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Kinston-Lenoir County Public Library Teen Read Week Essay Contest  

The following entries were submitted for the Kinston-Lenoir County Public Library's Teen Read Week Essay Contest. Five winners were selected at random and awarded Visa gift cards.
Last Updated: Apr 26, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Jenny Delaney, Age 16, Arendell Parrott Academy

            I found The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to be an interesting portrayal of the life of an Indian. The story starts with a young Indian named Junior. Sherman Alexie, author of this book, demonstrates what it’s like to be an Indian living on a reservation and then switching to a white school. There is quite a contract between both the reservation school and the Reardan.

            There are many characters that make this book appealing. My favorite character is Junior. Junior is an Indian living on a small reservation with his poverty stricken family. All the Indians go to school on the reservation. The reservation school so poor and old that the books in his school are the same ones his parents has. He’s so frustrated that he throws his book and accidently hits his teacher in the face. He wants more, he needs more. Junior’s not being challenged and he continues to be bullied for his interest in learning. He’s tired of getting beat up and he’s beginning to lose hope. So Junior decides to switch schools and attend Reardan. Reardan is a white school. Junior is the only Indian to ever leave the reservation and go to white school.

            When he first arrives at Reardan, he feels like an outcast and gets picked on all the time. This time it’s not for his thirst for knowledge but his dark skin color. But once Junior joins the basketball team things seem to get better. Junior makes a new friend, Gordy, and finds himself a girlfriend named Penelope. He loves all the new books and the great teachers. But he still misses his friend Rowdy that he left behind.

            Rowdy was Junior’s only friend on the reservation. Rowdy and Junior would always read comics together and Rowdy always stood up for Junior. And Junior helped Rowdy control his frustration problems. After Junior chooses Reardan over Rowdy, Rowdy joins the other kids on the reservation and began to ridicule Junior. Thankfully Junior can rely on his new friends, Gordy and Penelope, to inspire him and make him feel better. Junior faces many difficulties at his new school but learns to overcome them all.

            I truly adored this book. Sherman Alexie uses such vivid imagery and his humor adds to the plot. Throughout this whole novel I could easily perceive that hardships Junior went through. I would love for this author to make a sequel to this book. I am without a doubt going to recommend this book to all my friends.

Georgie Zaytoun, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Arnold Spirit Jr. is a teenage boy with a pretty tough life.  He lives in poverty on a Spokane Indian Reservation and is the son of two alcoholics.  He is also a hydrocephalic, which means he was born with water on the brain and is susceptible to seizures.  This makes him the weird guy at the reservation, and he is regularly getting beaten up and picked on by the majority of the other kids.  But he never backs down cause he is a fighter.  Arnold expresses his feelings through cartons, when it comes to drawing he is amazingly talented.   He has a great sense of humor but nobody ever really pays attention to that.

            One day in geometry class, Arnold finds his moms name written in the front of his geometry book.  This means that his school is so poor that they have been using the same textbooks for at least 30 years.  Absolutely infuriated with the schools lack of resources, Arnold decides to fight back the only way he knows how.  He throws the geometry book at his teacher, Mr. P. Arnold is later visited by the geometry teacher, who now has a broken nose, who tells Arnold that he must leave the reservation.  Mr. P says that everyone else has given up but that Arnold is a fighter and can’t ever give up.  He must go somewhere else where people have hope.

            Arnold loses a whole lot of people who are very close to him, his grandmother is hit by a drunk driver, his father’s best friend Eugene is killed in an accidental shooting, and his sister dies in a trailer fire.  Confronted with a whole lot of suffering, Arnold has to learn how to carry on in the face of such pain, much of it totally senseless and preventable.  During this time, the reservation stops their silent treatment of Arnold and rally around him and his family during his grandmother’s.  In order to deal with the senselessness of it all, Arnold learns to embrace life.  He makes lists of his favorite books, foods, and bands.  He thinks about all of the things that make him happy and bring him joy.

            As we learn that Arnold must express himself and he does so through his words and his drawings.  Arnold’s enthusiasm and lust for knowledge comes through in every page as he reaches out to readers and to those around him.  Arnold’s relationship to reading and drawing is different from his sister or Rowdy, both who at times use reading and writing as an escape from their reality.  But neither rowdy or Arnold’s sister are as inspired by drawing as Arnold is.

            Arnold is the ultimate character at least in my mind he is, but at least my mind isn’t chalk full of water like Arnold’s.  He has it all funny, artistic, gets beat up, went through all that suffering.


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Michael Jordan, Age 15, Arendell Parott Academy

            I read the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and it will be forever at the top of my all-time favorites. It is about the adventures that Tom Sawyer encountered in the midst of a couple of years. He gets into too many predicaments and somehow makes everything seem better for himself at the end of each one. As soon as I started reading the book I was hooked at once and found myself almost done with it in a very short amount of time. It just seems to go along well once you get used to it and you don’t want to put it down. The author, Mark Twain, seems to put you right with Tom on his adventures and you can almost feel like you’re right beside him the whole way.

            In the book there are many great characters that are part of the adventures and have a great impact on each one. There are two characters that stuck out to me the most. These two are Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Tom Sawyer was already the main character that the author was focused on, but when he introduced Huckleberry Finn into the story it seemed that they both had a lot to do in every chapter or were connected to it somehow. Choosing between these two was very hard, but in the long run it would have to be Tom Sawyer as my favorite character in this book. He was outgoing and adventurous, and to me everything that comes to my mind of a boy of his age. He would command armies and send them to battle and in just one afternoon win an entire war. Instead of pretending to do things he would actually do them. Like escape death on a crazy adventure, find the hidden treasure, solve a mystery, and get the girl of his dreams all in one summer.

            The reasons why this book is so great is that it was adventurous, funny in many ways, and had a little bit of romance in the process. My favorite part of the book is when Tom and Becky are in the cave and they decide to go on their own little journey. It was Tom’s idea to go and try to impress Becky by showing her parts of the cave. Tom waits until the others are somewhat not near them and then he shows Becky to a secret passage and they go down to it. They eventually get lost and are about to give up hope of ever being found. Tom decides to go and try to find a way out and stumbles upon a robber and is scared out of his mind. They eventually get out of the cave and Tom and Huckleberry go back to see what the robber left. What they find in the cave would change their lives forever.

            What they found in the cave was the stolen money that Tom and Huck were trying to find and get for a long time. Huck would turn from being homeless with no parents to having a loving new mom and living with higher standards than he was used to. It finally got to him and he couldn’t take it anymore, so he left and went back to his ways and no one could find him. The only person in town that knew where he was, it was his best friend Tom. Tom went to him and told him that life was better back home and he needed to go back. That his new mom was worried sick and needed him home. He needed a good education and to take in the income from the money they had found to stay at the top of the town’s talk.

            So to me this is a very great book and will always be the greatest classic that I have ever read. It tells a story of how you can make your fantasy come to life and how you can be yourself and everyone will come around to like you. I think the fact that some of this was true and that the author took it from his own childhood friends is fantastic.

Holt Kendall, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a very well-known novel written in 1876 bu Samuel Clemons, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain.. The story takes place in a small town of St. Petersburg, Missouri. The main three characters are Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, and Jim, the slave. But my favorite character is without a doubt Tom Sawyer, for many different reasons.

            One of the main reasons Tom is my favorite character is because he reminds me of myself, very adventurous and mischievous. It seemed lik Tom was never getting into any good, he was always up to something, even though he was very loving and kind-hearted. For example, when Tom’s Aunt Polly asked him to paint the fence white, he quickly becomes bored and finds a very clever and sneaky way to get out of it. He tricks all of the other kids into thinking that painting the fence was hard work. All of the boys wanted to give it a try, so they end up paying Tom to take turns painting the fence.

            Tom’s cruelest prank of them all when he knew Miss Watson had died and that Jim was a free man, but he didn’t tell Jim. He and Jim go on an adventure to escape town. Tom just wanted to be entertained and have a little bit of fun, but little did he realize he was torturing Jim. Tom was just a boy. His journey made him mature from a boy to a young man; he was finally taking responsibility for his actions.

            When we received the list of books we could read for our essay I kind of just randomly chose this one. After reading the book, I’m glad I chose it. It was very entertaining. My favorite thing about it was that it took place in the south. There were only a couple of parts in the story where I was not entertained. It was a very good book.

Sallie Sylvester, Age 16, Arendell Parrott Academy

“The adventures of Tom Sawyer” is a classic novel that everyone should read. My favorite character was Tom Sawyer, of course. He is always trying to stay out of work and usually is into some sort of trouble. Tom is adventurous and usually up to mischief, be he’s fun loving and caring. I really enjoyed this book.

Even though Tom was usually getting himself into some kind of mischief it usually wasn’t too harmful. One example is when he is told by his Aunt Polly to go white wash the fence ant at first Tom is not ecstatic about it all. The job doesn’t turn out to be such a hassle on Tom’s part because he tricks all the other kids into thinking it takes a lot of talent. They all want to try to white wash the fence, so the boys pay Tom to let them do his chore in all sorts of things like marbles. Another example is Tom, Huckleberry Fin, and Joe Harper running away to an island and becoming pirates. The boys love being free and stay on the island for a while. Huck smokes but Tom and Joe don’t. They just want to act like they do in front of their friends to look cool. When the boys come back the families are having a funeral for the boys because they think they are dead and everyone is so excited to see them when they get there because it is such a surprise.

Tom is fun loving and cheerful and an example of this is how he always tricks Aunt Polly to get himself out of trouble. She doesn’t usually get mad because it makes her life and she loves him and his spontaneous personality. Tom also falls in love with Becky Thatcher and he persuades her to be “engaged” to him. Their love ends when Becky finds out that Tom has been engaged to another girl named Amy Lawrence.  After a while Tom regains Becky’s love by taking the blame for a rip in a book bag that Becky should’ve gotten in trouble for. This shows Tom’s soft side and that he isn’t always looking for trouble and was one of the reasons he was my favorite character.

                 I was glad we got to pick our own books for this project because this is the first book I’ve had to read for school that I actually liked. I really enjoyed this novel because it shows me how much times have changed since then. It wasn’t boring, something was always happening and I love hot it was mainly the story of a young boy just his life and the adventures he gets himself into.

Chase Howard, Age 16, Arendell Parrott Academy

            The most fascinating character in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is none other than Tom Sawyer himself. Tom is cunning, outgoing, always up to mischief kind of kid. Who usually is with his friends getting in trouble or talking his way out of trouble. He also teaches many important moral lessons.

            Tom in cunning he discovers a great law of human action, “that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain”. He does this by saying painting the fence white is fun and very enjoyable tricking the passer bys into doing his work for him.

            Tom is outgoing always ready to take on an adventure at a moment’s notice from playing pirates, to playing robin hood, to even sneaking out with Huck to the grave yard. Where they witness something they wish they had never been a part of, or for that matter never seen.

            Tom is mischievous throughout the book one time in particular Tom and his friends run away and sail away on a raft to an island and stay for three days so that everybody will think they have passed away. Tom’s family has a funeral and right during the middle of the funeral; suddenly Tom and his friends surprise everyone by walking into the funeral service as if nothing had ever happened.

            My overall opinion of the book is a thumbs up! A fantastic read for anybody interested in a funny yet serious story of kids being kids. I would recommend this book to anybody over the age of 12 of course writing a little hard to comprehend due to slang usage of language.

Ward Sylvester, 10th Grade, Arendell Parott Academy

            My favorite character in the novel Tom Sawyer is Tom Sawyer. He lives his life without worrying over things too long and he just likes good fun. I admire Tom for his adventuresome heart and heroic deeds. The novel was so appealing to me because of the way I can relate to it, being about the same age as Tom.

            Tom shows his adventuresome heart many times throughout the novel, one time being when Tom and Huck journey to the graveyard one night to get rid of Huck’s wart. This particular part shows Tom’s adventuresome side by his braveness to enter the spooky graveyard in the dark of the night. While they are there, the two boys witness something they think they would be better off not ever knowing, a murder. This murder leads them into another even bigger adventure that their lives depend on. Another adventure Tom sets off on is when Tom and his two friends, Huck and Joe, run away to be pirates. Tom and his companions leave their home and live in the forest. These three “pirates” enjoy the freedom they have lining alone, but also endure the hardships of cooking their won food and finding shelter from the world around them/ A third adventure Tom commits himself to is finding buried treasure in a haunted house with his loyal friend, Huck. In a spooky house Tom and Huck find themselves trapped in another scary and potentially dangerous situation. Injun Joe and his companion go into the house looking for a place to bury their own stolen treasure. At first the thought of digging up these criminals treasure excites Tom and Huck but when Injun Joe sees the tools that the boys left out in their rush to hide he suspects that someone has been there before him. Joe and his friend decide to his their loot somewhere else and leave the house in a hurry. The final adventure that Tom wiggles himself into is getting lost in the cave with Becky. During Becky’s party all the kids explore the caves, carefully marking their path as to not get lost. When bats fly from the ceiling isn’t discovered until the next morning and the search parties look through the cave but can’t find them.

