Review Crew Book Reviews by Genre: Literature

Things Fall Apart
Achebe, Chinua
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Things Fall Apart is about a Nigerian man, Okonkwo, who watches as his village is destroyed by European missionaries. Once a feared and respected man in his village of Umuofia, Okonkwo is reduced to eventually taking the orders of white men. Okonkwo is a hard and emotionless man who believes that anything that is not masculine is weak and therefore unworthy. When missionaries come to Umuofia, Okonkwo urges his fellow villagers to resist the attempts to diminish their culture and replace their government, but he's met with little support. Eventually, Okonkwo is banned, and when he returns, his village has completely changed.

I liked Things Fall Apart because it's a great book that challenged the idea of African savagery and portrays African culture, specifically Nigerian culture, as complex and intricate, and not the 'uncivilized' society many people view Africans as today. Okonkwo is an interesting character because his unwillingness to adapt to the new change represents an internal struggle many pre-colonized Africans faced in the wake of colonization. The ending is symbolic because it represents the ultimate death of culture as a result of European exploration.

Overall, the novel provides a beautiful insight into another culture often ignored in mainstream media.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
No Longer at Ease
Achebe, Chinua
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

No Longer at Ease is the second installment in the African trilogy series. It is preceded by Things Fall Apart and follows the life of Obi, Okonkwo's grandson. Obi leaves his village in Nigeria to pursue an education in Britain where he meets Clara and falls in love with her. He returns to Nigeria and gets a job in civil service with the help of the board of elders. Obi is conflicted between his African culture and Western lifestyle, and heavy in debt, he takes a bribe.

Just like his grandfather, Obi is strong-minded and stubborn. He intends on marrying Clara although she is an osu, and begins taking bribes when he cannot pay his debts. He questions Nigerian traditions, and often compares Africa to Britain, ultimately positioning him in a place where he finds it nearly impossible to balance both cultures. However stubborn and sometimes reckless Obi is, he's a symbol of generational growth: unlike his grandfather and father, Obi ultimately understood that one culture was not better than the other, and change was imminent. Okonkwo, Nwoye, and Obi symbolize the different industrial stages of Nigeria and the social turmoil that followed, and they show the theme of western versus eastern culture clashes.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Cover of The Bluest Eye
Morrison, Toni
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Bluest Eye is about a young African-American girl named Pecola living in 1940's Ohio. Pecola lives with her brother and abusive parents who constantly tell her she is ugly because of her dark skin and kinky hair. On top of that, the children at her school bully her for the fact that her father is an alcoholic. All her life, Pecola has wanted blue eyes to feel pretty. Her only friends, Freida and Claudia try to defend her against the colorism in their community, but Pecola is unable to embrace her features and becomes obsessive over her desire for blue eyes.

One of the reasons I read this book is because of Morrison's writing style and her thematic elements. The book is very intellectually stimulating and gave me better insight into colorism and how it is still largely prevalent today in the African-American community. I really liked how Morrison used a young girl as a main character to show how these feelings of low-esteem and poor body image are started at a young age, and how the people around us influence our thoughts and feelings.

There are a lot of complex characters and you get to hear each of their stories about why they're the way they are. Claudia is my favorite character because she represents women and girls who challenge our ideas of beauty. The ending was sad, but it really brought light to how damaging our obsession with beauty is.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
The Call of the Wild
London, Jack
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I was required to read The Call of the Wild for my Literature class. The story is about a lovable St. Bernard dog named Buck. At the start of the story, Buck lives in the cushy and comfy house of Judge Miller, but eventually winds up in the wild North of the Yukon. Serving as a sled dog, Buck passes through many owners, good and bad, and learns to answer the Call of the Wild. Overall, it was a pretty good book, but I would only give it Three Star review for these reasons:
1: As it is a classic, the book was written with an older style of English, which can be a little hard to understand. Older English can also take away some of the gravity in pressing situations.
2: There wasn’t quite as much action as I would have liked.
3: I enjoyed the book, but some of the action scenes may have been ruined by the Older English, although the Older English gives the reader a taste of how people communicated in the past. However, the characters, plot, and setting were developed well, so overall, Call of the Wild is a classic, and a quality work of literature, which still can be enjoyed today.

Reviewer's Name: Zach
Book Cover
O'Brien, Tim
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Things They Carried is a memoir by Tim O'Brien about his experiences as an American soldier fighting in the Vietnam War. O'Brien was chosen to be drafted in 1968. This incident was extremely stressful for O'Brien who had taken a stand against the war, yet didn't want to disappoint his community. He pondered running away to Canada, but eventually decided to fight. The Things They Carried is a series of stories that are so well written. The work is a bit hard to understand just because O'Brien wrote it in a way that is not completely nonfiction. In the book, he explains this concept more in depth. Overall, I thought this book was a very well written, interesting, and educational story regarding the horrors of war from O'Brien's perspective in Vietnam.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth P.
The Catcher in the Rye
Salinger, J. D.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The Catcher In The Rye is about the life of Holden Caulfield and his views on the world as well as life. Holden drops out of a prep school in Pennsylvania to explore New York City. This book captures living in the 1950's and 1960's brilliantly, as well, as the spirit of rebellion that Holden has. I did not like this book because Holden complains way too much and has negative views on the world around him. He also has a bad habit of using profane language in every sentence. The message of the book however is meaningful as it discuses how kids should enjoy being themselves and to stop worrying about growing up and becoming an adult so fast.

