Category Archives: SummerJ

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Reviewed by Summer Jewell

From Goodreads.com
Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong.

     Boom! That’s the sound sound of the abandoned asylum collapsing, crushing Mara Dyer’s best friend and boyfriend. She feels guilty, like she caused the whole thing. These feelings would follow her across the country to Florida, as she is forced to answer the real question; What happened? Was she at fault for her friends’ deaths? A few of my favorite aspects of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer include the highly developed and intense plot, the mysteriously flawed characters, and the diverse mood.

     I very much enjoyed the plot of the book. It was intricate yet slowly developing, as not to be overwhelming. At first, Mara seems to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, suffering with the agressive hallucinations. Soon though, as she is linked to a series of unfortunate events, she and her mysterious love intrest begin to uncover her supernatural abilities. I liked that the author was very descriptive in some instances and vauge in other, to some of the plot secret and mysterious. Throughout the novel, action was built up and became extreme. For example, when she and her Noah (her partner in crime) had to save her younger brother, I was on the edge of my seat.

     Secondly, I enjoyed the characters. In particular, Noah Shaw was my favorite. He is vauge yet understanding, dangerous yet intelligent, with just enough witty humor. Even he has his flaws, though. He comes from a broken family and has an extensive record of times that he’s gotten in trouble. I also became fond of Mara herself. The only problem I had with her was that, though I thought she was portrayed as a particularly strong character she became rather independent throughout the novel. I’m sure this was partly because of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/ Supernatural Powers, but it was a little unnerving.

     Lastly, I liked the mood of the novel. It was set in suburban Florida, which I found interesting. The author successfully reminded me that flaws can be found in normality and otherwise typical society. I liked that the weather changed with the emotions. Specifically, this happened in one instance in which she had come face to face with a malnourished dog and it’s cruel abuser.

     All in all, I think Michelle Hodkin successfully created an amazing novel. I absolutely loved reading it.; It’s one of my favorite books. I would reccomend this to anyone who enjoys the supernatural ( I thought of it like horror meets realistic fiction.). Also, I believe anyone who enjoys reading novels with an underlying romance would like this, because it is there but not neccessarily the main focus. Michelle Hodkin’s writing style reminded me of John Green’s, so his fans might like this as well. This book’s great qualities include, an exciting plot, relatable characters, and a detailed mood.

 
 
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The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Reviewed by Summer Jewell

By Kathrynstockett.com-

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Imagine a harsh world in which discrimination and practical slave labor is around every corner. Imagine being basically the property of our employers, deemed unimportant due to our race. In The Help, Skeeter Phelan, a rich, white, twenty two year old, attempts to break down social barriers between races in her town of Jackson, Mississippi. Not only is she teaming up with a group of of black maids to create a contriversial novel that shows the life of an average maid, she’s also starting to develop independence for herself. The three best aspects of the book, in my opinion, are the interesting setting, dynamic voice, and deeply flawed characters.

First, I enjoyed the location and time period of the book. It was set in Jackson, Mississippi and began in 1962. I thought it was interesting that The Help is a historical fiction novel. This means, more or less, that life was pretty much like this in the sixties, with discrimination being a major problem. No history book has ever shown me the detail of this topic, I never imagined this as if I were there, until I read this book. Seeing the struggle of the time period in such detail, almost as if the reader were facing it, really opened my eyes. Also, I found it very interesting that the book mentioned innovations of the time period as well, giving us a look into how much we have evolved. For example, when the protagonist began to wear dresses that fell above the knee, it was a big deal. There were certain standerds set for women in that time, that are not neccesairily around now. It was pretty much unheard of.

Next, the voice caught my attention. I really admired the author’s use of multiple narrorators, giving us the ability to view several different story lines. The book gives lets us investigate the lives of several different women, withvarying opinions and contasting lives. Since one of the women is white, for example, we get a glimpse at how much of a privelige it is to have freedom. Throughout the novel, story lines intertiwine and the narrators are all talking together. I think that’s really interesting, because I haven’t read that many books like this, so I found that aspect unique.

Lastly, I was in awe of the strong willed, dynamic characters. There is Skeeter Phelan, a white woman out of college for a few years, still living with her mother. She is just trying to find fulfillment, which she knows comes along with independence. I really liked the way she acknowledeged this independence, saying “….I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.” Next, there’s Minnie. Minnie is a maid who was working for the mother of Hilly Holbrook (the meanest woman in town). She seems like a genuinely tough woman, but as we continue to read the book, we realize Minnie’s tough shell breaks. She faces family troubles, and reveals a secret as to why she lost her job that changes everything. Lastly, there is Aibeleen. She works for Miss Leefolt, and builds a very strong bond with them. This is probably because she lost a son of her own. Aibeleen is a very caring person, and I believe her part of the story is my favorite part. Through Aibeleen, we learn that your experiences don’t have to harden you, and you can move on.