            Tom’s many heroic deeds stand out many times through the course of the novel. When Becky rips a page of her teachers book Tom accepts the blame, becoming Becky’s hero and winning her heart back. Another way Tom displays his heroic nature is when he testifies against Injun Joe in court. This is outstandingly brave because of the fact that if Injun Joe were to escape or was let out of prison he would most likely want revenge on Tom for selling him out. Lastly, Tom shows that he can be the hero in a situation that seems hopeless when he finds his way out of the cave. Tom and Becky are growing weak and while Becky is in a daze knowing that all hope is lost, Tom pulls through and after searching different tunnels in the cave for what seemed like hours Tom finds the way out.

            The novel was appealing to me in many ways. One way is by the way Tom is out to have fun. He doesn’t let little things get him down; once he is outside he forgets why he was mad. Another thing that appeals to me about the book is the fact that I can relate, being a kid about the same age as Tom and going through a lot of the same things as Tom.

            In conclusion, through Tom’s adventuresome heart and heroic deeds friends are made, people mature, and a fantastic story is born. 

 Devin Cregan, Age 16, Arendell Parott Academy

            In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, there are many interesting and unique characters; my personal favorite is Tom Sawyer. He is clever, mischievous boy who loves to trick people; however he changes for the better throughout the book. Mark Twain’s novel is a great book about children and society during his tie period. It is interesting because throughout the book Twain criticizes society such as the school system and parenting.

            Tom Sawyer is always getting out of things and trying to get away with not going to school. For example, he tricks some other children into whitewashing the fence for him and makes a profit out of it. He also likes to act tough so he beats another boy up and also smokes with Huck Fin. In the beginning Tom is always getting in trouble and finding a way to get out of it. He eventually changes his ways and helps out his best friend Huck.

            After Tom and Huck watch the murder committed by Injun Joe they start to break away from their childhood innocence and see the world is not just a place of joy and happiness. Tom makes many changes to his character in second half of the story. He becomes much braver and shows it when he goes on the stand for Potter, who was accused of the crime Injun Joe committed. He also tracts down Injun Joe and takes his treasure. He also shows bravery by helping Becky escape from the caves. He also becomes more of a gentleman and wants to start his own gang of robbers.

            This is a very good book overall. Mark Twain’s satire makes the book have a sense of humor and makes it more interesting. His unique style of using certain words to represent the dialects of the characters helps give more insight on the characters lives and cultures.

            Tom Sawyer ands up a brave, but still clever young man who uses his cleverness for good. His change throughout the story is very dramatic and exciting. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is very good book and will interest many people; I suggest that everyone reads this great novel. 

William Hargett, Age 15, Arendell Parott Academy

                The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a novel by Mark Twain that contains many characters who develop throughout the story from encountering many difficult situations.  My favorite character is Tom Sawyer himself, who, at the beginning of the novel is a troublemaking schoolboy who would do anything to dodge work but by the end of the novel he has evolved to a hero throughout the town.  Tom also has the quality of being able to have fun with his friends, while doing the right thing in the end.

                One instance in which Tom changes from the beginning of the novel is when him and a few friends, including Huckleberry Finn, swam to an island to essentially run away and never have to do work or school again.  Upon living on the island for a few days, some of the boys become homesick, but refuse to admit it because they are afraid that their friends would make fun of them.  Tom and his friends eventually overcome admitting to one another that they are homesick, and after sneaking back home to observe the level of sorrow of his Aunt Polly, Tom and his friends return home.

                Another situation in which Tom changes is when he is surprisingly called to the witness stand during the murder trial of Dr. Robinson.  Towards the end of the trial, when the attorneys are calling up their last witnesses, Tom is called to the stand to recap what he saw the night Dr. Robinson was murdered in the graveyard.  Upon being asked questions about the situation, Tom looks in the face of Injun Joe and begins to tell the truth to the whole courtroom.  This also attributes to Tom’s internal change of becoming brave and more able to take on challenges with a more mature approach.

                One final situation in which Tom changes internally is at the very end of the book.  The townspeople locked the cave where Injun Joe just happened to be hiding from the police.  Once Tom found out about the locking of the cave, he could’ve easily left Injun Joe there to die.  Instead, he alerted town authorities of Injun Joe’s presence and although he was too late, performed a good deed.

                I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an excellent, classic novel.  I especially enjoyed reading about how Tom would escape from trouble while going about his adventures.

Zack Hill, 10th Grade, Arendell Parott Academy

            Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is about an abnormally mischevious boy named Tom.  Tom is a young boy, school-yard age, who does anything and everything to get himself in to trouble, yet always finds his way out.  The main click he gets into trouble with consists of:  Joe Harper, Huck Finn, and Tom.  The three boys find lots of trouble together throughout the story, but all are good, strong hearted young boys.

            My favorite character in the story is Tom mainly because he is an amazingly entertaining character.  In my opinion, one of the most stunning things Tom does is leaves Jackson Island to go pay Aunt Polly a secret visit.  Tom hides under a bed and eavesdrops on Aunt Polly’s conversation with Mrs. Harper and Sid; Tom does this to find out how much the families of the three missing boys actually miss them.  To Tom’s surprise, Aunt Polly actually misses him.  She and Mrs. Harper talk about how the boys are great kids, minus all the trouble the boys find themselves in.  Tom eventually sneaks out from under the bed and heads back to Jackson Island, the ladies and Sid never having a hint that Tom was there.

            Throughout the story, the reader sees how good Tom is at evading trouble.  One example of Tom evading trouble is at the very beginning of the story when he gets caught stealing jam by Aunt Polly.  Aunt Polly is about to strike Tom with a switch when cleverly, Tom says “My! Look behind you, Aunt Polly!” (p. 4).  When Aunt Polly turns around, Tom wastes no time and quickly escapes unscathed.  Another good example of Tom taking the easy way out is when he bribes his peers with objects for tickets so that Tom may be recognized in front of the church for memorizing proverbs.  Of course, Tom never actually learned the proverbs.

            Although Tom gets into tons of trouble, he is a good hearted, strong willed boy.  For example, when his teacher gets upset with Becky, Tom stands up for Becky and claims falsely that he ripped the page in the book.  This act of valor earns Tom his second whipping of the class period.  Another example of Tom’s good heart and guilty conscience is revealed when Tom takes the stand  to testify against Injun Joe, proving Mr. Potter’s innocence after being framed by Injun Joe for committing murder, Tom puts aside his own safety to do what he thought was right.

            The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain’s novel, is about Tom Sawyer who is a very mischievous young boy.  Through his younger years, Tom, is always in and out of trouble with school and his Aunt Polly.  With his amount of trouble aside, Tom is a good hearted, strong willed pre-teen.  Tom is extremely adventurous, clever, and troubled.  All in all I recommend this novel to readers of all ages; this novel contains a very good plot and a vast variety of characters.



The Bell Jar

Blair Gilgo, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            “The Bell Jar” is not only a novel but also a realization of the real life. It tells a story of a girl, Esther Greenwood, who is in the magazine business in New York. A person would think that she would have the glam, fashion world any girl would dream of living. But that is not at all like Esther Greenwood’s life, not even close. Esther fights and struggles for years and nothing gets better for a long time. In the end, she turns out to be who she was meant to be all along.

            Esther Greenwood, the main character, happens to be my favorite. She was faced with a tragedy of her father’s death when she was only nine years old. Not only does she have to deal with losing her father, she struggles with depression and the consequences of her illness through her life. I admire her for the things she is able to overcome in such circumstances. Esther works for a magazine that she constantly struggles with to find happiness. However, she never feels at home, like it is the place she belongs.

            While Esther lives in New York she faces depression and attempts suicide. Esther relates to her life in New York as being in a “Bell Jar”, struggling to breathe. When Esther’s mom comes to the hospital and she tries to help her. She wanted to give her that breath she needs. But instead Esther pushes her away. After the attempts of suicide she is eventually put in a hospital and is treated for a long time. She shows much hatred towards her mom when she comes to visit her. Esther doesn’t let her mom in and it’s actually tragic because everyone needs a mom.

            Esther is such an inspiring character to me because of all the hardships she faces. Esther attempts suicide more than once. She takes sleeping pills and hides away in the attic. Another time she tried to hang herself. Her mom questions her every time she sees her daughter asking her what she did wrong. Esther drags through all these challenges but it was tough and took time. Eventually she becomes better. It’s amazing to see someone with so much loneness and sadness turn around and become something better than that. At the end of this novel it ends with a meeting of Esther finding out if she can leave the hospital. Esther realizes her situation but she takes over her life. But still realizing her illness could spark up at anytime.

            This book is different but its appeals to me for various reasons. “The Bell Jar” shows the hardships in life. It captures the real life and how everything isn’t easy. Esther turns out to be an inspiring character. I admire this book for showing me an inspiring story and of a young girl who felt she had no spot in the world but it turns out she does. 


The Call of the Wild

Tyson Creech, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            The Call of the Wild by Jack London is a fascinating novel. Unlike other novels, the main characters portrayed are dogs. The main character, Buck, voyages through the depths of the Canadian wilderness and overcomes countless obstacles. Because of this, Buck is my favorite character and The Call of the Wild is alluring to me.

            Buck is a one-of-a kind dog. An interesting trait about Buck is that he is a mixture between A Saint Bernard and a Scotch shepherd. At the beginning of the story, he is enjoying his life at a big house, owned by Judge Miller, in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. He lives a dream life and he can choose to do anything he wants. He can swim in the pool, go hunting with Judge Miller’s sons, or just relax on the lawn; however, this quickly changes. He is suddenly sold by one of his master’s workers and his life changes in an instant. He is now used as a sled dog that treks across Canada and it takes him a while to get used to it. His new masters beat him and bruise him repeatedly until he finally obeys them. Buck’s life completely changes around and he faces many new challenges.

            One of my favorite things about Buck is the way in which he reacts to his new challenges. At the beginning of his journey, he witnesses as awful event. He sees two dogs surround another and assault her until she perishes. This causes Buck to realize he need to fight for his survival and that there is no mercy in the wilderness. We see change in Buck when he kills a dog later in the story by breaking its leg, which makes this dog’s quest for survival hopeless. Another way that Buck reacts to his new challenges is by utilizing nature to assist him in his survival. To sleep, he digs a hole in the snow to use as a bed. His heat learns to hunt and how to kill animals. Towards the end of the story, he pursues a great moose and slays it. Through these ways, Buck shows his adaptation to his new situation.

            Because of Buck’s remarkable transformation in character, The Call of the Wild is very appealing to me. Once he is sold away, he immediately has to alter his attitude and lifestyle. He swiftly loses his fastidiousness, which characterized his old life. His fellow dogs plunder his food from him. He ascertains that he has to eat at a rapid pace in order for his chow to remain available. He faces new masters who handle him much differently. He is beaten and bruised and comes face to face with death. However, his ability to overcome these obstacles enthralls me and makes me realize how great this novel is written by Jack London. This theme presented by the author is essential and it keeps you on the edge of your seat as you read.

            In The Call of the Wild, the main character, Buck, is vital to the story and he has many attributes. He does a magnificent job in describing Buck and his ability to cope with his surroundings. One critical element in this novel is the evolution that Buck undergoes internally and the way that Jack London is able to illustrate the change. The Call of the Wild is an attention-grabbing book and will certainly be around for years to come. 

 Sydny Vick, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            The Call of the Wild is a fascinating novel that tells a story of adventure and living a rugged life. The first major character introduced in the novel is Buck who is a dog. Buck is the most exciting character and the story revolves around his life.

            Buck’s experiences are narrated. By explaining his past to the readers, Buck becomes one of the only fully developed characters in the novel. Jack London, the author, makes the dog as human-like as possible. In doing so, the events Buck experiences are similar to those of an actual person. This spices up the novel and makes things much more entertaining.

            In the beginning of the novel, Buck is living a luxurious life; he is pampered and rules over his domain. Suddenly, everything is taken from him and he is forced to do manual labor. He has to pull sleds through Canadian forests and he is beaten repeatedly. After Buck defeats another dog, he becomes leader of the sled dog pack. Although Buck is in control, he is still being treated improperly. Soon after, John Thornton, finds Buck and cares for him. Fortunately for Buck, the story goes full circle and he is now back to living the spoiled life.

            Buck is viewed as a favorite character because he exemplifies that although life may be struggle, one can overcome and live a dream. Buck is challenged constantly and never gives up therefore he possesses the traits of perseverance and determination. The life lessons and the fact that the underdog can achieve such great feats make The Call of the Wild an appealing novel.

            In conclusion, this novel, allows readers to parallel life experiences  to those of Buck. The literary techniques used by Jack London make the novel much more realistic as people are able to compare their hardships to those of Buck. 

 Thomas Grady, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, a canine novella written in 1903, was inspired after London’s experience in the Klondike region. London uses anthropomorphization in order to give the most dynamic character, Buck human traits. London also used American Pastoralism, a theme of which a hero, in this case Buck, retunes to nature. Buck is a St. Bernard who, in the beginning lived a lavish lifestyle, but then returns to his inherent primordial state.