Reviewer's Name: Ananth
 The Catcher in the Rye
Salinger, J.D.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This book is about a boy named Holden's life. Holden has decided to run away from school after he was suspended. He had to figure out life because he didn’t want his parents knowing. I didn’t like this book because I found it wasn’t very interesting. The reason being is it’s not very adventurous and keeps repeating negativity throughout the book.
(Reviewer Grade. 9)

Reviewer's Name: Theanna
Things Fall Apart
Achebe, Chinua
2 stars = Meh
Review:

“Things Fall Apart” follows Okonkwo as he becomes a very successful man with many yams, several wives, and political power in Umuofia. The whole first part of the book focuses on his characterizing Okonkwo and showing what tribal culture was like. The author uses subtle references to Europeans to set up the main conflict of the book, European culture. Before the Europeans reach Umofia, Okonkwo accidentally kills a clansmen and is exiled. For the period of his exile, Okonkwo watches from the outside as his own village is changed radically by Christian missionaries.
Overall, I think this book is worth a read for the powerful theme, it wasn’t something I would want to read again because so much of the book was just about life in Umuofia, which was a bit mundane. Onkonkwo was also a pretty static character, there was no character development either. He just wanted to be the opposite of his father, was very strict, harsh, and closeminded. I did like the metaphors and proverbs in the book. I remember a metaphor that stood out in particular was, “Living Fire begets cold,
impotent ash.” I also enjoyed the later portion of the book where the Europeans missionaries arrive and the Onkonkwo provides a different perspective on the situation, and the theme is more clearly defined and developed.

Reviewer's Name: McKenzie
The Trial
Kafka, Franz
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Trial is a brilliant novel. Throughout the story the reader follows K., the protagonist, who tries to figure out what he was arrested and charged for. On his journey, K. meets several different types of people all which contribute to the book's questioning of bureaucracy and totalitarianism. Its finale left me a bewildered state, probing at the depths of existence and reality. Whether or not this feeling was a good one, I cannot tell, however Kafka's ability to use the mysteries of existentialism and expand upon them is truly amazing. I highly recommend this novel.

Reviewer's Name: Steven
Awards:
1984
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

1984 introduces Winston Smith as the primary character. Smith is a middle-aged man that lives within a dystopian society in April of 1984. Being nearly 4 decades after World War II and just a couple of years after the apparent Atomic Wars, Smith lives through the totalitarian state of Oceania, where is activity is consistently surveyed. At this point, Smith attempts to relocate himself from this totalitarian state in order to put him back to normal behavior.

1984 is another novel involving a dystopia, however, it stands out for its strong character development. The premise of the story is heavily shown through the setting, as it demonstrates a controlled and tyrannical lifestyle.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Nam T
Awards:
1984
Orwell, George
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

George Orwell depicts a horrific and terrifying alternate reality of 1984.
After years of war and conflict, the world is governed by three totalitarian regimes. The one that our main character, Winston Smith, resides under is ruled by the “party” and its leader “Big Brother”. The narrative follows Winston as he meets a mysterious woman named Julia, and the two begin to secretly rebel.
When I first started reading this book, I was a little bit disappointed. I had such high expectations (I think that was the problem) ,and it just didn’t live up to them. In the beginning, I thought Winston’s character was somewhat flat, and I didn’t feel a lot of sympathy for what he was living through. I thought Julia was unrealistic and a bit obnoxious. But in the second half of the book, my opinions had changed. The book becomes quite disturbing, and it makes you question what is actually real and what is just a fabrication of the party. It’s terrifying to say the least. Despite the fact that I enjoyed parts of this book, I have to rate it 3 stars because I wasn’t engaged in the first half of the narrative.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L
Awards:
The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Great Gatsby is truly a masterpiece. The Great Gatsby tells the story of Nick and his mysterious neighbor Gatsby. Gatsby is very wealthy and throws grand parties, yet has a mysterious and possibly immoral past.
Fitzgerald is a master of imagery, character development, and mystery. Set during the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby is a fascinating commentary on life in America. I understand why The Great Gatsby is a classic and many students are required to read it. The Great Gatsby is a wonderful book that any reader from high school to adults can enjoy and learn something from.

