in the NFL. He went from having a crack addicted mother to being adopted by a rich family who treats him like one of their own. His life changed very much for the better and most of it is because of his new found family, the Tuohy’s. The story behind Michael and his career is absolutely wonderful and really shows how anyone can change and make things better.

Overall the novel was great and inspiring. I enjoyed most everything about it. I recommend this book to anywhere from middle school and up. It is great for all audiences and I think it will open up some people’s eyes and inspire them to do better and make a better life for themselves. The challenging theme, the way I got to really know Michael, and the strong protagonist were the three things I enjoyed most of this novel. Michael Oher is definitely a strong character and his story can really make people think about their lives and think about how to make their lives better. Altogether I enjoyed his novel very much.


The Shining by Stephen King, Reviewed by Ashton Sparks

The Shining

by Stephen King


Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter sets in, the idyllic location feels even more remote… and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five year old.

I bet everyone thinks that going to a nice hotel and having it all to yourself for the whole winter would be wonderfully fantastic, am I right? Well the Torrance family quickly realizes that having a hotel all to yourself and pretty much being trapped in by snow isn’t all they imagined. They soon come to realize that every hotel has it’s ghosts. Well the Overlook Hotel brings a whole new meaning to hotel ghosts. The novel The Shining by Stephen King will surely terrify and make people think twice when they hear something go bump in the night at a hotel.  It is terrifying and wonderful all at the same time. The main parts of the novel I enjoyed was the descriptive setting, the use of such colorful characters, and the way the character’s interact with each other.

The first part of the novel I enjoyed was the descriptive setting. The way the author described every little detail of the way The Overlook looks inside and out, all the way from the details of the carpet to the way the hedges outside look. I really felt like I was in the hotel with them. The author did a wonderful job at this. I could visualize every part of the book. The hotel was a great choice for the story to take place. The setting was greatly added to by describing the snow also. The way the snow really made an obstacle for the characters really gave me a sense of how it would look trying to go out and play like Danny did. I felt that the setting was my favorite part of the whole novel.

The second element of the novel that I enjoyed was the colorful characters. Dick Halloran was my favorite character. He was the cook at the Overlook and is just as uniquely talented as Danny and is very helpful to Danny and Wendy Torrance. Jack Torrance is a former alcoholic who was a teacher until a previous incident cost him his job. He is trying to control his temper and as time goes on he starts to feel strange as if the hotel wants him. But the question is does it want him or does he want to be a part of the hotel. Wendy Torrance is a very sweet woman and has stuck right by her husband’s side through it all. She forgives and forgets and moves on from each disappointing crisis. In the end they all must try and save each other but it seems as though Jack doesn’t want to be saved. I feel as though the hotel is a character also. The way it really comes alive it is as though it has it’s own personality and all. There also seems to be some guests that have failed to checkout.

The final element of the book that I enjoyed was the way the characters interact with each other. The characters in the beginning seem to be a happy family. Well besides the fact that Jack Torrance is a recovering alcoholic and his son Danny and his wife Wendy never know when he is going to lose his temper and hurt one or both of them. Wendy really tries to keep the family together and you can really feel how much she loves both her husband and son. She tries to keep the piece and keep Jack from hurting himself or someone else but all he thinks is that she is nagging at him. Their son Danny is a very uniquely talented little boy to be only five years old. He is very much daddy’s little boy and at times his mother gets jealous. But all in all they think going to the Overlook and spending the winter together would help them all be happier. That is until the severe storms really kick in and it hits them that they are pretty much trapped in the hotel all alone with no connection to the outside world. Or are they really alone? Soon they begin hearing things and sometimes even seeing them. For Danny this is nothing unusual but for his mother and father it makes them think they are going insane. The way the characters connect and interact with each other is really an important part of the novel.

All together the novel was wonderful. I really enjoyed every last page of the book and loved seeing the story unfold right in front of me. I recommend this book to those who love to read anything that will make them check their closet and under their bed. I definitely look forward to reading more of Stephen King’s novels in the future. I definitely want to find out if all of his books are as great as this one. Everyone should absolutely read this book sometime soon just to experience the hotel as described in the book. 