            Buck begins his life in the scenic California Santa Clara Valley, a land of sunshine and wealth. He is the pet to Judy Miller, but this all goes a rye when Manuel, the gardening assistant, steals and sells him to pay off his gambling debt. This begins his journey back to his inherent primitivism. After he is sold, he finds himself in Seattle and then he is sold to two French Canadians Francois et Perrault, who takes him to the Klondike region, where he will be trained as a sled dog. The alpha male in the pack, Spitz, and Buck find themselves at odds with each other and eventually Spitz will find himself dead, with Buck as the alpha. As time goes on Buck will find himself overworked by several owners, until he meets his idol, John Thorton. Thorton saves Buck’s life by extracting him from the pack, who find themselves overworked, underfed, and at the bottom of a frozen river. Buck is nursed back to health by Thorton and dedicates his life to him. Buck helped Thorton win a bet for $1,000 worth of gold duct by pulling out a half-ton sled from the frozen ground. But one sad day Buck returns from socializing with some timber wolves to find Thorton and the rest of the camp slain by a group, Yeehat Indians. Buck then kills the Indians and lives on with the timber wolves answering the call of the wild. Thus ending the journey to his inherent primordial start.

            In my opinion, the best character is Buck. His journey back to nature is inspiring because it reminds me that people came from nature and we need to become more in tune with it. Also his qualities such as valiance and loyalty evoke a feeling of self worth and confidence in the human race. It tells me people can still be intrinsically good. An example of loyalty is when Buck kills the Indians because of the murder of Thorton. Buck never lets go of the people he has lost. Another reason Buck is my favorite character is because he eventually unleashes the primitiveness in all of us. This state lies dormant inside of us until we return back to nature. Buck represents all things human inside of a dog form.

            The Call of the Wild appeals to me because it reveals that while we are human, we still have a beast that lay wake inside us. The inherent primordial state that turns us into ravaging beasts of nature. London also appeals to my love of dogs and dog sledding. Dog sledding on a glacier in Alaska is an experience I will never forget because of its complexity yet primitiveness. The Call of the Wild is appealing to a reader who would like to get back to nature.

            London uses American Pastoralism and primitivism very effectively in this book by using Buck. Buck represents nature in its natural state, while also having human traits. The novella is a must read for any nature lover and people wanting to understand human nature. The Call of the Wild is an inspiring tale of an anthropomorohisic dog that follows his ancestor’s paths to answer the call of the wild. 

Neil Sides, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            After being kidnapped from a lavish lifestyle of hunting, swimming, and lounging, Buck was thrust into the hard life of hunger, toil, and despair.  Buck is a one hundred-fifty pound Scotch Shepherd and Saint Bernard mix who lived on the estate of a wealthy man.  Buck was never accustomed to hard work and hunger until he was taken by a yard-worker who was desperate for cash.  Buck is my favorite character in Jack London’s award-winning novel The Call of the Wild because of his will to endure, succeed, and overcome the many problems introduced to him throughout the book.

            The first reason Buck is my favorite character is that Buck is part Scotch Shepherd.  My favorite breed of dog is the Shepherd, so he automatically appeals to me.  Beyond his physical characteristics, Buck appeals to me because he was forced into many situations that he was not used to and he learned how to overcome them through knowledge and long lost animal instincts.  Another reason Buck is my favorite character is that he develops a compassionate and heartwarming love and loyalty for the man who saved his life.  Throughout the book, Buck’s ownership sifts through the hands of many men, and some of them he likes and even enjoys, but he never truly loves anyone until he meets John Thomson.  Buck never lets John down.  Once, John allows peer pressure to force him into an impossible gamble that Buck could pull one thousand pounds on a sled.  Everyone thinks Buck won’t be able to do it, but Buck sensed some urgency while John was attaching him to the sled and knew he had to, and he did.  Another incident in the book describes Buck saving John’s life.  While they were on a voyage searching for gold, John falls into a river and grabs onto a rock.  Buck jumps into the water and rescues John seconds before he would have been overwhelmed by the current of the river.  These qualities are why Buck is my favorite character.

            As the story continues after Buck’s capture, Buck goes from defiant to broken as he is beaten by a club until he can no longer stand up.  When he is thrust into the life of a sled dog, he starts off almost afraid of the other dogs.  Buck soon learns that to survive he must transform himself.  He uses his excellent instincts to become a fearless and ferocious fighter.  He takes over as the leader of the pack and is respected by every other dog.  However, after he is saved from sure doom by John Thomson, he becomes a docile and loving creature who only kills for food.  Although he is happy, he soon feels like something is calling him out into the wild and he searches for it for days and then weeks at a time.  He joins a pack of wolves and becomes an outstanding hunter and leader.  This transformation of Buck is the main reason he is my favorite character.

            The Call of the Wild is appealing to me because it is a great adventure story told through the eyes of a dog.  I love dogs and this book captures what dogs are most likely thinking while humans treat them certain ways.  This book also appeals to me because of the very good imagery that allows the reader to picture everything that is happening in the book.  Using a dog as the protagonist is also a reason that The Call of the Wild is appealing to me.

            The book has an interesting topic and plot.  The use of great imagery allows the reader to easily visualize what is happening throughout the story.  Jack London uses the unusual perspective of a dog to create an interesting viewpoint on many things that the human perspective would not reveal.  Also this is a story in which the main character goes from riches to rags, which is a contrast to most other stories.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good adventure story and loves dogs.

Miller Stallings, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Throughout history the author jack London has written many fantastic novels but none as exciting as the novel The Call of the WildThe Call of the Wild is a novel about the one and only dog Buck, a half St. Bernard and Scotch Shepherd .  This novel depicts the story of Buck through his adolescent years as a house pet with Judge Miller and his adult years as a sled dog in the frigid Artic.

            As man had discovered gold in the Arctic region of Canada people were in need of sled dogs.   Buck lived a comfortable life on Judge Miller’s estate, but little did Buck know this leisure life would end soon as a man one day came and kidnapped Buck, taking him to a man that would teach him the rules of obedience through the use of a club.  After buck learned the rules of obedience he was shipped to Canada to become a sled dog adapting to the new environmental conditions he experienced for the first time.

            In the beginning everything was bizarre to Buck, amazed by the amount of cruelty he and the other sled dogs had to endure.  As time advanced Buck become one of the fiercest leaders killing his rival Spitz, establishing dominance among his teammates.  Also as time progressed buck became a marvelous sled dog, traveling on foot nearly two-thousand miles.  Towards the end of this novel Buck receives a new master who he loves named John Thornton.  John helps nourish Buck after being severely beaten.

            After reading The Call of the Wild, I found that my favorite character was Buck.  The reason why Buck is my favorite character is that Buck helped show me that no matter what obstacles you face in your life you should try your best to overcome those obstacles and to strive for perfection.  Also this novel appeals to me because it’s an excellent novel about nature and the adaptations of a great loyal dog who feels that the wild is calling him so he attempts to reattach himself with the ancient roots of his species.

            Although Buck grew up a civilized dog, by the end of this novel he escapes civilization and tries to reach the primitive roots of his species.  The evolution from a house pet to a fierce warrior and savage helps define the title of this novel The Call of the Wild.



Andrew Moll, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Catch-22 is a novel by Joseph Heller published in 1961. It tells the story of several men in the Army Air Force base on the small island of Pianosa off the coast of Italy during World War II. The novel has many characters, but is centered around Captain John Yossarian (Referred to as Yossarian). Yossarian is a bombardier and is upset that thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. His commanders also keep increasing the number of missions men have to fly in order to complete their tour of duty. Yossarian is also caught up in the rule of Catch-22, a rule where a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous mission, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from action he is considered sane and is required to fly more mission.

            The novel Catch-22 appealed to me for a number of reasons. Several members of my family have read the book and talked positively about it. I remember reading the back cover and finding it interesting, specifically the setting and the satirical theme of the book, however, I never got around to reading it. When I finally did start reading it, I found it incredibly hilarious and it quickly became one of the best books I had ever read. The use of satirical elements in the novel makes it incredibly enjoyable to read.

            My favorite character is Yossarian. Yossarian is the main character of the novel and probably the funniest character in the book. Throughout the novel he is getting into trouble with his commanders, comrades, and society in general. One of the key traits of Yossarian is his mindset to survive at all costs, as this exists throughout the entire novel. He also believes that everyone around him is insane. Towards the end of the novel, Yossarian attempts to become a better person. While he is not truly successful, he is able to put some difficult parts of his life behind him.

            My favorite part of Catch-22 is all of the hilarious satirical moments. Throughout the novel there are many absurd rules, orders, and guidelines that the characters must follow. These provide reason to why Yossarian thinks that everyone is insane. Examples of these outrageous rules include the rule Catch-22 itself, another is when the character Major Major orders for no one to be sent into his office unless he isn’t there.

            Catch-22 is often considered to be one of the best books of the 20th century. Joseph Heller created a story that was both interesting and funny to read, and is the reason why the book has been so critically acclaimed. Catch-22 is so famous that the phrase Catch-22 is used in language as a contradicting rule or statement. I am glad I read this book and I recommend it to anybody who wants a good laugh.


The Catcher in the Rye

Lawrence Majette, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            The Catcher in the Rye was written by J.D. Salinger. This novel was published in April 1964 by Bantam Books Inc. The two hundred fourteen pages in this book tell the events of several days in the life of Holden Caulfield. Holden Caulfield is a sixteen year old boy who attends Pencey Prep boarding school for boys in Pennsylvania. The story is told by Holden while he is recovering from a mental breakdown at a mental hospital.

            Holden’s mental start makes him a very interesting character. He describes himself as the best liar you will ever see in your life, lousy at vocabulary, and immature for his age. His demeanor throughout the book is one of loneliness and depression. Feeling that the world is phony and a cruel place to grow up, he pictures himself as the catcher in the rye or guardian to children who run wild and free at a field’s edge.

            Holden begins his story be telling the reader he is being kicked out of school. This is actually the fourth school he has been to. Although the events he tells only span a couple of days, much happens to Holden. His first incident is a flight with his roommate Stradlater. The fight ends when Stradlater punches Holden in the nose making it bleed profusely. Disgusted, Holden decided to leave school earlier than he is supposed to. He boards a train taking him to New York and checks into rather seedy hotel. After a rough start to his day, his evening does not get any better. His adventures that evening include a telephone conversation with a stranger he believes is a stripper, meeting women in a bar, a cab ride to a jazz club, and an encounter with a prostitute. The night ends with another fight and once again Holden takes a beating. The following day, he meets up with a former girlfriend, old schoolmate, his kid sister, and a former English teacher. Once again, these events do not go very well. Holden spends the rest of the night sleeping on a bench in the Grand Central subway station. Deciding to leave home for good, Holden arranges to meet his sister at the museum to say goodbye. His kid sister decides to go with him and comes with her bags packed. Not wanting her to go with him and knowing that she would follow him, he leads her to a carousel in a park. This is where Holden’s story ends.

            Holden’s story is interesting and captivates the reader’s attention. The reader is carried through the story as if he is inside Holden’s mind. Every thought is captured onto the novel’s pages like a LED ticker board. Due to mature subjects involving sex, alcohol, swearing, and some violence; this book is not appropriate for everyone. 

Morgan Barbre, 10th Grade, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Books are filled with more than just letters loosely configured into words and phrases.  Authors spill out heart-wrenching emotions every time his or her fingers dance across the keyboard.  The Catcher in the Rye is no exception.  J.D. Salinger takes a familiar boy’s boarding school and brings it to life with stories of troubled young men and the loosened grasp on reality that budding relationships bring.

            The tugging emotions definitely come forth as one leafs through the novel.  For example, I was inundated with curiosity while I was unraveling the eccentric story behind a young man named Holden Caulfield.  Only by skimming the first few sentences of the book did I notice that he was, in a sense, trapped in his mind.  Salinger created Holden with almost every psychological problem that young men and women face.  He was struggling with hopelessly decaying friendships, a discouraging academic record, and searching for his identity.  Holden’s relationships with his roommate and classmate were quickly crumbling, and he often found himself alone.  But after leaving Pencey Prep his obstacles kept piling up.  He was struggling with his sexuality and personal identity in a city larger than he was.

            Catcher in the Rye appealed to me because my heart ached for Holden.  His jaded and disparaging language only scratches the surface of his instability and mental state.  I found myself studying the words on the book pages, searching for an explanation for his inner torture.  The harsh reality is that Holden Caulfield’s story is not that different from the average teenager, if only intensified.  In this cruel world the youth are fighting battles with no means of defense.  And just like their real-world counterparts, these theoretical wars bring casualties.  Some are lucky.  For example, in Holden’s case he references to being treated in a mental hospital, but unfortunately others fall to be just another suicide statistic.

            This eternal classic truly serves as a “catcher in the rye”.  Holden Caulfield’s account of his adolescent years warns the youth and parental figures of today against the emotional struggles that teenagers endure.  As crazy as this may sound, The Catcher in the Rye taught me that I wasn’t alone in this senseless world.  I learned that everyone fights their own psychological wars against themselves and society, and sadly no one comes out without a scratch.  But we have to keep our chins up to the sky and keep moving, because if we cannot stand for ourselves, who will stand for us?



