Saturday, August 16, 2014

Teen review: A contemporary classic

Title: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Number of pages: 244
Genre: Realistic fiction
Part of a series: No
Rating: 4/5
High school level (9th grade up)

Reviewed by Amy Sepulveda, grade 10

In The Bell Jar, we explore Esther’s depression and experiences in finding what she wants to do with her life. Though she was once the most intelligent girl in school, Esther finds that she has difficulties finding her true passion in college. After winning prize after prize from the magazine she works for as a journalist, she realizes that she can no longer write or read, and she has trouble fitting in with her friends and colleagues. At the end of her vacation, Esther returns home for the rest of her summer break, and deals with a whole new set of troubles.

I would recommend this odd and somewhat sad story to a young teen who experiences a lack of self esteem and to someone who has problems maintaining a healthy state of mind. I unexpectedly enjoyed this novel about Esther’s troubles and can somewhat relate them to others.

The Bell Jar is full of wondrous metaphors and motifs that can be viewed in many different ways. I constantly found myself stopping to think about something that Esther had thought and wondering what brought on her behavior. It is an inspiring classic novel that can be helpful to so many.

Editor's note: This is a book that is sometimes read for school, but we went ahead and published the review here because it is also something of a contemporary classic that many (as Amy did) might enjoy reading on their own. Readers might be interested to know that this book is more than a little autobiographical in nature, written from the experiences of the author, Sylvia Plath, who did indeed suffer from low self esteem and depression, although she wrote some truly beautiful poetry before her tragic suicide at the age of 31. Here is a little more information about her, from the Academy of American Poets website.

If you don't understand the meaning of the title, a bell jar is kind of a mini greenhouse that is used to protect plants in the garden from frost in cold climates. So the jar is protection, but it is also containment, keeping a layer of glass between its inhabitant and the world. Plath used it as a metaphor for being trapped by social convention, for being separate from others, and perhaps for feeling exposed or on display.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Teen Review: The Night Circus

Reviewed by Amy Sepulveda, grade 10

Wonder courses through everyone’s soul, a hidden magic through their bones. Bewilderment shoots them around every corner of the enigmatic circus that they never know is coming. Erin Morgenstern has created a breathtaking 512-page, adult novel: The Night Circus, full of love, awe, and a fiercely long competition to win.

Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair are pitted against each other by their fathers in a very real, very serious game. Trained since they were just young children, they learn to manipulate the world around them and use magic beyond belief. In this hauntingly beautiful tale, readers learn to love, to laugh, and to think in different ways that would not have even been thought of.

My first instinct would be to say it is similar to the Harry Potter series, but the only things in common are the magic and how well everything is pulled together in the end. I was astounded by how unique The Night Circus is, since every magical story nowadays is similar to something the reader is familiar with. Each character was developed deeply and accurately, with their own personality. Morgenstern’s writing style inspires me to create fantasy worlds of my own.

Unfortunately this is not part of a series, though readers may count on another book from her in the coming years. If anyone is interested, you can follow her blog at Though she will not be online for the entire month of August, she will return the first of September.

The Night Circus is a 10th-grade level and up fantasy novel beyond compare. I cannot pick a favorite book, since I have hundreds, but without a doubt, this is in my top 10. I have never before read anything as intriguing; I was hooked on the first page. This most definitely earns a 5/5 in my opinion.

Editor's note: Who doesn't love a book with a circus in it? Here is another teen reviewer's opinion, equally positive, here is a different kind of circus book, and HERE is a whole list of books from the circus genre, including one of my favorites! I also wonder (Anarda, chime in here!) if those who have read this book might also like The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. This series is for more mature readers, however--10th grade up, definitely!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teen review: Adult novel

Reviewed by Amy Sepulveda, grade 10

While many young readers know of Eleanor and Park and Fangirl*, not many have read Rainbow Rowell’s first novel, Attachments. Because Attachments is an adult contemporary novel unlike her others, it is not as popular amongst teens.

