A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

along way gone While I did find this book painful to read, I am very glad I stayed with it. Ishmael tells his story in casual language, almost as if he were sitting next to you, sharing his experiences over (many cups of) tea. He relays his life to us chronologically, beginning in his home village. He and some friends took a multi- day trip to a neighboring village to show off their hip-hop skills at a talent show. Little did they know, that little trip probably saved their lives. For while they were away, the rebel army attacked their home village.

From there, we follow Ishmael and his friends as they try to find their families (all had to flee the village – literally running for their lives). It is a long, dangerous road they walked, and they suffered countless difficulties as they try to find somewhere safe to stay while struggling to meet the barest of necessities. Readers get the sense of walking through a tunnel with no light. You really feel the desperation, the loneliness and despair that descended upon this poor little boy. Much of the book is about this time of wandering, going hungry, being ill-met by other villages who suspect these young, homeless friends of being a wandering squad of rebel child-soldiers. They are met with suspicion at best, hostility at worst.

It is actually understandable when Ishmael is manipulated into fighting with the government army. He is finally in a village that feels safe, he is eating, there are soldiers protecting the village, that is until the rebels surround the village, leaving no path for escape. All males (even 6 or 8 year olds) must fight for their lives in the army, or die.
It begins as such, fighting for the “good side,” the ones who did not kill his family, and fighting to defend himself. But, as this brief portion of the book tells us, he quickly descended into the much darker side of warfare, where the good and bad guys are not so easily discerned. When did he cross the line and become someone who kills some other little boy’s family? It is so painful, so sad.

But Ishmael does not delve too deeply into the emotions behind his motivations and reactions. Nor does he tell us much about how he has come to reconcile with himself. He tells us some, and maybe this is my psych degree, but I want to know more.  I hope he is able to go deeper within himself. I don’t need to read about it, but I hope he can because I want him to truly be alright now. You will, too, because no feeling human can read this book and not find themselves truly caring about this young man.

And now I think of the other children still out there, still being coerced into fighting the wars of horrible adult men. I want to help them, which is, I imagine, part of Ishmael’s hope.
Don’t wait for the cheaper paperback, this is a book to read now – you will want to talk to people about it. Prepare to be stirred.

Reviewed by M. Babiker

Fourth Down and Inches by Carla Killough McClafferty

fourth downFootball today is much more seriously handled than it was in 1905. No official rules were broken down, injuries were high, and death was common. Fourth Down and Inches not only tells the history of football, but gets into the serious and fatal outcomes of injuries, specifically concussions. Fourth Down and Inches takes you inside the football experience and tells you the fundamentals, official rules, symptoms and the process of getting back on the field after a concussion.  Numerous short stories are told, photos of the brain after a concussion, photos of team comparisons, and the safety of the brutal sport is provided to inform fans and players of this popular sport.

This book is highly recommended for anyone who loves football or needs information for research. Either way, you’ll have a good read about the hard-hitting, spine-bending, pig-skin sport. This book has all the information on offense and defense fundamentals, rules, injury reports, with the main focus being on head injuries and concussions. Fourth Down and Inches will keep you informed and wanting more.

Reviewed by H. Brown

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

helter skelterSaturday, August 9, 1969 was a quiet night in Los Angeles, but one that would be remembered forever. The book opens with a vague description of the true events that went down that night. Neighbors heard screaming and gunshots near 100050 Cielo Drive in the early morning. As the maid got in the next morning, she noticed the house was in disarray. Blood was splattered all over the walls, and five corpses were scattered throughout the house. Sharon Tate, Steven Parent, Voytek Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Jay Sebring were all murdered by unknown assailants, their bodies to be found by LAPD after the maid called the police. On August 10, 1969, Frank Struthers becomes concerned when neither his mom nor his dad opens the door to their house. Frank gets his sister and brother to open the door, and he discovers his mom and dad dead in the bedroom and living room respectively. Two separate and equally gruesome murders left the LAPD and the whole world wondering who could have done it. Months passed before leads pointed and directed to a case against Charles Manson, and his gang of “Family” members. This group consisting of runaways, hippies, rejects, and convicts committed some of the most gruesome and shocking murders in all of history. Written by the lead prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, Helter Skelter tells the true story of the murders, the investigation, and the trial of Manson and his Family.