The Chocolate War

Mimi Piner, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

The Chocolate War is a fiction novel by Robert Cormier. It was published in 1974. This young adult novel analyzes the struggle of peer pressure, the power of fear, and the disturbance of the “universe” at Trinity High School. Jerry Renault, the protagonist, is determined to halt a gang called The Vigils and Brother Leon, the headmaster of the school. The antagonist of the story is Archie Costello. He is the instigator behind The Vigils assignments. Archie is never at fault for any of the assignments of The Vigils because the headmaster shelters him; this makes him the most feared at Trinity School.

The Vigils, headed by Archie Costello, administered the assignments annually to a student of their choice. The mandatory assignments intend on hurting the student psychologically. One assignment was given to Goober, he is required to loosen all the screws in the desks and boards in room nineteen. When students come to sit in the desks the next day everything will crumble to the ground. This assignment would significantly affect Goober emotionally. Another Vigil assignment deals with the annual chocolate sale, which Jerry Renault was chosen for. The gangs’ main goal is to control the students and Jerry is intent on not allowing that to continue. Renault is unwilling to complete or have anything to do with this assignment. As a reaction to his refusal, the Vigils call him all day and night, taking his schoolwork, trashing his locker, and he is assaulted by kids after practice. Petrified by the assignments of The Vigils, the students pay no attention to the hazing. Not only are the students familiar with the gang, but also the teachers and headmaster are also aware of the actions of The Vigils. Jerry Renault makes an effort to disturb “the universe”, The Vigils, and Brother Leon.

Renault attempts to disturb ‘the universe”, which in case is the way the schools and The Vigils function. Since Jerry refuses to cooperate with The Vigils assignment, he finds himself forced to be an outcast from the rest of the students. Archie persuades Jerry to participate with a fixed fight with the school bully, Emile Janza. Jerry agrees to the fight only because Archie tells him he will not be taunted anymore, and Jerry is desperate to stop the hazing. Brother Leon is observing from a far, making sure that Archie Costello doesn’t get in trouble for orchestrating the fight. Renault recognizes, after he almost gets beat to death, that it is not worth attempting to disturb the “universe”, for there is no stopping The Vigils.

My favorite character is Jerry Renault. He is not afraid to push his boundaries and is not scared to step out from the norm. I would consider Jerry as a paradigm for students at Trinity School for not giving into peer pressure from The Vigils or anyone else.

The Chocolate War resembles a current high school. It characterizes the power that peer pressure can have on society. Jerry Renault demonstrates how difficult, but not impossible, it is to refuse surrendering to peer pressure.

Melody Futch, Arendell Parrott Academy

            The world is constant. People think the world changes, but in all truth it’s always been the same.  From the beginning of time, the world was written out about how things will be and how it will go. If someone tries to changes the way it was written, it won’t go unchecked. There are consequences to changing destiny, very harsh consequences. The Chocolate Wars is about a boy, named Jerry, who tries to change his destiny and near the end, he has to deal with the result. Jerry is my favorite character in The Chocolate Wars because he challenges his destiny.

            Jerry is a scrawny freshman at Trinity high school. Some of his admirable qualities are his internal strength, stubbornness, and his independence. After huge football players tackled him, he still got up only shows that he had wits to play football. His individuality encouraged him to say “no” on the eleventh day of the chocolate sales. Also individuality made him stand out and refuse to obey The Vigils and his cruel teacher, Brother Leon. Sadly, this quality put him in a fight where he was beaten half to death. These qualities he has makes him a favorite character because he wants control over his life and when people try to take it, he fights to keep it intact no matter what.

            “Do I dare disturb the universe?” is the very question that Jerry thinks about. Jerry was given an assignment by the Vigils, a group of kids that give out assignments that are meant to psychologically damage them, not physically, and was told to say “no” for the first 10 days of the sales. On the eleventh day, he had to make a decision, take the easy route and say yes or take control of his life and say no. Shockingly, he decided to control a part of his life and said no, making him an idol to other students that aren’t in the Vigil.

            The Chocolate Wars is a book that is very intriguing. It’s about Jerry fighting to take control of his life and Archie is trying to take that away from him. It all starts outs with Jerry joining the football team and Archie notices how stubborn he is. After the assignment was supposed to be done, Jerry felt the need to control his life and stand up against The Vigils. The Vigils become furious; they trashed his locker and stole his homework. Jerry became the object of bullying for them and the awful teacher. Jerry could have ended it quickly by simply telling someone about it but he dealt with the torture quietly. He faced it until the bitter end when he was bullied half to death.

         Jerry did something most people wouldn’t even dare to think about, he challenged his destiny. He became a short-lived hero to students at Trinity High School. But in the end, was it really worth it? To be a short-lived hero, just to be beaten up in the end. He proved his individuality but he isn’t impenetrable. He challenged the universe, and had to pay the price.

Mahsa Movahed, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            In The Chocolate War, Robert Cormier presents a field of psychological warfare within trinity High School. This controversial novel allows readers to experience a “disturbance of the universe”, and go to meet characters that use their strength and individualism to take a stand against evil. A character that mainly displays this strength and individuality, and my favorite character in the novel, is Jerry Renault, the protagonist of the story. Throughout the novel, Jerry Renault changes drastically from a rebel in the beginning to a follower in the end. This transition interest reader by creating a desire to find the logic behind Renault’s actions, and it also heightens the suspense of the novel.  This story is very appealing because it presents many relatable matters to readers.

            My favorite character in this novel is Jerry Renault because of the message he send to the society within his school. Renault is a fourteen-year-old freshman at Trinity High School still mourning the death of his mother, dealing with an emotionally absent father, struggling for the quarterback position on the football team, and looking for acceptance from his peers. Renault places a poster in his locker that says “DO I Dare Disturb the Universe?” At first, he doesn’t understand the meaning of the poster; he just liked it. “When he returned to the school after practice, he found a letter scotch-taped to the door of his locker, a summon from the Vigils. Subject: Assignment.” When he appears before the Vigils, Renault is told by the Vigils, a secret society that controls the social order of the school, to refuse the chocolate sales. After receiving this assignment from the Vigils, Renault begins to understand the message of these words.

            There are four main events that take place during Cormier’s novel that motivate Renault to refuse the chocolates: the Vigils assignment, the Gregory bailey incident, Renault’s encounter with the Hippies, and Renault’s realization in the mirror. The Vigil’s assignments are the major of the causes for his motivation to decline the chocolates. The Vigils are the ones that put the idea into Renault’s head by telling him to challenge Brother Leon and refuse the chocolates for ten days. However, after ten days are over, Renault defies Brother Leon and the Vigils by continuing to go against the sales. The Gregory Bailey incident is a symbol of the psychological warfare within the school. By refusing the chocolates, Renault is also refusing to obey the entire that Brother Leon and the Vigils have been practicing at Trinity. Also, Renault’s encounter with the Hippies at the bus stop motivates him to defy the social order of the school. One of the Hippies claims that Renault is a “square boy. Middle aged at fourteen.  Already caught in a routine”. At this point, Renault starts to question the routines in his life. During the story, Renault looks into the mirror and “see(s) his father’s face reflected in his own features”. Renault realizes that his father is living a dull and unhappy life, and that “he (doesn’t) want to be a mirror of his father”. These events led to Renault’s refusal of the chocolate sale, or rather the refusal of Trinity High School’s silent psychological battlefield.

            This novel appeals to many readers in the sense that it explains many relatable situations, especially to an audience of fellow students. Many students desire to defy the social order of their school, and to refuse a teacher’s demand. Renault is the first to challenge a gang-like organization, the Vigils, in his school, and this is something that many teenagers wish to attempt in their high school careers. Also, Cormier presents his characters in a very abstract way, and this style fascinates me. He presents Renault as a criminal for his actions, and he presents the Vigils and Brother Leon as a sort of government of trinity High School.

            I would recommend this book to all readers, especially students, but this question strikes me: Can you handle it? The Chocolate War is certainly a novel that grasps your total attention and imagination for the reason that readers constantly attempt to place themselves into these characters shoes’ and interpret their actions. Beware when attempting this book. It may consume you. 



Eight Men Out

McLean Piner, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            In Eliot Asinof’s Eight Men Out, the 1919 Chicago White Sox will change the game of baseball forever. Eight players, along with notorious gamblers Sport Sullivan and Arnold “Big Bankroll” Rothstein arranged to throw the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Through many writers’ interpretations of the incident, Eight Men Out undoubtedly and vividly describes how the fix was planned and carried out.

            Chick Gandil, a strong first baseman for Chicago, first confronted Sullivan, a bookmaker and gambler. All the players and Sullivan met in Gandil’s room to discuss the conditions of the fix. Gandil received a total of $70,000 from Sullivan and $10,000 from Attell, which would be distributed among the players. Gandil received a whopping $35,000 for himself, $10,000 for Swede, $10,000 for Cicotte, and $5,000 for Jackson.

            Money was main goal for any baseball player in the 1900’s and still is today. What really caught my eye was that Chick Gandil, Eddie Cicotte, Oscar “Happy” Felsch, Lefty Williams, Buck Weaver, and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson from the White Sox, who are without a doubt some of the best ball players of this time, were very much underpaid in their careers. Both Gangil and Felsch were paid $4,000. Also, Buck Weaver and “Shoeless” Joe, arguably the greatest hitter in the game of baseball with a batting average of .356, were poorly paid. He had never earned more than $6,000 in his life. Edd Roush, Reds leading hitter and outfielder, had a batting average 40 or 50 points below Joe but he still earned $10,000. Asinof stated that Jackson was “commonly rated as the greatest natural hitter the game had ever seen.” The one thing that I like about Jackson was that he actually tried his best to win the game in the last couple innings, revealing his true love for the game of baseball.

            Eight Men Out was an extraordinary baseball novel that included important pieces to the history of the game. The players were eventually found not guilty but were banned from baseball for the rest of their lives. This book was appealing to me not just because it’s about baseball, but because it went into detail about the history of baseball and gambling, the players, and the trial.


A Farewell to Arms

Gary Atassi, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            My favorite character in A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is Fredrick Henry because of his determination throughout the book. The setting of the book was welcoming to my personality and kept me into the book with its details of the battles and the events that take place day to day makes even a person in the ambulance corp. seem impressive.

            As the Great War is raging, Americans, such as Fredrick Henry, decided to join the war effort for other allied countries such as Britain, France, and the country mentioned in the book, Italy. As he is on tour, he sees a nurse named Catherine Barkley and falls in love. From there, things seem to get better until Fredrick gets injured in the knee by a mortar shell and must leave the front to get treated in Milan. In Milan, Catherine and Frederic’s love flourishes, however, they must return back to front lines, after recovering from his injury. That is when things go from injury bad to war loss worse. The Austrian, on the central powers side push through Italy’s lines and defeat the Italians making them fall back. Because of this, Italian officers are taken by “officer police” and interrogated and then inevitably killed. Since he is a lieutenant, Fredrick acts quickly and flees by jumping into a river to later reunite with Catherine and flee to Switzerland. Catherine, having been pregnant for a while after Frederic had seduced her before his knee got “mortared”, goes into a long, difficult labor and gives birth to a stillborn son. To make matters worse, Catherine dies of a hemorrhage leaving Frederic Henry alone with nowhere to go but back to his hotel in the rain.

            A lot of what interested me in this book is all the troubles of which Frederic had to deal with. He had a war to deal with, his family back home, his injured men, and his new love Catherine. With all this juggling on his shoulders, he could not find the time to be with himself alone. Throughout the book, he experiences many life changing events that change him forever such as his son being a stillborn, a new parent’s worst nightmare. That and his wife dies from a hemorrhage leave him alone against the world and after suffering three catastrophes. The fact that he handles that earns my respect.

            All together, the elements of war, romance, and tragedy make this book high up my recommendation list. Anyone who enjoys one, two, or all of them together will enjoy this book because I know I do and will for years to come. 



The Fault in Our Stars

Claire Tucker, 11th Grade, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Most “cancer books” leave readers teary eyed with an empty box of tissues by their bedside table. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars will not only empty your tear ducts and stuff up your nose, but will also have you roaring with laughter (Dutton Books Publishing, 2012) The 313 pages fly by as readers fall in love with two main characters and watch their lives collapse from inside out, literally.

            A life of hospital trips and ambulance call leaves 17-year-old Hazel with failing lungs and hopeless attitude. Mandatory group therapy sessions change Hazel’s dinner dates with her parents to actual dates with another cancer survivor and therapy session member, Augustus. Both caner stricken teenagers accept their fate and enjoy their days together eating pizzas and savoring every moment of their inevitable, tragic lives. The romantic novel ventures with the two lovers from doctor’s appointments to movie nights in hospital beds. The two “star crossed lovers” fall for each other just as hard as readers fall for the novel.

            John Green beautifully presents his two characters and their tragic life stories in a humorous, but sophisticated and realistic manner. However, the book ends abruptly and opens readers to interpret the ending. Green’s final paragraphs are frustrating to read, leaving audiences jilted by a lack of resolution. Because the novel is written from Hazel’s point of view, readers can assume she gets too sick to continue, or caner taken her life. Regardless, the plot seems unfulfilled and unfinished.

