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‘A vampire novel for people who don’t like vampire novels’

Author: Stephenie Meyer

By Chelsea McNay, 14, Los Angeles Center or Enriched Studies

In the opening of the novel Twilight, Bella Swan is a normal teenager who moves from living with her mother in Phoenix, Ariz., to living with her father in Forks, Wash. She settles in comfortably with a group of friends, and learns to cope with the constant Washington rain. However, her life changes forever when she meets and falls in love with Edward Cullen. Especially when she finds out he is a vampire.

When a friend first recommended this book, I imagined it would be a sappy love story, filled with flighty crushes and break-ups. However, my predictions were wrong. This heart-wrenching yet humorous story was almost impossible to put down.

All the characters are extremely believable and relatable. The characters are far from “perfect.” They have typical teen arguments, such as whether Romeo and Juliet is a good movie. They also act irrationally throughout the novel, and their arguments are blown out of proportion, such as when Bella and Edward stop talking for days simply because of an argument about her car.

Twilight made me think about love. Bella and Edward love each other even when she realizes that he thirsts for her blood, and that he puts her in great danger just by being close to her. It showed me that love that powerful might actually exist. Near the end of the novel, Edward and his family are determined to protect Bella as another vampire hunts them, which means escaping with her to another city. When the vampire finds Bella alone, she offers her life in exchange for Edward’s and his family’s safety. They care so deeply for one another that no circumstance could split them apart and they would sacrifice their lives for each other’s.

Stephenie Meyer stated that with Twilight, she wanted to write a “vampire novel for people who don’t like vampire novels,” and she carried that out until the very last page. Twilight is not a stereotypical story with vampires portrayed as scary bloodsuckers. It is much more complex, leaving you to wonder which characters play the part of the “hero” and the “villain.”
I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a good story: one that will make them cry, laugh and everything in between. Twilight is truly a book with bite.

A mostly authentic look at historical Japanese culture

Author: Arthur Golden

By Tanya Vazquez, 17, Downtown Magnets HS

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is really different from our daily lives. As Americans, we don’t see tea ceremonies or kimono-wearing dancers. Memoirs of a Geisha gives Westerners insight into a geisha’s world.

The way Golden pays a lot of attention to details and art made me feel like I was the geisha. I liked how he went into great detail to describe how Kyoto looked during that time (from the 1930s until Japan went to war with America) and what the kimonos looked like. Golden can sometimes take up to two pages to describe how the characters put on a kimono.

Before reading this book, I thought geishas were nothing more than prostitutes. I found out that geishas aren’t only pretty faces; geishas create a secret world, a place of beauty. Geishas were entertainers for men in Japan trained in the art of dance, tea ceremony and music until World War II, when the culture was destroyed.

The novel centers around Chiyo (later named Sayuri when she’s initiated as a maiko, an apprentice geisha), a young girl who, along with her sister, is taken from her poor village to Kyoto. Chiyo struggles to become a geisha. She keeps getting in trouble with the head geisha Hatsumomo because Hatsumomo is jealous of her. For example, she gets blamed for a kimono Hatsumomo ruined that belonged to her rival Mameha.

What I found interesting is her determination to become a geisha. Sayuri wants to be a geisha to find her sister so they could run away together, and to attract the Chairman, a wealthy businessman she has fallen in love with. It was exciting to see Sayuri improve and strive for her goals. She isn’t going to let anyone get her down.

I finished reading this book in a few days. Golden’s writing style makes it easy to dive into the culture and makes you want to know more. Occasionally, I had to look up some of the cities because I didn’t know where they were or how to pronounce their names, and there were some words in Japanese that I had to translate to find out what they meant, but I didn’t mind.
Some parts are too exaggerated, like the bidding war for Sayuri’s mizuage, which is a geisha’s virginity. That didn’t happen to every geisha; it depended on how they were treated by their geisha house. Still, the storytelling and Golden’s imagination made me read faster to find out what happens to Sayuri.

Since I have an interest in Japan, reading this book meant a lot to me because it was one way I could immerse myself in Japanese culture. Geishas lived in an exotic world and it was fun to transport myself there. Even if you aren’t interested in Japan, it’s still a great book to read if you want to learn about a different culture.