Reviewer's Name: John B
Awards:
The Odyssey
Homer
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

The Odyssey is an epic poem written by Homer, and it is a literary classic about two great quests. Ten years after the fall of Troy, Odysseus still hasn't returned home to Ithaca, and his house is plagued with suitors wanting to marry his wife, Penelope. His son, Telemachus, feels overwhelmed but is sure that Odysseus isn't dead. With the help of the goddess Athena, he sets off to search for his father as the reader learns more about Odysseus's previous journey and resulting enslavement. Telemachus encounters many obstacles which shape him and build his confidence by the end of the story.
Although this book is a classic and was probably very popular in ancient Greece, it is not an enjoyable book to read. There is too much unnecessary dialogue, and the plot is excessively long. Due to the old language and lengthy descriptions, reading The Odyssey is a very strenuous task.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa H
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is a story that beautifully represents society in a way few novels can. Set in Maycomb, Alabama in the early 1930's, it is told from the perspective of a 6-year-old girl, Scout, as she grows, plays, and gets into trouble with her older brother, Jem, and comedic friend, Dill. Scout's wise father, Atticus, must defend an innocent black man accused of rape; along the way Scout meets people and learns things that impact her life. Meanwhile, Scout, Jem, and Dill, are determined to learn more about their mysterious neighbor and the violent rumors that surround him--sometimes getting themselves into humorous situations--and learn something surprising. The book is spectacularly and wisely written, with characters readers will connect with, and themes that are important in all readers' lives: courage, empathy, and the power of standing up for what you believe in. Scout's sense of humor and insightful observations will make readers think and keep turning the pages for more.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa H
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A classic piece of literature, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is a wonderful depiction of life along the Mississippi river and times past. Huckleberry Finn is a wild, adventurous, and self-sufficient young man who finds his way along the river with an escaped slave. Stealing, superstitions, and deception all describe the journey Huck Finn and Jim take together. They encounter rivaling families, con artists, and Tom Sawyer in their attempt to get north. Mark Twain paints a vivid picture of life in the South with slavery in a way that shows that not everyone believed the same thing. A truly fun and interesting story, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a book that will interest even the most disinterested reader.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K
August
Paula, Romina
2 stars = Meh
Review:

A young woman dealing with grief pours out her emotions in a long emotional letter to her friend who commit suicide. I didn't quite like this book due to the long bland feel of the story. We hear her stories through her thoughts, where she rambles on about rather uninteresting things, like mice, a cat, etc. This emotional woman tends to ramble on and on about the slightest details which can make some parts feel long and drawn out. Overall, I didn't like the depressive, bland and boring mood of the story. Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

To Kill a Mockingbird is truly a masterpiece of American literature.
Along the lines of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Harper Lee presents us with a coming of age story set in 1930s Alabama. Scout and Jem Finch explore their hometown, get into trouble, wonder about the mystery of Boo Radley, and are faced with a great challenge when their father must prove a man to be innocent. Atticus Finch, Scout and Jem's father, is a wholehearted, unprejudiced role model who always stands up for what is right and who anyone can learn a lesson from. Overall, I understand why many schools require their students to read this book as it is wonderful literature for all generations.

Reviewer's Name: John B
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

You are slowly floating down river on a warm summer night. You have no worries as you gaze at the endless stars above you. You had a simple day; catching fish to eat and lazily laying in the sun as you float wherever the river takes you. This is the life of Huckleberry Finn.
I gave this book three out of five stars because it was good however it wasn't good enough for me to consider it one of my favorite books. I appreciated the multiple conflicts, the complexity of having several conflicts at once made the book interesting. The characters were all well developed even side characters had underlying intents, and backgrounds.
Additionally, the relationships between the characters was engaging, I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Huck and Jim. Finally, I really enjoyed the internal conflict of Huck as he traveled with a slave. Huck's moral conflict from a society being raised in a society that supports slavery was striking as a 21st century teenager. Despite the positive elements of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" it is only pretty good because I couldn't relate to the characters and the book lacked an emotional connection that would make it one of my favorite books. Regardless, you should read this book for to develop an understanding of the culture of the past.

Reviewer's Name: McKenzie W
Book Review: Of Mice and Men
Steinbeck, John
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

The short novel Of Mice and Men by well-regraded author John Steinbeck is heralded as a classic for a reason. The book tells the story of George and Lennie, two migrant workers trying to make a living farming in California during the 1930s Great Depression. George and Lennie are not related; they are friends who travel together to find work. Throughout the novel, they encounter new relationships and people on a new ranch. There is no denying that Steinbeck was an incredibly strong author, capable of painting a rich portrait of life in such a harrowing time of hardships; however, the sad and frankly unnecessary ending of this novel took away from my liking of it, in addition to the frank descriptions of mistreatment of people and animals, combined with the elongated plot contributed to the fact that this wasn’t a book I enjoyed. Readers need to be aware that this is a very difficult book to read, combined with mistreatment of a character with mental illness, women, and animals. Some may enjoy this novel because of the vivid descriptions and powerful characters, however, in my opinion, this book was horribly sad and not something I would not read again.

Reviewer's Name: Allie S
Awards:
The Last Wolf
Krasznahorkai, László
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This bundle of stories is an interesting read. It contains three stories about a writer facing an identity crisis, a hunter gone mad, and a final story about the impact of the hunter’s actions. The way this story is written can be often confusing and difficult to understand for casual readers. I personally didn't like this book, due to the bland, depressing, atmosphere of the setting, and the complexity of the sentences. Often times, it is difficult to tell when the narrator is talking or when he is thinking.
Regardless, I still believe it is a fine read for readers with an advanced vocabulary. Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
Awards:

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