            The tragic ending stirs in readers’ minds well after the novel is finished. Readers will weep, laugh, and clap as characters defeat of succumb to their challenges. Hearts will feel heavy and throats will feel lumpy as the last pages are turned. Green’s work appreciates life and begs readers to do the same. The well written novel is worth the read and is engrained in readers’ minds months after they turn the last, heart breaking page. 


Game of Thrones

Victoria Oakley, Age 16, Arendell Parrott Academy

The first novel in George R. R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones (Bantam Books, 1996, 807 pages), is an extraordinary work of fiction that completely immerses the reader in its complex storyline and ever-expanding web of characters.  With a plot that includes love, war, magic, mystery and anything else a reader could want in a story, this novel is well worth the time readers invest engrossed in its pages.

            A Game of Thrones is set in the fictional medieval land of Westeros that is ruled by King Robert who reigns atop the Iron Throne.  Instead of following the story of one individual character through his or her adventures in this intricate world, the story is narrated to the reader from various characters’ points of view.  Furthermore, there are no real “good guys” and “bad guys” in the story.  Instead, each character is presented as a complex human being whose morals are not always presented in terms of black and white.  This first book in the series is centered on the storylines of members of powerful noble houses in Westeros caught in the ongoing struggle for power over its lands.  The members of House Stark are forced to contest with the threat of a rival house, House Lannister, when King Robert chooses the head of their house, Lord Stark, to become the new Hand of the King (the king’s right hand man).  Tensions continue to rise between the two houses even further when accusations surface that the Lannisters murdered the last Hand of the King.  The delicate balance of the Kingdom of Westeros is thrown into chaos as the tensions between these two prominent houses erupt into a conflict that will tear the nation apart in a mass power play for the Iron Throne.  The frenzied struggle for power that plays out in this book creates a realistic atmosphere for the plot that emphasizes the gritty mood of a nation in a time of turmoil.  Teeming with lies, betrayal, battles, and secrets that could crumble a nation, the story for the fight over control of Westeros is as complex as it is engaging.

            Having been written in a very dense and lengthy fashion, this book has many strengths and weaknesses.  Because it’s over eight hundred pages, many would renounce this book with a single glance, saying it appeared too long and too slow-paced for them.  I agree that this book is not for everyone.  In order to enjoy it, the reader must have a great amount of patience and the ability to endure long stretches of plot that involve no major action or adventure.  That’s not to say the book is boring, though.  Readers who do enjoy long detailed dialogues and complete immersion into the history and nature of a fictional world would agree that the details are, in fact, the most beautiful element of the novel.  Where extensive dialogues between characters concerning political matters may bore many throughout the book, they appear to others as subtle characterizations that reveal key characteristics of those speaking.  The true genius of the novel, however, is the fact that the author creates a fictional world where the reader is able to relate to every motive, action, or feeling of the different characters simply because they are driven by uniquely human traits.

            Overall, A Game of Thrones demands the reader’s full attention and patience, as it unfolds the story surrounding the deceitful and confrontational atmosphere of a war-torn nation.  I found, though, that this epic tale of magic and power was well worth every second that I spent reading it.


The Good Earth

Natalie Shammas, Age 16, Arendell Parrott Academy

            When my world history teacher assigned my class to read The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck, I rolled my eyes and laid my head on my desk. Three-hundred sixty pages of Chinese literature do not usually grab my attention. After procrastinating to star, I reluctantly sat down to read the first few chapters, and I was instantly drawn in. I could see the walls separating the rich from the poor in revolutionary China. I feared for the female characters; I shivered for the cold, struggling families. Most of all, I sympathized with O-lan who slaved upon the farm for hours each day, who was cheated on by her husband Wang Lung, and who died knowing she was not loved.

            Pearl S. Buck showed the destructiveness of wealth in The Good Earth through the young farmer Wang Lung.  With each step of Wang Lung’s transformation, I lost respect for him. Wealth caused Wang Lung to become greedy, forgetful of his values, and oblivious to his first wife O-lan. From his poorest to richest days, O-lan gave Wang Lung her unwavering loyalty. She worked in the fields beside him all morning and gave birth to three of his sons. After many years, Wang Lung’s wealth allowed him to hire laborers, and with his free time, be become obsessed with a younger woman named lotus. Despite his neglect toward her, O-lan continues to love Wang Lung. With O-lan’s death, Wang Lung felt remorse for the way he treated her. However, I did not feel empathy towards Wang Lung, for he never acknowledged the sacrifices O-lan made for him,

            Because Pearl S. Buck lives part of her life in China, she was able to present readers with accurate information about traditional Chinese values. The Good Earth left me longing to learn more about Chinese culture. The story is told with a great deal of gravity, but the language is simple and placid even when describing traumatic events. Anyone who enjoys history, especially about revolutionary China will enjoy The Good Earth. Also, anyone interested in the historical treatment of women will find Pearl S. Buck’s novel a must read.

            The Good Earth left me thinking of the relevance of the novel to today’s time. Even though the themes revolved around Chinese society, I realized they hold true today. I warn all future readers of The Good Earth to be ready for an emotional roller coaster. It may even be a good idea to keep a box of tissues handy. 


The Host

Morgan Newell, Age 16, Arendell Parrott Academy

The Host by Stephanie Meyer is an excellent book about a “spirit” living in another girl’s body, residing among a group of radical humans plotting against her world in a parallel universe. The book is published by Little, Brown and Company in 2008 with 619 thrilling pages.

The Host is about a spirit called Wanderer who is working for an invisible enemy of the humans. This enemy has a plan to erase the human race from the planet and replace them with spirits. The story is told by Wanderer in first person. The readers live through the pains and hardships of the Wanderer through her eyes. Melanie, a human who was captured and taken over by Wanderer, knew where some of the radical humans were living. Wanderer’s job was to find out where the humans were located by picking through Melanie’s thoughts and memories. One day, Melanie led Wanderer to the hideout of the humans with the intentions of finding Melanie’s one true love Jared. Throughout the book, readers see the struggles of Melanie and Wanderer. Wanderer struggles with going against her people and protecting the humans she desperately needs to turn in. Melanie strains with trying to voice her opinion in her own body, fighting to be able to tell her own opinions and not disappear completely like so many humans had before her when they were taken over by spirits. 

This book is adventurous, passionate, powerful, and makes the reader think even after the book is finished. The two girls in the book, Wanderer and Melanie, are very much relatable. Wanderer debates constantly with herself, asking herself if she is doing the right thing protecting the humans she was “programmed” to hate. Melanie fights her spirit, trying not to simply fade away but stay and overcome her spirit with her thoughts. Also, the girls compete to win the heart of Melanie’s old love Jared, who despises Wanderer for taking away Melanie. The book expresses life lessons in a way that isn’t telling readers outright, but instead using situations that relate to everyday life, where the characters have to make tough decisions. I thought this technique was brilliant and it made the characters more enjoyable.

This book was an amazing read and I encourage young teens, mostly girls, to read it. Its writing captures readers, enveloping them in a mysterious world where humans are regarded as the enemy to spirits that take over their bodies. The book inspired me and was absolutely phenomenal. 

I wouldn’t change the book at all, but if I had to I would make another chapter and an epilogue as well to show the relationship of Wanderer and Melanie after the incredible change at the end of the book.


The Hunger Games

Leigh Murphy, Age 16, Arendell Parrott Academy

The Hunger Games by Susanne Collins is a captivating fictional story about Katniss Everdeen, a teenager who lives in District 12 in Panem.  It is the first part of the trilogy by Collins all about the Hunger Games.  There are a total of 374 pages in the book, and it was published in October of 2008 by Scholastic Press.

            Katniss Everdeen is not the average teenager. To begin, Panem isn’t your average country. It lacks a developed system of electricity and a sense of unity amongst its citizens.  Years and years ago, Panem was North America. Now it is split into twelve districts, each of which has a specific duty that has to be carried out by its citizens for the Capital. The Capital consists of those who rule over Panem, and nearly everyone in the Capital is incredibly wealthy.  For example, Katniss’ district mines coal. Each district has a specific duty that is strictly enforced because centuries ago, there was a 13th district that attempted to revolt, and was quickly put down by the Capital. To ensure that no district ever attempts to stir a revolution, the Hunger Games are put into effect every year. One boy and one girl, selected from specific age groups, are randomly selected as ‘tributes’ to participate in the Hunger Games. No children are chosen from the Capital, so there are a total of twenty four participants in the yearly Hunger Games, which is a fight to the death. The sole victor is the last tribute that remains alive. The Hunger Games follows Katniss through her journey in the Hunger Games, into which she is placed after volunteering as tribute in the place of her younger sister, Primrose.

            This book is successful because it appeals to both genders and is a captivating tale of adventure that holds on to the reader’s attention from the first page. Collins’ explicit detail places the reader into Panem, making him feel as if he is right in the middle of the heart racing action. The book became so popular that it was adapted into a major motion picture, with plans for a sequel. I fell in love with this book as soon as I learned of Katniss’ story and the tragedy that is the Hunger Games. Anyone who takes pleasure in reading an incredibly well written book with an incredible plot line would greatly enjoy delving into The Hunger Games.

Myrha Qadir, Age 13, Arendell Parrott Academy

            The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a science fiction/fantasy book. It was published in 2008 and has 374 pages. It is a fast paced, thrilling story about a 16 year old named Katniss Everdeen. Although Katniss doesn’t know this at the beginning of the story, her life is about to change drastically.

            I believe that Collins wrote this book to show the importance of hope and love. Hope and love are both major themes in this book. Katniss definitely has hoped to win the Hunger Games, and her whole district has hope for her as well. The theme of love is shown in the bond between Katniss and her sister, Primrose. Katniss would go above and beyond just to keep Primrose safe.

            This book takes place on the continent of North America, hundreds of years from now. The United States has collapsed, and a new country named Panem has emerged. Ranem has 12 districts, rather than 50 states. Recently in Ranem, there was a rebellion against the government. The rebellion failed, and as punishment for the uprising all districts must send one male and one female as tributes to participate in the annual Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is basically a fight to the death. The way to win is to be the last one standing. Every boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 must enter their name in the raffle. The older you are, the more times you have to enter your name. The day the tributes are drawn is called the reaping. On that day, the name Katniss’s 12 year old sister, Primrose, is drawn. Katniss then volunteers as tribute in place of her younger sister, for she loves her dearly. Now Katniss must face her worst nightmare, and try to win not only for her sister, but for all of district 12 as well.

            I found this book very addicting. After the first chapter, I was intrigued and simply couldn’t put the book down. Collins definitely got her message of love and hope across by showing how Katniss promptly volunteered in place of her sister. An issue some may have with this book is that, this book does have some very graphic battle sequences, for majority of the action center around the killing of other characters. For this reason, it may not be suitable for young children. This book would probably appeal more to people ages 12 or older because they would be mature enough to handle the violence and could relate to the characters a bit more.

            The Hunger Games taught me to keep hope alive. Hope itself may be the reason that things turned out the way they did in this book. Overall, I found this to be a very interesting and addicting book. I believe it will captivate anyone who reads it!



In Cold Blood

Chastity Carraway, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

In Cold Blood is a novel written by Truman Capote. It tells the story of a family who was murdered by two men named Perry Edward Smith and Richard Eugene Hickock. This novel was captivatingly mysterious and kept me reading.

My favorite character would have to be Perry because of his troubled past. Perry’s family divorced when he was young. He went to live with his mother when he later tried to run away to his father’s but was turned down. Perry was then sent to Catholic school where he was beaten for wetting the bed. His father finally returned for him and let him finish third grade where that was the only schooling he received. Perry is also interesting because of his obsession with memorabilia.

This novel appealed to me because of its hit and run feel. The two criminals murdered the family then left for Mexico, where the story continued to tell of what would happen to them. It was very surprising to find out all of Perry’s background and witness the detectives struggling to find out “Who dun it.”

            I would recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in a mystery. It was a good read and very well written. The fact that it was based on a true story is also very intriguing. All in all I believe anyone who enjoys solving unanswered questions would very much enjoy this novel.

Sarah Riley, Age 16, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood describes a family of four that have been murdered. The Clutters were quite a friendly family with no reason at all for their brutal murders. No one has a clue who the culprit could be because no one in the city of Holcomb, Kansas would have any motive for wanting to kill the Clutters.

            My personal favorite character in In Cold Bloodis Floyd Wells. Floyd had tried out many careers to pursue such as a soldier, ranch hand, mechanic, and finally a thief, which caused him to earn three to five years of sentencing in the Kansas State Penitentiary. One evening he was listening to the radio while lying in his cell with fatigue. As soon as he was about to fall asleep, the news broadcaster started talking about the slaying of the Clutter family in details. The four family members, Mr. Clutter, his wife, and his two teenage children, were each bound by their wrists and ankles with rope, gagged by hands, and shot with a .12 gauge shotgun. He also heard it was the most vicious murder spree in Kansas history. Wells could not even believe what he just head. He was shocked because he knew the family. Floyd worked for Mr. Clutter and liked him very much. He not only knew the Clutter family, but he also knew the person responsible for this terrible happening. Floyd celled with a man in prison for only a month. Richard Hickock was his name. He always asked Floyd about the Clutters such as, “How old are the kids? How many family members lived in the house?” and “How was the house laid out?” He always talked about killing Mr. Clutter, stealing from him, and killing any witnesses. Wells was a very self kept man.

