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Book: The Tortilla Curtain
By T. Coraghessan Boyle

Reviewed by Michelle Wong, 17, San Gabriel HS

The Tortilla Curtain seemed like the perfect summer read, since anything involving food in the title interests me. However, I soon realized that this book about illegal immigration, racism and the battle for survival was much more serious than I had expected. Even though it was on the serious side, I liked the book since it showed me the problems of illegal immigrants in Los Angeles.

Set in Los Angeles, the book gives the reader two points of view—one of a prosperous white man, Delaney, and one of a poor illegal Mexican, Cándido. Their very different lives intersect when Delaney hits Cándido while driving his new sports car. Cándido is badly hurt and Delaney’s new car is damaged. But they both ignore the accident, since Cándido is too afraid that if he reports it he will be deported to Mexico and Delaney worries about being sued and his insurance rates.

Delaney goes back to the comfort of his large house in an exclusive private community. His wife doesn’t realize Delaney’s distress over hitting a man, since she is so consumed with her real estate business. Meanwhile, Cándido crawls back to the forest he is living in with his pregnant wife. When she sees Cándido so battered, she immediately tends to his injuries. She takes further initiative by working to get their food; however Cándido opposes because he feels like he should be the man of the household and provide for his wife.

The point of view alternates every chapter to reveal what both characters are doing at the time of a single event and how they react. Both characters face problems, but Delaney’s problems consist of desires, while Cándido’s problems consist of needs. Delaney wants to be surrounded by nature; but when his community votes to erect a wall for security reasons, the lush green forest around Delaney’s house disappears and is replaced by grey stone. Cándido tries to make enough money to provide a roof over his pregnant wife’s head and food to fill them both.

Delaney and Cándido clash again when the issue of illegal immigration rises. Delaney and his wife oppose the Mexicans who they assume litter trash around their neighborhood and try to send Cándido and his wife back to Mexico by calling the authorities; however, Cándido puts up a fight for his independence and freedom. Unfortunately, this leads to a sad ending for both sides.

I thought this book by T. Coraghessan Boyle was very powerful and shows readers the reality of two very different people. It shows how people who are living so comfortably don’t see what their actions can do to less fortunate people.

I read this book in three days, since the descriptive paragraphs filled with images really paint the scenes. The point of view of the illegal Mexican made me realize how lucky I am to live comfortably and safely without wondering when I will get work or food. I never knew what lengths people had to go to just to live the life I’m given. I’ve heard of it in third world countries, but this story took place in West Los Angeles. Even though this book is fiction, I couldn’t help wonder how many real-life situations are similar to this.

Book: The Host
By Stephenie Meyer

Reviewed by Destiny Jackson, 15, Mayfair HS (Lakewood)

They’re back … aliens that is! And they are taking over the human race! What are we all to do?

Stephenie Meyer’s latest book The Host (unrelated to her popular Twilight series) is about alien body snatchers. The story focuses on a body snatcher called Wanderer, a tough character until she takes on the body of a human named Melanie Stryder, a strong Arizona girl.

When the body snatchers take over human bodies, the humans’ personalities lay dormant in the body or simply vanish. But Melanie made a promise to her brother that she would come and find him if they got separated during the alien attack. So when Wanderer takes over Melanie’s body, she still lives inside. Everyone knows that Wanderer has taken over Melanie’s body because body snatchers leave a huge scar when they take over a human. But they don’t know that Wanderer and Melanie co-exist.

I couldn’t put the book down because I hoped it would be as good as the Twilight series. It was enjoyable, but it didn’t really catch my interest until the middle of the book, chapter 24 to be exact because I finally understood more about Wanderer once she was captured by the humans. I learned about her past and how she thought (instead of just knowing her as an alien). In Meyer’s other books, I saw the characters’ backgrounds and got to know them better. I couldn’t wait to see what happened to them next since I cared so much about them. But in The Host I didn’t get a chance to care about most of the characters.

The Host explores human emotion through a complicated love story. Melanie is in love with her former love Jared. Since Wanderer and Melanie share the same body, they share the same feelings (most of the time). So Wanderer thinks she loves Jared because Melanie does. Complicated yet? But Jared hates Wanderer for taking over Melanie. He’s cruel to Wanderer because he doesn’t know Melanie lives inside of her.

The longer Wanderer is held captive the longer she is exposed to human emotion, turning her into a kind-hearted person. Just when I thought things couldn’t get more complicated, one of the captors falls in love with Wanderer. I liked the focus on emotions; still I wish Meyer had stretched the story out a bit by adding more action and adventure.

This book is a complex love triangle involving two people in one body—Wanderer and Melanie—and Jared, which is probably why I didn’t like it so much (I’m not really a sci-fi person … sorry, Star Trek fans).  

Still I’d recommend this book to people who like complicated (and I mean very complicated) love stories, science fiction and are in touch with their emotions. Guys too, at least you might like the sci-fi parts!