I have been interested in this topic for a while. Before I read this book, I didn’t understand the pure creepiness that Charles Manson embodied. It’s hard to believe that this really happened.  Some of the victims were stabbed over 40 times, shot and beat to death.  It is most certainly a creepy, scary read, and I would not recommend it to anyone who already has troubles sleeping. Not only is this book a page turner, but it keeps you up at night wondering how anybody could do something so terrible to another human being. Overall, the book is extremely well-written and tells the complete story-sometimes a little more detail than I would like to know. I would urge anybody who is curious about the story or even just murderers in general, to pick this book up; and once I get my sleeping patterns back to normal, I will be glad that I did. Due to its graphic nature, I recommend it only for mature readers.

Reviewed by D. Anderson

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

the outsidersIn a story about allies and enemies, family, and dealing with adversity, “The Outsiders” is a unique look on gang conflict in the 1950’s. Ponyboy is a teenage boy living with his brothers and close friends who were all “greasers.” They wore a lot of hair grease and leather jackets. The “socs” are a rival gang that is at constant “war” with the greasers.  Ponyboy gets into a lot of drama with his older brothers over the conflict and personal issues. They fight and disagree. But the reader and Ponyboy know that they will always have each other’s backs and remain a family.

Throughout the adversity the gang faces and character development from all of the main characters, the reader’s finds themselves growing attached to each character. The author really pulls you into the story. It’s almost as if you’re wishing you were a greaser yourself helping out the gang, and hanging out with the guys. Over all this is a great read and a great story!

Reviewed by J. Gift

Wicked by Gregory McGuire

wickedIn the novel Wicked by Gregory McGuire, he takes the reader inside of the life and mind of Elphaba, famously known as the Wicked Witch of The West. He helps the reader gain knowledge on how she became “wicked” and makes you question whether she is truly wicked or if she is just misunderstood. Gregory Mcguire takes you into the real world of Oz, giving you background knowledge that the movie itself does not include. McGuire goes all the way back to when and where it all began when baby Elphaba was born. Elphaba is raised by her priest father and unfaithful mother who has multiple affairs throughout the story (one of which leads to the birth of Elphaba).  The story unfolds with various twists and turns that will leave you shocked and looking for more.

I would definitely recommend readers that love fiction fantasies. The book immediately grabs the reader’s attention because it allows you to see the story of Oz from the witch’s point of view. Everyone who reads this book will be flabbergasted throughout this magnificent novel. Gregory Mcguire deserves an enormous round of applause for this amazing novel. I give this book 5 stars.

Reviewed by D. Grant

Flowers in the Sky by Lynn Joseph

Flowers in the SkyIn the book, “Flowers in the Sky” by Lynn Joseph, a girl named Nina Perez is fifteen-years-old and she has a problem that she cannot control. Her mother forces her to go to New York to better her life and live with her brother.  Nina Perez now has to leave her Dominican Republic home to go to Washington Heights. She is trying to adjust to her new situation. Unfortunately, it does not work because of the horrible secrets she finds out about her brother’s business. Then she meets a boy that she describes as “that green-eyed boy”. She can’t get him out of her mind. She even started thinking that he could help with the problem she is having with living in New York.

I would say that “Flowers in the Sky” was a great book. I had only read the first two pages and I fell in love with the book immediately. Nina Perez is a great character in this book. I liked the setting of the book because you can easily contrast the two places. This book shows how a fifteen-year-old can adjust to change in her life.  Nina is a nice, smart, and innocent girl, so the symbol of a flower fits this book terrifically. I would recommend this book to readers between the ages of ten and fifteen years of age. I would rate this book a five out of five.

