Reviewed by Amy Fan
17, Temple City HS
I started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson after seeing it advertised around Borders. It was so fast-paced that I read the 600-plus page book in two days. The story is about a journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, and a computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander, who are trying to solve a murder in Sweden. However, as thrilling as the story was and as much as I was surprised by the twist ending, I felt like the book could have been written better.
The book is a thriller about a man haunted by the disappearance of his daughter. He hires Blomkvist to figure out the mystery. Blomkvist then asks Salander for assistance. Salander has dragon tattoos, but the significance of them is not explained. Despite how exciting it was to find out what happened, it wasn’t realistic. Some of the later chapters were so unbelievable that I questioned how they’d even be possible. When one character was about to be hurt by the villain, another character arrived just in time to save him even though she had no idea where he was.
Also, there were too many scenes in which the main characters talked and drank coffee and did things that didn’t contribute to the plot. The ending also went on for another 50 pages after it should have ended, just like the Lord of the Rings ending that also drove me crazy.
And although most of the characters were realistic, Blomkvist didn’t have much personality and I couldn’t picture him in my head. I also couldn’t understand why the female characters were so attracted to Blomkvist.
One thing I liked about the novel was that it was brutally honest. Many of the scenes were explicitly violent, but it sent the right message to the readers that violence against women was unforgivable. In Sweden, the title of the book is Men Who Hate Women. Before he died, Larsson was a big supporter of women’s rights so I like how he created a strong female lead who’s both tough and intelligent. I just wish she was more realistic. The author doesn’t explain how she can hack into computers so easily and he makes everything too easy for her.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a thrilling read, but not without flaws. I’ll check out the rest of the trilogy eventually, but the first book hasn’t made me excited to start the next book, The Girl Who Played with Fire.
Reviewed by Daniel Choi
16, Cerritos HS
My favorite historical event to study is World War II. Movies like Saving Private Ryan show how intense the fighting used to be. A few years ago while doing a school project, I came upon the book Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest by Stephen E. Ambrose. This is the best book I’ve ever read about World War II because it showed how hard it was for the Americans to win in Europe. The writing was so detailed that I could picture the scenes.
My favorite part of the book is when Ambrose describes the harsh winter. There weren’t any heated tents or warms beds, so to stay warm the men had to stay in their foxholes (holes the soldiers dug to take cover from enemy fire), which weren’t warm at all. The food from U.S. military headquarters always arrived cold. The soldiers’ snow-drenched socks froze from the cold wind hitting them. These were the worst conditions they could have imagined. My eyes were glued to this book.
Ambrose learned all this information from interviews with soldiers of E Company who survived the war. These were the soldiers who parachuted out of planes and into battle. One of the main subjects is Private Winters, who rises to the rank of captain through the book.
Ambrose also included pictures of combat, group pictures of the regiment and squad, and even a sketch a soldier drew of the view from jumping out of a plane in the middle of a war. To me the most moving picture shows Private Winters in front of the entrance to a village they captured. Toward the end of the photo gallery, there’s a picture showing Private Winters 10 years later standing in front of the same entrance. His hair was gray, he wore glasses and he had more wrinkles. It looked like he had aged 20 years, not just 10. I think Winters wanted to go back and see how much it had changed in those 10 years.
In the book, the soldiers first thought it was a pointless war and they all wanted to go home. But after freeing Jews from a concentration camp, they realized why they were in Germany and what they were fighting for. Before reading the book I knew the basics about World War II, but I didn’t know anything about what life was like for the soldiers in the war. After reading this book I learned about all the challenges they had just trying to survive every day and how they overcame them.
This book isn’t just for people who are World War II fanatics, but anyone looking for a good historic book with an interesting plot and great details.