            Floyd blames himself for the murders because he told Hickock everything he knew about Mr. Clutter. He was afraid to tell anyone in prison, fearing some of them would tell the warden, leaving him with a longer sentence or even putting his life in danger. After he heard the news, he checked the newspapers and listened to the radio daily to see if anything interesting came up. While reading the newspaper, he came across an ad that stated that there would be a reward for any information about the matter or any lead to capture the person behind the murder. Wells was almost inspired to come clean but started thinking that if he told there would be a chance he could be charged with being an accessory to the crime. Since he knew about the intentions of Hickock, the authorities could charge him with just that and a longer term in prison. Floyd had to come clean, he couldn’t have the thought of this lingering in his mind for the rest of his life. After he told, his mind was clear.

            Floyd Wells is my favorite character in this novel because he did what was right. He told someone about his problem. Even though he held it in for awhile, he still told. Wells learned that holding in your emotions and something that is bothering you is unhealthy. This book was very appealing to me and would be to anyone who likes mystery books as well.

Brendan Kerlin, 10th Grade, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Within Truman Capote’s novel, In Cold Blood, he writes about a harsh murder of an innocent family, the Clutters.  Capote uses extremely in depth detail of all of his characters, and every action that takes place in his non-fiction crime adventure.

            The story begins by talking about the Clutter family’s lives.  Herbert Clutter, the father, is a highly wealthy and prestigious man in Kansas, and owned River Valley Farm, and lived with his wife, bonnie, and his younger children, Nancy and Kenyon.  Bonnie is usually bedridden with depression but Nancy was the life of her community and school.  Kenyon was also a normal student that enjoyed carpentry with his father.  All is fine in the Clutter household, until one day two of Nancy’s friends, Susan Kidwell and Nancy Ewalt, came to take her to school and stumbled upon a household full of the corpses.

            Throughout the descriptions of the Clutter family Capote also talks about Dick and Perry, who seem to be fairly normal people, but after you hear of the murders the reader realizes that these “average-Joes” are actually murderers.  Dick seems more dangerous than Perry, but as the story progresses Perry seems more lethal.  The reader hears of Perry’s dysfunctional family, which is full of suicides, alcoholics, and nun’s attempts at drowning Perry, which scared Perry and is the source of the aggression and behavior toward others.  Even Perry’s own sister says that his introverted personality is just a disguise for the devil within him.

            While the two fugitives are on the run, the investigators still have no evidence suspects.  Then an ex-cellmate of Perry’s, Floyd Wells, tells the investigators of Perry and Dick.  Floyd tells the head investigator, Dewey, that he had told these men of the Clutters home and of a safe, which was imaginary that contained thousands of dollars.  This was a breakthrough in the case, and the police only had to apprehend the men.  It becomes easy to pick up their trail when Dick and Perry return to Kansas in a stolen car writing fake checks in their own names, but this was too good to be true when the men, as quickly as they appeared, vanished.

            The two fugitives drove to Florida and then to Las Vegas.  While they were stopped at a post office a patrol car caught the plates and the officers immediately followed the men to a motel where they were arrested.  The investigators talked to Dick and found many faults in his alibi.  The investigators then knew they had him, and they caught Perry the same way.  Now they had the lying, boots, and cellmate.

            Later on, while in court, Dick gives up Perry as the murderer of all four members of the family.  Peter later admits to the murders, which was probably caused by his hatred of lying.  Perry killed the Clutters in cold blood.  The case in court is extremely long, and the psychiatrist who testified on Perry and Dick’s behalf didn’t work.  The two men are charged with murder and were hanged in “the Corner” on April 16, 1965.  There was no imaginary yellow parrot to save either of these cold-blooded killers.



The Invisible Man

Madison Finizio, Age 14, Arendell Parrott Academy

            The Invisible Man was written by Ralph Ellison and published in 1995. Vintage International, a division of Random House publishers, published it with five hundred eighty one pages. It is a fictional novel that was written in the 1940s. This book describes the struggles of a black man who was raised in the south adjusting to the radically different customs of the North. It was a very intriguing novel with an underlying theme that must be sought out by the reader.

            I did show partiality for one of the characters, though. My favorite character was the nameless protagonist. No, his name was not even mentioned once throughout the novel. I believe that Ellison was trying to make a statement with this. I, as a reader, did not notice that the main character lacked a title until I read a review of the book. It is so descriptive and finely written that it didn’t bother me one bit. The story is told from the first person point of view and the reader shares insights on events and thoughts with the character. He showed the reader the insignificance of a name. As Juliet stated in Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

            As the reader continues, they can relate with this man. He faces struggles of politics, education, discrimination, and injustice. These are bouts that every human being encounters on their journey. He endeavors through finding a job after college, learning to control his temper, and making decisions based unselfishly. He learns of betrayal and racism from his former headmaster and spins his emotion into a practical use; motivation. He joins a “Brotherhood”, where he is deceived into working for what he believes is a greater world. He shuns one of his own “kind” and soon realizes that he has been brainwashed to do what he is fighting against.

            I favor the man for his actions. He is thrown into a few questionable situations, but guides himself out with impeccable intention. He is far from perfect, despite his benevolent actions and thoughts. He is disrespectful, rude, and at times, condescending. But that is why he makes such a great protagonist. The reader can relate to him and his flaws, fears, struggles, and pleasures. He may not have a name, but that only exemplifies his earthly qualities and makes him even more relatable. He is not lovable, and there are many controversial standpoints in Ellison’s novel. But he is truly human, and the reader really connects with him and experiences vicariously his pain, joy, triumph, and failure.

            In conclusion, this book is wonderful. Ellison uses his copious arsenal of vocabulary to portray the setting and tone in great length. The plot is in-depth and the reader must scrutinize every passage or they will miss an important circumstance or action. There are many twists, and it can get very confusing if simply skimmed over. I would personally recommend this book to any classic literature enthusiast who has developed a mature enough understanding of the time period and are ready to handle this beautiful curveball that Ellison has lobbed our way.


The Member of the Wedding

Maggie Wehr, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            In the Member of the Wedding, Frankie is this confused young girl who does not know who she really is. Carson McCullers illustrates this in detail by explaining how she transitions though these stages by maturing. This moral suits the everyday world because; everyone goes through these stages in life.

            My favorite character is Frankie Addams. She is a twelve-year-old teenager. Frankie is in between stages in her childhood so she feels isolation from everybody around her. John Henry is her only friend. And they are not in really any form of a clique with other people, because they are in between stages in life so no teenagers want hang out with them. But the one group she is excited to be in is in Jarvis’ wedding, her brother. Frankie eats sleeps and dreams about this wedding. Once this wedding arrives she wants to make a lifelong connection with this new group of people and to shed herself from the childhood, which she has longed to do for a long time. Becoming this so-called “new person” is easier said than done.

            Towards the end of part one Frankie starts listening to the radio reports about World War II. She has a hard time trying to comprehend what is going on outside of her backyard. After she realizes the importance of helping out her community Frankie decides to donate blood to the local Red Cross, but her blood is soon rejected due to her age. Her ability to help her local community appeals to me because even though she does not really understand what is going on she still wants to help out.

            I choose this book because this young girl is in between childhood stages when her brother is getting married. Everyone goes through these stages of childhood during their lifetime. Everyone feels like they do not know they are at some point. Frankie has always had her brother as someone to lean on, but now that he is getting married she feels as though she is losing this relationship. I felt that I could relate to her life story. Even though I do not have a brother, it is the same moral in everybody’s life and mine.

            Even though Frankie seems to have a difficult life, she does not really change from child to teenager. She becomes more violent. Even though I fell for her you still have the ability no matter how your life starts out. You just have to make that decision. 

 Malia Ervin, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            In every novel a reader has a favorite character.  This character has qualities that draw the reader to them.  Although the character and the reader may have completely different personalities or views on life, these differences are intriguing to the reader.  In A Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers, my favorite character is Frances Jasmine Addams or Frankie for short.

            Frances is a twelve-year-old girl who lives with her father.  Her mother died when she was very young so she grew up based on her father’s morals.  Since she has no mother, Bernice, the nanny, takes care of her during the day.  She spends her days with Bernice and her cousin, John Henry, going through the same routine daily.  The play games to occupy themselves, often annoying each other.

            Frances has a brother named Jarvis who has recently gotten engaged.  She looks up to her brother and loves him deeply.  Frankie thinks that on the day she attends her brother’s wedding, she is going to accompany the newlyweds on their honeymoon.  Due to her infatuation with this idea and the excitement of the wedding, she talks constantly about her obsession.  Everyone she encounters is told about her plans to live with Jarvis and his bride after the wedding.  Bernice tries gently to explain to her that her plan is just a fantasy and will never be fulfilled.

            Frances doesn’t believe Bernice, so she argues constantly that her plan will succeed.  After the wedding the couple leaves for their honeymoon, without Frankie of course.  Never gaining the courage to tell them her plan to live with them, she is crushed.  Frances rants on and on about how she wants to die, even threatening to commit suicide.  She cries she doesn’t want live unless she is spending her life with Jarvis and his wife.  As the months go by.  Frankie slowly relinquishes her longing to live with the newlyweds and learns to go on living her life.

            I found A Member of the Wedding so appealing because of the unique main character Frankie.  It was interesting to read about her fascination for Jarvis and his wife along with her crazy obsession with the wedding.  Although Frances was very strange, I grew to love her.  Her absurd life and thoughts made it almost impossible to put this book down.



Of Mice and Men

Adam Littleton, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

In the novel Of Mice and Men there are many characters that are easy to admire and ones that are easy to despise. Many of the main characters include Lennie, George, Slim, and Candy. Depending on the reader’s point of view, the characters in the novel can either be very kind and caring or mean and selfish.

            My favorite character in the novel is the mentally disabled Lennie. Lennie appears to be a mammoth of a man who is mentally disabled and does not understand things clearly. Lennie is mistreated throughout the novel, but he is a kind and compassionate person. Lennie, unlike most of the characters, treats everyone equally even if it is the bully Curly or if it’s the lonely back man Crooks. Lennie even treats animals kindly by petting them and treating them like his children, however, he does not understand how big he is and ends up petting animals to death.

            Lennie is very confused about things and his main focus in life appears be to do whatever George does and to touch soft things. Lennie states throughout the novel how he has petted mice, dogs, and loves to feel the soft feeling of velvet. Lennie also does not seem to know the rights and wrongs of life, for example he kills things and has little or no compassion for them. Lennie also thinks the very worst punishment is George not letting him tend to the rabbits on their future farm. Lennie’s mental disability eventually leads to his escape and death. After Lennie accidently kills Curly’s wife by shaking her to death and breaking her neck, Lennie runs away to the spot him and George were at in the beginning of the book. When he is there Curly forms a lynch mob and tries to find and kill Lennie. During the lynch mob George finds Lennie who is delusional and talking to his deceased Aunt and talking to a giant rabbit. His Aunt first tells him how George does not like him and how nice he treats Lennie and how Lennie is holding George back. After his Aunt leaves, a giant rabbit comes and tells him how he is irresponsible and he should let George live on his own. After the rabbit disappears, George comes along in real life and is talking to Lennie. He tells Lennie how much he likes him and how they were going to live together and Lennie would tend the rabbits. After this, George realized he must end Lennie’s life before he does something else terrible. George repeats himself about the future house and after he is done telling it he shoots Lennie in the head, killing him.

            Lennie was misunderstood throughout the book and was not mentally right. He did, however, show good examples of equality and fairness. He showed that you must always be with your best friend and how important friendship is. Lennie is over all a great person who did not understand his strength and how precious life is.

Lauren Jones, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Within John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, I find Lennie to be the most intriguing character. Although Lennie is not a dynamic character and lacks development throughout the novel, his utter simplicity acts as a firm foundation to the storyline. His basic characteristics include tremendous strength, a mind of a small child, a fondness towards soft things, and overall loyalty to George. Because of his mental disabilities, George is Lennie’s constant companion. This camaraderie developed when George lured Lennie into the pond, ultimately causing Lennie to nearly drown. Yet because of Lennie’s naïve kindness towards George in this situation, George became committed to protecting Lennie.

            Throughout the novel, Lennie artlessly cause events that may seem morbid or immoral. In spite of this, Lennie’s overall innocence and ingenuousness causes the reader to feel sympathetic towards him. Each character seems helpless, whether because of obliviousness or loneliness. Therefore, some characters turn to criticizing others in order to gain strength. In one instance, Crooks, a man with a crooked spine, harshly criticizes Lennie’s, and George’s, dream of having their own farm that lacks rules and dangers from the outside world, This farm is powerfully symbolic of self-reliance, independence, and protection; qualities that not only appeal to other characters within the novel but also to the reader. Yet Crook’s accusations that such a desirable dream cannot be achieved in this life prove to be true.

            Nevertheless, George and Lennie have something that most ranch workers lack: Companionship. But this rare quality ends at the closing of the novel, as George finds it a necessity to kill Lennie in order to protect himself and end the havoc Lennie so frequently causes. Though Lennie’s mental disabilities can be blamed for his actions, his physical strength is equally deadly. Throughout the novel Lennie kills animals because of his heavy handedness and obsession with soft things. These acts eerily foreshadow his fate.