Reviewed by A. Menchue

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

ImpulseImpulse by Ellen Hopkins is about three young teens that have grown up with many different problems in their lives. The novel follows Victoria and her two male friends after they end up in a special hospital after their attempted suicides. It is a place that will make them better their selves or change their lives which is what they are trying to do. The teens are trying to get away from the past life that they each lived. And completely change their future to be the opposite of how it stated out.  The novel has many different emotions throughout the book the characters go through a lot of events to get them to where they are in the end of the novel.

I liked the book for many reasons. I liked how the characters aren’t afraid to admit that they have problems and that they want to get help with what they have been going through in their individual lives.  I thought that each character in the novel changed personalities by the end of the book. In the beginning they were all different people and by the end of the book they bettered their lives by themselves. Impulse was a great book to read in high school because it is about changing and doing what is right for each individual in the end situation or occurrence. I would give this book a five out of five because of the results of each child in the book. Each one of them bettered their lives to be the way that they wanted it to be in the end.

Reviewed by  C. Sorrell

The First Family by Mike Dash

first family           The First Family is strictly focused on the first main mafia family. It was based on the “Boss of Bosses” and his name was Giuseppe Morello. The book talks about the family and what happened with the family. I like this book a lot so far because it goes into depth on what this family did and what roles they played. I would recommend this book to many people because it is very informational and really gives you knowledge about what lifestyle was like for the mafia family.

The family committed many crimes and they were usually murder. They would set up hits to get rid of people they felt weren’t needed any more. But the family also was involved in robbery of money and vehicles.  They wanted what they thought was best and they wouldn’t stop until they got it. The mafia family would send hit men to get rid of someone on the streets. This book is very cold blooded at times, but still provides much information. Recommended for mature readers only.  Great book!

Reviewed by C. Bowermaster

The Odyssey by Homer

the odysseyThe Odyssey by Homer is about a king named Odysseus who is taken away from his homeland, Ithaca, and forced to fight in the Trojan War. The Trojan War was caused by a prince named Paris who took Helen, the queen of Troy. Odysseus fought the war for ten years and after the war was over his adventure of going back home began. However, nobody back home knew that he was still alive. His wife Penelope and son Telemachus assumed that he had died in the war. Odysseus had to overcome various obstacles to get back to his homeland. During his adventure, Odysseus had to cross seas and fight through many tough obstacles to reach his goal- getting home.

The Odyssey is a great book and it has plenty of action and adventure. It will keep you entertained the entire time. I enjoyed reading this book because of all the action this book contains. This book is perfect for people who like Greek mythology and are looking for an action and adventure book. This book is also great to read to pre-teens and young teens because the storyline is great and it will keep them intrigued with all the action and suspense. I personally enjoyed this book because of the imagery; I could sometimes throughout the book imagine myself in the actual war and adventures. I could imagine seeing the fighting and hear all the sword fights. It’s like all my five senses were picking something up. I would highly recommend this book because it has a great plot and it has plenty of action and adventure and you will not be able to put it down.

Reviewed by A. Madera

The Perks of Being a Wall Flower by Stephen Chbosky

the perks of being a wallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wall Flower tells about every teenager’s life. For sure a lot of people could relate in this novel especially when they remembered the first time they entered high school. You meet new people with different personalities. Everything in high school is part of growing up and we learn to make our own choices in the future. A story that involves family, love, and friendship. Charlie is the definition of a wallflower and is a freshman student. He’s sensitive, emotional and weird. His aunt’s death had affected him and he is struggling to get along with others. He’s pretending to be someone he’s not. He enjoyed being with his new found friends Sam and Patrick, siblings and senior students. With curiosity and peer pressure, Charlie did a lot of things like smoking and drinking. He tries to keep up with others, so he could get along with and try to please them.

The Perks of Being a Wall Flower an incredibly accurate portrayal of early teenage years.  This book contains letters written by Charlie to an unidentified person during his freshman year of high school. Prone to depression, shy, introverted, on the fringes in everything, Charlie is a wallflower who, with the help of friends Samantha and Patrick, comes to terms with life and learns to interact. Although Perks covers just about every tough issue known to teens, the book has its moments of humor, and the tragic aspects are handled so well that it comes off as realistic rather than melodramatic or soap-operatic. A masterful book.

Reviewed by D. Brewer