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BOOK: Breaking Dawn
By Stephenie Meyer

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

I began counting down the days until the release of Breaking Dawn, the last novel of the popular Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer, four months early. I couldn’t wait to know what it would reveal. Would vampire Edward Cullen marry Bella Swan? Would werewolf Jacob Black ever take no for an answer? Would Edward change Bella into a vampire? And if so, would Jacob and the wolf pack kill the Cullens for breaking the pact about biting a human?

It took me a day to read the gripping 754-page book. I was freaking out because it was so intense.

The book is separated into three sections. Book One and Book Three are from the perspective of Bella (our leading lady). Book Two is told from Jacob’s perspective.

In the preface to Book One Bella must decide whether to choose death and live as an immortal vampire with Edward, or stay human. Book One starts with Bella and Edward’s wedding, which means Bella has chosen the vampire life. However, Jacob comes as a surprise guest. He confronts Bella and, naturally, asks her to change her mind and be with him.

Bella decides to ignore Jacob and not ruin her wedding. Explaining why she was waiting to turn into vampire, she says, “I just didn’t want to spend my honeymoon writhing in pain.” Jacob responds, “You’d rather spend it how? Playing checkers?” It’s one of my favorite quotes because it shows Jacob’s annoying yet playful side.

Breaking Dawn is a more mature novel than the previous three, which surprised me. It tackles the theme of sex (on their honeymoon the couple attempt to have sex). Bella changes into a more confident adult throughout the book so I thought the more mature novel was fitting, even though at times it felt like a Bella I didn’t know. I thought it was good that Bella had changed. She was getting annoying after three books of whining that she wasn’t good enough for Edward. In Breaking Dawn, she stops doubting that she’s good enough for the Cullen family.

I like to call Book Two “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Wolf.” I really enjoyed hearing what Jacob is thinking. Meyer made him childlike, yet a loner. He hears that Bella is sick, but he thinks the Cullens are just saying that so Bella has an excuse to not see her parents or friends when she turns into a vampire (when you first turn into a vampire, you get cravings for human blood). Jacob is impulsive so he tries to get his werewolf clan to attack the Cullens. The battle between werewolves and vampires begins.

I can’t give away anything else because Book Three is so mind blowing. The Italian vampires, The Volturi, are back and coming after the Cullens and Bella. The Cullens recruit other vampires to help them go against the leaders of The Volturi. But will they agree to fight against a powerful force knowing death is a possibility?

I thought the ending was great, even though it was clichéd. I was so happy that after three novels of crazy anticipation, Bella became a vampire so I rooted for the characters (even annoying Jacob). To those who criticized Breaking Dawn because of the ending or the characters changing: don’t take it seriously. It’s just a book. Or pick up the book and read it again! Right now!

BOOK: A Child Called “It”
By Dave Pelzer

Reviewed by Brandy Hernandez, 17, Hawthorne Academy

A Child Called “It” is about a boy who was beaten and starved by his alcoholic mother. The book is an autobiography by Dave Pelzer, who grew up in the 1960s in a middle-class home in San Francisco. The story is so sad but it makes you want to keep reading to find out what happens next. It inspired me because he was strong and didn’t give up.

David slept on an old army cot in the basement. He wore the same clothes over and over and wasn’t allowed to shower. His mom gave him scraps of old nasty food from the fridge or didn’t feed him at all. But he found other ways to eat. He’d go to the cafeteria at school and eat frozen chicken and steal other kids’ food.

The book is about his courage to survive. One time his mother held his arm over a hot stove. He found antibiotic ointment and put it on and it healed. This showed that he wasn’t going to give up. Still, throughout the book I kept wondering, how can he keep letting his mother abuse him? How does he go on every day?

One of the saddest parts was when David’s mother forced him to eat his younger brother’s feces. He said, “Mom I’m hungry. How come you never feed me?” “I never feed you?” She took him to the bathroom, shoved his head in the toilet and made him eat the feces. He threw up. She said, “Are you hungry now?” Reading this, I was disgusted. What kind of person do you have to be to do such a horrible, scarring thing to a little boy, especially your own son?

At first no one knew about his tragic life but adults at school begin to figure it out. One teacher called Children’s Services but David lied and said his mom wasn’t abusing him. Another time he told the cops, “I love her. You can’t take me away from her.” I think he was afraid of what would happen if he got taken away because his mom would threaten him, saying, “They’re going to take you away and it’s going to be much worse.”

When I was done reading, I couldn’t wait to go to school the next day and get the second book in the trilogy about his life. I would recommend this book to everybody because even though it’s sad and hard to read, once you start it, you won’t put it down.

BOOK: Water for Elephants
By Sara Gruen
Reviewed By Eric Chang, 17, Walnut HS
Caged animals, freaks of nature and a convoy of boxcars seem foreign and otherworldly, as I had seen them only on the television. Sara Gruen brings the traveling circus to life in her novel Water for Elephants.
The book is set during the Great Depression. The main character, Jacob Jankowski, is a student veterinarian who stumbles upon the Benzini Brother’s Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Jacob begins working on the convoy shoveling horse manure. But once his background is discovered he quickly moves up the ranks to the position of circus vet. Jankowski learns about life on a traveling circus. Performers, workers and rubes (circus visitors) are separated into strict unwritten hierarchies. For example, the performers and workers eat in different areas and sleep in different cars on the train.
As he begins to adjust to his new life, Jacob falls in love with two things: an uncannily intelligent elephant called Rosie, and Marlena, the beautiful star of the circus. However, August stands between both of these things and Jacob. August is both the head animal trainer and Marlena’s husband. August is a two-faced character: he is charming when he entertains the crowds that attend the circus but behind the scenes, he morphs into a brutal and abusive trainer and whips Rosie the elephant around. His interactions with Marlena onstage give the crowd a false sense of glamour, but when the curtains close, August is an abusive husband, hitting Marlena, like Rosie, into submission. Jacob’s life is made all the more difficult as he attempts to save both of his loves from August.
The story is told by Jacob at the age of "ninety or ninety-three" (he doesn’t remember), from his nursing home while reflecting on his days working at the circus. The subplot of his life in the nursing home is quirky and interesting because Gruen offers plausible and humorous reasons for why the elderly act the way they do. At one point, Jacob believes that the pills the nurses gave him are sedatives, which is why he hurls them across the room. Jacob often acts out against the nurses and is a cranky old man around the other elderly people in the home, but I cheered for him, despite his impatience and troublemaking. I felt like I knew him and understood what he had gone through, from his hard life on the circus to being trapped in a nursing home, which validated his cranky behavior.
I was fascinated, but at the same time repulsed, when reading about circus life during the Great Depression. Gruen’s style feels like light reading, all the while making social commentary. Much of the intimate detail of life on the convoy is a result of her research, which I had learned from a question and answer session at the end of the book with Sara Gruen and a journalist. I was disgusted by some of the practices of not only animal cruelty but also human mistreatment. Life on a Great Depression traveling circus was not glamorous. Animals were locked in small cages and fed rotten meat. If the circus did not make enough money, workers were not paid and they were literally tossed out of the moving train at night. To some extent, both humans and animals were treated almost the same: put together in pens and boxcars that were too small. Both man and beast lived in bug infested cramped quarters that were rarely cleaned out.
I would definitely recommend Water for Elephants to anyone who wants to learn about a different era along with a good plot. As repulsive as some parts of the book were, it was captivating. I continued to read to find out what would happen with Jacob in the nursing home, with Rosie, and of course the complex love triangle involving Jacob, Marlena and August.