Book reviews (November – December 2012)
Reviewed by Zahava Jaffe
13, Sinai Akiba Academy
Out of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper, is a moving story about an 11-year-old girl named Melody Brooks who has cerebral palsy. She is unable to move or speak, although she is a genius with a photographic memory. The one thing in life Melody wants is to be a normal kid, so she can express herself and show everyone around her what she knows. Trouble is, she can’t eat, walk or go to the bathroom by herself. It was amazing to read a book about a kid who has a disability and to see how it would be in real life because it’s impossible to know the thoughts of someone who can’t express themselves.
The school Melody has attended for six years has a special needs program that utterly sucks. The kids are taught the same thing every year, and haven’t learned anything! Melody is the only one who understands what they’re learning. She’s excited when her school decides to include the special needs kids in regular classes for part of the day because she can challenge herself more.
Then she learns about a computerized wheelchair that can robotically “say” whatever is typed on the keyboard (her thumbs are her only working body parts). When Melody finally gets the wheelchair, she turns it on and starts to use it right away. I was so happy for her, because she was finally able to share what was bottled up in her mind. Through this new tool, her school recognizes her talents and she enters the school quiz team, shocking everyone with her phenomenal brainpower (but making some kids skeptical and jealous). Can her new classmates overlook her differences and accept her as an equal?
The story was really believable. It didn’t sound like Draper wrote it, it sounded like Melody had. She describes everything so vividly that it makes you feel as if it was happening to you. “I push the button. ‘Hi everybody. I have a new computer’. Heads turn and voices whisper. But Connor jumps up … and says loudly ‘that’s awesome, Melody!’”
I cheered for Melody and her desire to be heard. When it’s raining and Melody can’t use the computerized wheelchair, she’s unable to tell her mother something critical during a dangerous situation. I cried (something I never do) because I understood what it would be like to face extreme physical limitations, and how it hurts when no one listens to what you have to say.
This book was hard to put down. I learned that you have to see things from a person’s perspective to understand who they are. If you can, you can connect to people you never thought you could.
Reviewed by Youn-Mee Oh
16, UCLA Community School
Divergent by Veronica Roth will appeal to teenagers who like action-packed stories and who want to live in a world with enormous freedom. The book, which is the first in a series, is set in a future Chicago. Society is divided into five factions, each named for the characteristics of the people in it. The factions are: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful) and Erudite (the intelligent).
At the age of 16 every citizen has to take a test that reveals what characteristic you have the most of. Then you join the corresponding faction for the rest of your life. But during the test something unusual happens to the main character, Beatrice Prior. Her test results say she has qualities of three factions: Erudite, Abnegation (her family’s faction) and Dauntless, instead of just one. She later learns that this rare phenomenon means she’s a Divergent. Beatrice’s instructor tells her to keep it a secret or she might be in great danger. On her Choosing Day, she leaves her family faction and selects Dauntless, which she always admired because of their bravery and freedom. Unlike those in Abnegation, the people in Dauntless can get tattoos and go wherever they want.
Most of the rest of the book is about what happens after Beatrice, who renames herself Tris, makes her choice. She has to pass a cruel and dangerous initiation test to join Dauntless. During the test Tris meets her love, a guy named Four, who is also a Divergent, and he helps her pass the test. But just when she passes the test and thinks things will be normal in her life in Dauntless, she learns that her life is in danger and that one faction is trying to wipe out another. But it’s there that the book ends. The story continues in the next book, Insurgent, which I wanted to read right away.
I recommend this book because it has so many things that teens want, like partying and lots of action. My world is full of rules and I love the idea of being able to choose how I want to live and who I belong with.