            After Curley’s wife invites Lennie to stroke her soft hair, she screams because of the heavy pressure in which Lennie touches her head. The screams through Lennie into a panic, that leads him to muffling her mouth and pining her down as she tries to fight back. Accidentally, he breaks her neck and flees to a nearby pond that George instructed him to go if anything ever went wrong. This scene leads to the conclusion of the novel. While at the pond, Geroge comes and recites his ordinary conversation with Lennie, which includes the dreams of the farm that soon die with Lennie.

            The only men upset by his death are George and Slim, a wise man who fully discerns George’s loss. For George, his death is a solid declaration that George is exactly like all the other lonely ranchers who lack meaning and purpose. The book ends in the same setting as it began, but at the closing fate had destroyed the expectations of the characters, he accentuated the somber tone of the character’s lonely lives by the tragic, yet predictable, ending. 



One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Chelsea Thomas, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Every bestselling or classic novel has one character that gets the reader hooked. The interesting or mesmerizing characters that tell their touching, thrilling, or painful story are part of what makes a bestselling novel a bestseller. In the novel The One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, the author Ken Kasey depicts the lives of patients at a psychiatric hospital in Oregon through the point of view of Chief Bromden, also known as “Chief Broom” Bromden describes the torturous detail of the machines used as a treatment for patients, the hilarious stories of new patient McMurphy and his own touching struggle towards sanity.

            Bromden was six feet seven inches tall but told himself he was small and invisible. He pretended to be deaf and dumb but was sane when he checked into the hospital. Bromden lost his sanity because he was bullied by the lower nurses and he lived in constant fear of the machines hidden throughout the ward. However, with the help of McMurphy, the overconfident, sexual and loud patient, Bromden overcomes his fears and begins to overcome his insanity. McMurphy is the outgoing new patient who wants to take over the ward. He is not exactly a “Bull Goose Looney” nut pretends to be crazy because being in a psychiatric hospital is better than going to jail. He becomes a Christ-like figure when he sacrifices his sanity and becomes a “vegetable” for the benefit of the other patients. Throughout his stay at the hospital, McMurphy exposes the corrupt virtues of the hospital and the main nurse Mrs. Ratched. Mrs. Ratched, or as Bromden named her, the Big Nurse is the machine-like mother of the ward is feared by the patients. She exercises her control by finding her patients’ weaknesses and using them to her advantage. Bromden says the ward functions through her network of wires that control everything and everyone in the hospital. While McMurphy is befriending Bromden, he is also working to exploit Mrs. Ratched’s weaknesses just as she did to the patients.

            “I been silent so long now its gonna to roar out of me like floodwater” Bromden uses these words to begin his story of his childhood, his life in the psychiatric hospital and his struggle to find his sanity. Bromden used to be a strong young man following in the footsteps of his father, the chief of their tribe. However, his overpowering mother’s defeat of his father and the feeling of insignificance push Bromden over the edge and he begins to think that he is weak and invisible. Bromden hides from reality behind his world of imagination and hallucinations. However, the actual cause of his insanity is being admitted into the psychiatric hospital and undergoing 200 electroshock treatment. Bromden became my favorite character because at first he was shy and uncertain, cowering behind closed doors because he was afraid of the outside world that he referred to as the “Combine”. As the novel progresses, Bromden realizes his value and strength and he begins taking steps towards sanity. Finally, at the end of the novel, Bromden, is free of the hospital and begins to tell his story.

            One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest is a great novel. I would recommend this book to anyone because it has an interesting plot that keeps the read indulge. The clever yet self-sacrificial character McMurphy adds an intriguing twist on Bromden’s recounts of his life at the psychiatric hospital. Mrs. Ratched represents the demoralization of society while Bromden is the picture of innocence that is affected by the crooked ways of the ward but overcomes the challenges he faces. 


The Sea Wolf

Jessica Wang, Age 16, Arendell Parrott Academy

            The Sea Wolf is a book written by Jack London, and it was published by Bantam Dell in 1904. It was written in first-person as Humphrey Van Weyden, who fell into the sea, was captured by a seal-hunting ship captained by Wolf Larsen. This captain is a legend of the sea. He is very crafty but very smart, he has a wealth of experience and profound thought, also, he is strong and virtuous, so his crew is extremely loyal to him. The story begins after Humphrey gets onto the ship.

            In the book The Sea Wolf, my favorite character is the Captain, Wolf Larsen. This character is a reflection of Jake himself in some ways. Jake’s early life wasn’t easy, the house that he grew up with burned down in a fire, Jake was self-educated and he never met his father, so the story reflects the dark side of people’s lives in poverty, the brute side of life. The character of Wolf Larsen is based on a real man named Alexander McLean, who was also known for cruelty at sea.

            As the story continues, Humphrey gets into a worse situation. The crew on this ship is a murderous savage mob, and although the captain is sensible, he is a conceited person who didn’t believe in any religion or wording of soul, and he calls Humphrey “Hump” all the time, until he found out that Humphrey is an opponent but also the only person that he would admit as his companion in philosophy, and he really appreciated him. But everything starts to change after a woman named Maude Brewster was saved with another group from the sea. Humphrey and Captain Larsen fall in love with this beautiful and romantic girl at the same time. The have fierce conflict until Humphrey finally finds out the captain’s weakness, he is dim-sighted and it’s getting worse. Humphrey runs away with Maude to an uninhabited island and they try their best to make a living. But one day, they accidentally find Captain Larsen abandoned by his own crew. The captain is crippled and can’t see nearly anything, so Humphrey and Maude take good care of the captain, and do anything they can to fix the ship and get them out of the island. But the day they fix it, captain leaves the scornful world forever.

            The Sea Wolf describes the legend of Wolf Larsen; also a life in the wilderness shows readers the dark side of ruthless people, reveals capitalist society, and his sympathy of people who suffer in poverty. It also describes the conflict inside Jake’s heart, which is the conflict between idealism and materialism. When I read this book it really led me into the world that Jake wrote; the scenes where they save Humphrey, hunt seals, and try everything to make a living on the island are drifting in my head. This book is definitely a good choice to read.

Hannah Lee, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            The novel, The Sea Wolf by Jack London was published by Bantam Dell originally in 1904, but was most recently reissued in 2007, and consists of 278 pages. This famous classic is a fictional adventure novel filled with suspense. This book tells the story of a man of mid-thirties who learns he has not yet truly lived, and is given the chance by a mere accident. The story is filled with struggles, excitement, surprises, and twists. Despite being slow at times, overall, it is well written and highly recommended.

            Humphrey Van Weyden, or “Hump”, who boards a vessel, which crashes into a fellow boat, narrates the story. Humphrey is flung into foggy sea but is saved by a seal ship, controlled by the ruthless, Wolf Larson. Wolf ignores Humphrey’s request to be taken home, and forces him to work. Humphrey remains aboard facing months of violence between the mates and philosophical discussions between self-educated Wolf and himself. Humphrey describes Wolf as an individualist and hedonist. After Humphrey becomes second in command, they find the seal grounds and proceed with their barbaric job of killing seals. Later, they discover a small lifeboat with four men and a woman, named Maud Brewster. After refusing to go ashore, Maud is forces to stay. Humphrey falls in love with Maud and they plan to help each other escape. Both decide to politely converse with Wolf, so he will not become suspicious. When the time comes, Humphrey and Maud flee at night. After days on tiny boat, they find land and build huts. One day, Humphrey awakes to the unnerving sight of Wolf’s ship.

            The author’s writing is effective and powerful.  The philosophical discussions between Wolf and Humphrey seem genuine and well thought our], leading me to develop a respect for everyone, especially Wolf. Wolf had interesting insights into human nature that, while his views were of the baser sort, were realistic and true of human nature. The author used twists and turns in the story, maintaining the interest of the reader and allowing them to see into the mind of the characters, showing a truly great strength of a master writer. I found it is very engaging and I wished to know more about the lives of the characters, beyond what was made known in the book. Despite a slow beginning, its’ pace quickens with suspense and excitement.

            This novel brings about interesting, thought provoking questions about life’s purpose, which everyone should ponder. I was able to relate to Humphrey, growing up privileged and at times taking it for granted. I have learned the importance of utilizing everything, even if it seems unimportant. There may come a time when ones possessions vanish. I also enjoyed the fact that the character seemed real and had discussions that could apply to ordinary people. Overall, The Sea Wolf was intriguing, well written and highly recommendable. I enjoyed every second of reading it. 




Caroline Carlyle, 10th Grade, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Slaughterhouse-Five is a thrilling novel by Kurt Vonnegut about a war veteran named Billy Pilgrim who is basically a “time traveler.” Billy travels from place to place and you never know where he is going to end up. There are many interesting characters in this novel and many reasons why this book is so interesting and appealing to me and other people.

            All of the characters are very interesting, but my favorite character in this book is Billy Pilgrim. Pilgrim is a World War II veteran. While in the war, Pilgrim is captured, becomes a POW, and survives the bombing of Dresden. Before he is drafted into the war he is studying to be a optometrist. He also has a wife named Valencia Herble, and has two kids with her. When Pilgrim gets back from the war there is something different about him. He can walk into one part of his life and then walk out of this part into another part. Basically he thinks he can time travel and at some points he even travels to a different planet called Tralfamadoria. Pilgrim decides to tell the world about what he is experiencing and about Tralfamadoria. His whole family gets very frustrated with him, especially his daughter Barbara. She thinks he is crazy and is embarrassed by him. Then one day Pilgrim is on a plane, and it crashes. His wife, Valencia, is on her way to the hospital and she is in an accident and dies. As if Pilgrim hasn’t had enough tragedy in his life. Even though everyone thought pilgrim was crazy and he really did not want to live anymore, he still kept on going. One day he even predicts the day he is going to die and the crazy thing is he actually ends up dying on that day. So maybe Billy isn’t as crazy as everyone thinks. Pilgrim is my favorite character because he challenged me and kept me on toes while I was reading. I never knew where he was going to end up. I liked him because he always had respect for veterans and the war, and the bombing of Dresden really affected him. One thing I really admire about him is in spite of everything he never gives up and always keeps going. In the book it says this about Billy never giving up, “Billy had a framed prayer on his office wall which expressed his method for keeping going, even though he was unenthusiastic about living. A lot of patients who saw the prayer on Billy’s wall told him that it helped them to keep going, too. It went like this: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to tell the difference.’ Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future.”

            The interesting characters are not the only reason I found this book appealing. The title jumped right off the page at me and I never knew where I was going to end up. Every time Billy changed locations you never knew what was going to happen or where you were going to be taken to next. Kurt Vonnegut does a great job of connecting past events to present events to future events and tying them all together to tell the story of Billy Pilgrim’s life. I was not bored one second while reading this novel.

            I would recommend Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five to anyone who likes an interesting read that will not have you bored at all. The plot has many twists and turns and will keep you on your toes. Billy Pilgrim, a war veteran who time travels, will have you zoned into it from page one and I hope everyone has the chance to read it.

Kaleigh Steelman, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse Five in 1969, twenty-four years after the infamous World War II firebombing in Dresden, Germany. The fictional characters that Vonnegut creates experience this real life tragedy yet are able to go on the live fulfilling lives. While many characters in this novel are appealing, Billy Pilgrim is the most fascinating to me.

            My favorite character in Slaughterhouse Five would have to be Billy Pilgrim. Billy is the protagonist of this American classic. Billy is a World War II veteran, survivor of the firebombing in Dresden, father, and husband. Billy was very unpopular and conceited before the war, causing him to be a very unlikely hero, and becomes a joke as a soldier. With minimal training, no weapons, and an unsuitable uniform, Billy is sent to the Battle of the Bulge. Billy’s inappropriate uniform caused a ridiculous sight. His uniform consisted of: a blue toga, a leftover shred of stage curtain, and a fur-lined coat way too small for him. No one thought someone dressed like that could ever survive in war, while Billy was warm and cozy in his fur coat; other soldiers were perishing from the bitterness. In this shocking and physically exhausted state is when Billy first became “unstuck in time”. Billy Pilgrim lives a life full of humiliation and embarrassment, which causes him to live with no fear of death. Billy was the only survivor of a horrific plane crash, making him believe he was zapped to the planted Tralfmadore, where he said he was displayed in a naked zoo. By saying “so it goes,” after every death, the narrator, similar to Billy, even if completely random, or immediate. Billy waits for his death calmly, with no fear, knowing exactly when it will come. Doing this, he gains control over his own dignity that he has gone without most of his life.

            This classic focuses on Billy Pilgrim to a degree that prohibits the development of the other characters, which exist in the book only as they relate to Billy’s events.

            Slaughterhouse Five appealed to me because it was a classic antiwar novel. Centered on the bombing in Dresden, this novel focuses on the part of our life which we fear the most, death. 


Something Wicked This Way Comes

Briana Casey, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy            

            In Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, my favorite character is Will Halloway. Will is fond of thinking through before taking action unlike his audacious friend Jim who will do anything to be up and moving. The story Will has to make rash decisions that sometimes help and other times endanger him and his friend Jim. He embarks on a trip to the peculiar carnival that occurs after Labor Day.