Identical by Ellen Hopkins, Reviewed by Ashton Sparks

Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Do twins begin in the womb?
Or in a better place?
Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical down to the dimple. As daughters of a district-court judge father and a politician mother, they are an all-American family – on the surface. Behind the facade each sister has her own dark secret, and that’s where their differences begin.
For Kaeliegh, she’s the misplaced focus of daddy’s love, intended for a mother whose presence on the campaign trail means absence at home. All that Raeanne sees is Daddy playing a game of favorites – and she is losing. If she has to lose, she will do it on her own terms, so she chooses drugs, alcohol, and sex.
Secrets like the ones the twins are harboring are not meant to be kept – from each other or anyone else. Pretty soon it’s obvious that neither sister can handle it alone, and one sister must step up to save the other, but the question is – who?
Do you ever wonder what it is like to have a twin? How about a mother who tries her best to never be home? Or maybe a father who isn’t as great as everyone thinks? This very idea is portrayed in the novel Identical by Ellen Hopkins. Set in a normal town, the novel tells of two twin sisters who have many traumatic experiences who have to stick together. Or do they? I enjoyed most everything about this book but most of all I enjoyed the way each page was organized differently, the unique language and vocabulary, and the plot.
The way each page was organized differently really drew my attention to this book. It made it even more interesting to me. It was like every page I turned it was a new poem. I had never read a book that was organized the way this book was. I loved this and feel that this was probably the main thing that I loved most about this novel.
The unique language and vocabulary is a second element I really enjoyed about this book. The book is all about emotion. The reader really gets a feel of how the characters feel and it really makes a big impact on them. I really love to be able to feel like I am really inside the book and this one definitely gives that effect. It is all just raw emotions of each character and it is very intense throughout the whole novel. For readers who like to feel like part of the book this is definitely one for them.
The plot is the final thing I enjoyed about the novel. The author really did a great job to create an exciting novel for readers. It is definitely hard to put it down. Everyone from the outside looking in has no clue what horrors the two twin sisters, Kaeleigh and Raeanne, have to go home to everyday. Considering their father is a district-court judge and their mother is a politician who is never home no one would think they weren’t the perfect family. But after a traumatizing accident their family has never been the same since. Their mother is gone more and more and their father has so much love to give but he starts to give it in all the wrong ways to Kaeleigh. The way the girls deal with the pain is much different. They may be identical twins but they choose different paths. One chooses to take the road of not letting anyone get close to her and shutting everyone. While the other chooses to take matters into her own hands. She decides if she is going to suffer she will be the cause of it so she chooses a life of drugs, alcohol, and sex.
Altogether the whole novel was wonderful. I look forward to reading more of the authors books. I want to know if all of her novels are as great as this one. While the novel is great is does have a very adult theme so I would recommend it for high school ages and up. Through the use of organizing differently, the unique choice of vocabulary and language, and the exciting plot, Ellen Hopkins did a wonderful job creating the novel Identical.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Reviewed by Ashton Sparks

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Melinda Sordino busted an end of summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in , would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.
Who wants to be an outcast? Nobody. Everyone wants to have friends. Being an outcast is lonely, sad, and boring. The very idea of being an outcast is shown in Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak, which deals with the theme of when you will do anything to keep your friends and everyone from knowing the truth how far will you really go before it is too much? Set in a normal everyday high school mainly, the novel tells the story of a young high school student who would rather be known as “The girl who called the police and ruined the party” rather than tell people the real reason why she called. While the whole book was wonderful, I most enjoyed the setting, the characters, and the unique vocabulary.
I enjoyed the setting presented in the novel, and think that it shows how mean and cruel people can be when it comes to fitting in, especially high school kids. The main theme is at the high school where Melinda attends. It is just like any normal high school where everyone has their own little groups, or cliques, that is except for Melinda. I can only imagine how it would feel to be in Melinda’s place. Everyone that is in high school can relate to this. I feel that most everyone has had a little trouble fitting in at some point. I know I have. While everyone knows about being an outcast either from being in the position themselves or seeing someone in the position the author truly portrays it greatly in the novel. This was the first book I have read like this so to me it was very original.
The characters was a second element that I enjoyed most in this novel. I feel as though you really get to know Melinda and get an actual look at her life at the time. The other characters played a big part also such as her parents, who are mostly to dissatisfied with their own lives to realize Melinda is upset also. Mr. freeman Melinda’s art teacher plays a big part, well to me anyway, he is the only person who really tries to understand what Melinda is going through. The last character I felt played a big part was Andy Evans, also referred to as IT, Beast, or Wolf. He is a rapist who gets away with it because he is good looking and charming. He tortures Melinda every time he is near. But she is the only one who stops his awful ways. The characters really play a big part to me I feel they make the whole novel better.
The third element of the novel that I most enjoyed was the unique vocabulary that was used. I enjoyed how she did not always use proper grammar and mechanics. It made it even more interesting since she was portraying a high school student. It was a great way to enhance the reading experience of the book. I thought it was very interesting when she would compare Andy to a Wolf or a Beast. Mainly because that is what he acted like. The vocabulary is another thing I feel really made the story as great as it is. It was very unique to me the way she actually wrote this novel with her choice of words.
Overall I enjoyed this book. It has became one of my favorites . When I started reading it I didn’t want to put it down. I recommend this book to mainly high school students because it shows that you don’t always know the person’s story so don’t go by what other people say find out for yourself. Adults would also enjoy this novel. Through the use of a normal high school setting, strong character influence, and the unique choice of vocabulary, Laurie Halse Anderson did a wonderful job at creating the novel Speak.