The Help is an emotional, entertaining, and sometimes amusing book. It teaches you a lot about life, and you learn that everyone faces their own struggles. I would reccomend The Help to anyone who likes books with a lot of drama and emotion, as well as anyone with a particular intrest in discrimination or the time period of the 1960s. With a realistic setting, a unique voice, and independent characters, The Help is a pretty great book.

Uglies by Scott Westerfield, Reviewed by Summer Jewell

From Goodreads.com:

Tally Youngblood is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait for the operation that turns everyone from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to party. But new friend Shay would rather hoverboard to “the Smoke” and be free. Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn’t very pretty. The “Special Circumstances” authority Dr Cable offers Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

What would life be like if we were all “pretty”? Sure it may seem great at first. Who could complain about super model beauty? What about when normal is considered ugly? In Scott Westerfield’s Uglies, we get a glimpse into the future of “pretty”. With strong themes, interesting characters, and a brilliant plot, who wouldn’t like Uglies?

First of all, the theme completely amazed me. In the begining, I thought it was strange that the government actually encouraged plastic surgery, and that the main characters had to abandon society to find true beauty. As I continued reading the novel, I realized this way it was easier for the author to preach that independence is true beauty.When all we know is fake, how are you supposed to learn that pretty is more than a face, more than perfect hair or a thin body. The author teaches you that you can not manufacture pretty. Pretty is your mind, your heart, the ability to overlook someone’s flaws and see inner beauty.

Next, the characters caught my attention. We meet Tally Youngblood, a citizen of Ugly Town (where everyone lives until they turn pretty on their sixteenth birthday), who is completely abandoning her life. But really, Tally is playing both sides. She is the responsible citzen and the daring refugee, ever since her best friend dragged her into a mess of authority and freedom. Shay, her new, daring best friend has plans for and escape. Will they work? Will we ever ever meet David, a mysterious mountain man only Shay has heard of? Will he whisk Tally and Shay into a strange new land? Read to find out.

Lastly, the plot took me by suprise. Who new so much action could fit into that book? We begin with Tally, conflicted over the loss of her best friend Paris since he became pretty. Everything appears to be fine when she meets Shay. They have the same birthday, meaning they will turn pretty on the same day. But we reach a conflict again when Shay hatches plans to leave the city. From there Tally is taken on an insane journey, toying with authority and freedom. Is it possible Tally will never be pretty?

` Scott Westerfield accomplished a large feat by creating an interesting, meaningful novel. He managed to open my eyes to the flaws of the perception of beauty. Uglies is a winning book in my opinion, due to it’s inspiring theme, captivating characters, and action filled plot.

Matched by Allie Condie, Reviewed by Summer Jewell

From matched-book.com:

In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.

Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one… until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow – between perfection and passion.

Do you value your choices? Have you ever considered what life would be like if you suddenly had no choice? You couldn’t choose your clothes, what you want for breakfast, your spouse or even how many kids you want. In Matched by Allie Condie a world like this is considered. Throughout the book, we contemplate independance and the limitations that come with a long, safe life. My favorite points of the book include the brilliant setting, the unique characters, and the empowering theme.

What first caught my attention in the novel was the dystopian setting in which diversity is obliterated. We see, in vivid detail, different areas of the community. This includes the uniform “boroughs” or neighborhoods, various spare time activities (this includes the movie theater, and a hill in which the main character, Cassia, takes a hiking class), the air train (their transportaition medium) and many more. I found it strange how similar the lives of teenagers in the novel are to teenagers today.

Also, I enjoyed the various characters I was introduced to over time. There is bubbly and charismatic Xander, anguished Ky, and thoughtful Cassia. My favorite part about the characters though, was that the author slowly revealed things through their actions that completely altered my opinion. They left me astounded.

Lastly, I was in awe of the theme. I found it genuinely amazing that the novel was not only interesting, but also inspired teens to take charge of their lives. We often forget that  we have complete control over our futures. We can read, write, go to college, and live wherever we choose. Matched taught me that when faced with opression, it is most important to live on your own terms.

I found Matched to be an extremely interesting and thought provoking book. I would recommend this to anyone who to anyone  who wants an exciting book that will keep them on edge. With a highly developed setting, diverse characters, and an inspirational theme all tie together to make one great book!