            As the new carnival come to town, Will takes more action without thinking. He acts with his free will when he cuts a hole in the witch’s balloon while Jim is sleeping. He saves both Will and Jim’s life. Will likes thinking things through so that his actions will take less time and be more effective. Jim makes mistakes that endanger himself and Will. He runs right into Mr. Cooger’s trap that makes them look like thieves.

            Even though they can be a bit disastrous at times, the whole town knows the boys. Will and Jim run everywhere. Even into potentially dangerous settings. Jim is more adventurous than Will and likes to take action. Will likes to think things through before they take any action. The Combination of the two boys balances them out to have spectacular friendship. Will and Jim go to the carnival surprised that it seems normal. Later on that night Will loses Jim and goes into the mirror maze. He finds his friend transfixed inside the mirror maze. As Will and Jim leave the carnival, they trip over a leather bag and find out it belongs to the lightning rod sales representative. To find out why the bag has been left abandoned, they stay at the carnival to solve the mystery. They examine a merry-go-round after they read a sign that says “out of order”. Jim jumps on a horse and hears a man yelling at them to get off. A watch named Mr. Dark walks out with a man named Mr. Cooger. Will and Jim run and hide in a tree and watch as Mr. Cooger jumps on the merry-go-round while it spins backwards. Mr. Cooger is suddenly becoming younger and younger as the ride spins around.

            As Mr. Cooger gets farther and farther away, Will follows Jim who is chasing the now twelve year old Mr. Cooger, because he is concerned of the danger Jim could be in. Jim, without thinking, marches up to Mrs. Foley’s door and rings the doorbell. Will has to do something, so he blurts out he has bad news. He plans to tell Mrs. Foley that her nephew is a man who has become younger, but halts himself thinking that he will make no sense to Mrs. Foley. Will has to take action promptly throughout the story even when he doesn’t have time to think it through. When Jim sneaks out to find Mr. Cooger, Will follows him to Mrs. Foley’s house again. When they reach the house, Will tackles Jim to the ground and Mr. Cooger throws jewelry at them and tries to frame them of theft. Jim starts running after Mr. Cooger, which is exactly what he wanted. Now Will, following Jim and Mr. Cooger, looks like a thief. Will knows it was wrong to chase him but can’t Mr. Dark win his friend over.

            Will and Jim both star as the main characters but Will is my favorite because he thinks situations through before taking action unlike Jim does. Jim often makes silly mistakes that are dangerous to Will and Jim. Will has to be inclines to think more quickly to make decisions that are imperative to the boys’ survival. 

Hawes Collier, Age 16, Arendell Parrott Academy

            In Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, my favorite character was Will Halloway. Will is an innocent, carefree, child who lives in a small rural town with his best friend Jim Nightshade. Throughout the story, Will faces strange, sinister evils that lurk within a carnival visiting his small town during late October. Will survives his encounters with the carnival because of his bravery as well as caution out of fear. Because of Will’s good character, the disturbing plot, and suspense, the novel is an interesting read that keep the reader’s attention till the end.

            Will develops his character throughout the story, starting with his encounter with the strange lightning rod salesman and ending with his victory over evil carnival and its carnies. Will becomes a courageous protagonist who starts off only fearing the evil they faced, however; as his father encouraged him to see life for what it is, Will evolves into a key player in the conflict. Along with well developed characters, the plot of Something Wicked this Way Comes is what keeps the story moving.

            The story begins with a threatening warning from a lightning rod salesman that a storm is coming. Already the tone is set to dark, disturbing level, as the impending danger approaching is not a storm but evil itself. Upon the arrival of the carnival, strange things occur in town and in the carnival itself. As the evil evolves in the small town, more secrets are learned about the mysteries of the carnival and its strange workings. Then, at last the resolution shows itself by learning the weakness of the evil that has snuck into the innocent community.

            Bradbury is able to make this come together with his unique style of writing, using metaphors with prevalence, as well as vivid descriptions of fear. Also, his use of symbolism is present, without seeming too abstract. Foreshadowing is Bradbury’s main tool for creating suspense, which is what much of the fear is derived from in his stories. With a set of lively characters and a dark plot, Something Wicked this Way Comes established itself as an entertaining read that keeps attention and provokes fear into the onlooker.

            Bradbury shows hid creative skill in creating an entertaining tale of evil and fear of the unknown. Throughout the story, the twisted plot pulls the reader through the darkness that lies in the carnival and the strange happenings within. With the elements of Bradbury’s writing, the memorable characters, and catching plot, Something Wicked this Way Comes shows itself to be an engaging story of good versus evil. 



The Sun Also Rises

William Brechtelsbauer, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            Written by Nobel Prize winning author Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises is a novel consisting of complex, intertwining relationships between developed and emotional characters. Throughout the fictitious story, the characters experience extreme emotion shifts so frequently that they provoke the theme of human instability. This makes the characters that much more entertaining, likable, and interesting. One of the best examples in The Sun Also Rises of an unstable, yet likable character is Brett Ashley, who is my personal favorite character. The complexity of Brett’s personality and its incorporation into this story of relationships between lively, colorful individuals is that makes this novel so appealing to me.

             One of my favorite things about this novel is how all the characters have upsides and drawbacks in their personalities and lives. Hemingway pieces together very unique people who are so real that you become attached to them by the end of the book. I, personally, became very intrigues with Brett’s character not so much because of her lively, fun traits, but more because of her sad and dark life and past. Though Brett is the center of most social events and is great with people, she struggles with huge emotion swings that hinder her livelihood and her relationships. One example of this is when she falls in love with Pedro Romero, a Spanish bull fighter. Brett is at first upset by her love for him, then is extremely happy to be with him, and then decides to leave Mr. Romero. Another problem Brett has is her struggle with alcoholism. Constantly going from bar to bar with her friends, Brett is so acclimated to alcohol and feeling “tight” that Mike remarks how little change comes over her when she becomes drunk. Also, when she has the mood swings I previously mentioned her alcohol consumption increases leaps and bounds, forming a vicious cycle of emotion shifts and intoxication that causes more emotional instability. Lastly, Brett, when she was growing up, was treated very poorly by her father, him once threatening to fill her, which probably contributes to some of volatility seen in her life.

            This novel is a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed the paths of the characters as their backgrounds develop, their slipups occur, and their friendships are solidified. Like Brett, many of the characters are funny people who truly try to bring out the best in life and have a good time. Though this book isn’t “action-packed”, it has detained, interesting depictions of bull fights and I truly think it attempts to delve into the human emotional state: one of unbalance but that is always striving to achieve happiness. Hemingway writes in a simple, concise style but that isn’t short on description, which I really like because of its seemingly raw, yet full fell. If you want to feel like you are part of and participating in the affairs of a fun and relaxing novel, this is the book for you.

            It’s no mistake that Hemingway earned a Nobel Prize for Literature; his writing is amazing! Originating a more modern and concise style of writing, his descriptions use small numbers of words that paints a vast picture in the reader’s mind. The way Hemingway develops his characters is fantastic as well, creating characters that feel real because of his delicately places indirect characterization. After my reading The Sun Also Rises and his novella The Old Man and the Sea, I think that one of the next books I’ll read will be one by Hemingway. 


Their Eyes Were Watching God

Lilli Wooten, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            In the book Their Eyes Were Watching God, there are many great characters. My favorite character is Janie. The book mainly revolves around Janie and her relationship with other people. Janie is in search of her identity and spiritual enlightenment. Through this book, you will notice how Janie does not say anything when she is not respected by many of her partners.

            Her grandmother, Nanny, raised Janie. Janie was very unsure of who she was to how she wanted to live her life. Nanny always told Janie to marry fir wealth and to find someone who was high in society. Nanny soon married Janie off to a wealthy farmer, Logan Killicks. Janie never loves Logan, but she kept this to herself. One day a man named Jody Starks came along, and Janie admired him. Janie and Logan started to show their differences, and Janie decided to move on with her life.

            A few days later Jody Starks and Janie moved to Eatonville, Florida and decide to get married. Jody took over a small town and opened a store in the town. Janie worked in the store everyday and did not like it at all. Jody soon started to rule what Janie did and gave her no freedom. One day Jody got so angery with Janie, he slapped her across her face and called her incompetent. Janie again did not say anything to Jody. Jody started to age and his health started to deteriorate. Jody died, and everybody in the thought that Janie poisoned him. This was not true. Afterwards Janie began to find her voice and her freedom became clearer.

            A couple of months later, a man named Tea Cake came into the store and asked if Janie would like to play checkers. Janie did not know not to play, but Tea Cake took the time to teach her. She really seemed to like Tea Cake. The only problem was Tea Cake was of a lower class and had nothing. Janie then realized how much she despised Nanny for making her marry for money instead of true love. Janie really lived Tea Cake for himself and not because of the amount of money or his rank in society. Tea Cake treated Janie as if she was no longer silent. Tea Cake died, and Janie was all alone again.

            Janie throughout this book was not searching for a partner, but she was in search of a secure sense of independence. Her first two husbands were not the right choices, but they helped her to learn what she wanted was freedom and speech. With her last husband she found that, she found her own voice. Janie’s character was very easy to relate to and that is why this book was so appealing to me. 

Kaelyn Mohrfeld, Age 15, Arendell Parrott Academy

            In Their Eyes Were Watching God, there are many distinct and unique characters. The characters in this book were African American, in which some were poor and others were wealthy. One of my favorite characters in this book was called by Janie Straks.

            Janie Starks is one of my favorite characters in this book because of her willingness to please others. Janie’s grandmother saw her kissing a young boy when she was sixteen and said she needed to marry right away. Nanny wanted her to marry right away because she wanted her to be in a secure situation before she passed away. Nanny wanted her to marry Logan Killicks, who was a rather wealthy African American. Even though she would rather not marry right away she wants to please her grandmother before she passed away.

            Another reason she is one of my favorite characters is because she is willing to stand up for herself. After she marries Logan Killicks, he stars treating her wrong and she leaves him for a man named Jody. She stays with Jody many years until he dies from kidney failure and then finds a man by the name of Tea Cake. Tea Cake is a very unique man and is rather young for her to marry. They go through with the marriage and they are in love for a long time. Later on, a hurricane comes and floods the town. A growling dog tries to bite Janie as she is floating in the flood but Tea Cake defends her. He is bit by the dog and is infected with rabies. After a few weeks, Tea Cake goes crazy and tries to shoot Janie. Janie defends herself having to kill Tea Cake in order to survive. It is very brave of her to kill her husband for good will of herself and Tea Cake.

            Janie, in my mind, is very independent and that is what I like about her. In this novel, it proves that women can survive without men and that we can make a living. I like that this book tells a story about her and her journey to find herself. It shows that women are very strong and when we put our mind to it, it will get done.

            Janie Straks comes along way in the beginning and becomes a woman in the making. This book explains how women back then got things done and how they were to accomplish it in a diligent way. I am glad that someone was able to set a path for us future women to come and to take a stand.  


The Virgin Suicides

Devin Whitlark, Age 16, Arendell Parrott Academy

            In 1993, the publishers at Picador boldly decided to publish Jeffrey Eugenides’ coming of age and mystery novel, The Virgin Suicides. Its 243 incredible pages contain the story of the suicides of the five beautiful Lisbon girls. Intriguing, suspenseful, and expertly crafted, this book almost turns its own pages as the reader is swallowed into the mystery that is the motive behind the five Lisbon sisters’ suicides.

            The Virgin Suicides is different from other novels in many ways, one extremely significant example being the unique style of narration. Written from the point of view of a group of boys who grew up with the Lisbon girls, the novel pulls the reader into this desperate group who has spent decades gathering evidence and trying to figure out why the girls committed suicide. The style of narration and the rich, vivid details succeed in allowing the reader to become one of the narrators, complete with a desperate desire to understand the girls’ reasons for suicide.

            The story is set in the 1970’s Detroit suburbia, complete with white picket fences and cookie cutter families. In the beginning of the book, the Lisbon family is one of these. Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon are strictly raising their five beautiful daughters, 13 year-old Cecilia, 14 year-old Lux, 15 year-old Bonnie, 16 year-old Mary, and 17 year-old Therese. Their deterioration begins when Cecilia kills herself, which sends the rest of the family into a downward spiral of dysfunction, isolation, and misery, as symbolized by their deteriorating house. Eventually this results in the deaths of the remaining four daughters. The main point of suspense in this novel is not whether or not the girls will die (this fact is explicitly stated early on) but rather the desperate need to find out why they did it; in order to understand, one has to be taken through the sequence  of events leading up to the deaths and subsequent investigation thereafter, as organized by the equally mysterious group of boys.

            Eugenides does an incredible job with this novel. Not only is the plot of The Virgin Suicides captivating, but the writing itself, from the narrators to the detail to the organization of evidence, is dramatic, tragic, powerful, and beautiful, in a way just like the Lisbon girls. This story was a suspenseful and amazing page-turner to the very end, but its ideas and meanings linger. This powerful book introduced me to a deeper and more eloquent way of thinking. This novel is one that almost anyone would benefit from reading.


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