For 323 pages, we hear the story of a man named Lincoln who reads emails for a living (he works in a tech department) and develops a love for a girl who corresponds with her friend through their company email, which gets red flagged many times. In their emails, journalist Beth and editor Jennifer talk about their personal lives and rant to each other about their relationships. They undergo life-altering experiences, sharing every detail with each other and--unknowingly--with Lincoln, though they have been warned that inappropriate email goes straight to the IT guy. They just don’t think about what they send before they do. Lincoln tries not to pay attention to the two to respect their privacy, but he cannot help it. They’re just too interesting, and it's the only good part about his extremely boring job where he has absolutely nothing else to do.

I thought this was an interesting addition to the image I have created for Rowell in my mind. I, without a doubt, fell in love with her other novels within the first chapter, and am just getting used to expanding my genres past young adult fiction, so this was a quick and intriguing read. I felt as if I personally knew the characters, because my own friends and I can easily relate to Beth and Jennifer, despite the age difference. I would rate this a 4/5 for its alluring story and title.

*Editor's note: BPL apparently doesn't own Attachments, although I will take steps to remedy this, because I liked it too! If you have NOT read E&P and Fangirl, you're missing some good reading--check them out! We also have her newest adult novel, Landline, of which I was not quite as fond, but still a good read.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tattoos and Divergent!

FRIDAY, August 15, we are having a
at the library! (Buena Vista branch, in the auditorium.)

At 3:00, there will be FACTION TATTOOS (done in henna).

At 6:00, we will show the movie DIVERGENT.

In between, there will be PIZZA.

If you want a tattoo, you MUST bring a filled-out and signed PERMISSION SLIP from a parent or guardian. You can find the permission slip on the event flyer, or you can download one herePLEASE NOTE: No permission slip, NO tattoo!!! No exceptions.

ALSO, while you are there, please note that this is a "FOOD-RAISER" (Feed the Factionless!) for BTAC (the Burbank Temporary Aid Center), so we would like to request that you bring one food or toiletry item from the list on the flyer to donate to BTAC at our screening!

And PARENTS, we haven't forgotten YOU--for all of you who are mad that you can't come to this exclusive, teens-only (6th thru 12th grade) event, there is an ENCORE SCREENING the next day, Saturday (also at BV in the auditorium), at 2:00, when you can see the film and also donate an item to BTAC. (No tattoos, sorry, those are for just us kids!)


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Teen review: Languages

Reviewed by Amy Sepulveda, grade 10

Love and Other Foreign Words, by Erin McCahan, is a 331-page young adult fiction novel for an 8th- to 10th-grade reading level.

Told from the point of view of Josie, Love and Other Foreign Words explores the many different languages spoken in both home and school environments. For example, she and her sisters may speak one language, while she and her sports teams may speak another. Many different languages are spoken as she goes back and forth every day from her college campus, where Josie is allowed to take a few courses with her friend, Stu, to her high school environment where she must finish her school day in other classes. The only language she just can never seem to learn and does not seem to become fluent in is love. A teenager like herself cannot possibly grasp the concept when her older sister brings home her new fiancé to meet Josie and their parents. Overcome with hatred for her sister’s fiancé Geoff, she then gets into fights with her sister Kate, and many more complications arise in young Josie’s bilingual life.

I believe this humorous novel was thoughtful, and insightful. It led me to ponder about the many languages I, as a reader, speak and understand. Many authors have different ways of describing particular events and use details in distinct ways that others would never have thought of doing in the same way. One only really becomes fluent in a certain author’s language once they’ve read their books multiple times, and understand what they mean by each sentence and word. Many people think of languages as just words certain ethnicities use, but there are so many more languages in this wonderful world that they cannot be counted, and one cannot possibly learn all of them, no matter how hard they try. I really do hope McCahan publishes something else as savvy as Love and Other Foreign Words in the near future, because she has an intelligent brain and an interesting way of wording things. I rate this a 5/5 for its quick-wittedness and the sharp thinking it induces.

Editor's note: The Burbank Public Library only owns this title as an e-book.