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The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Xavier News

The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Xavier News

Independent Reading Book Reviews

Looking for a book for an independent reading unit in your English class? Below are some reviews for books found in the CMC.

Mr. Sedelmeier’s Class
"A Man Called Ove" by Frederik Backman
A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman

This fictional book is about a man named Ove who is rather lonely. This book encapsulates the life of Ove, the main character, and shows us what the harsh side of being a human can look like. In whole the novel depicts the power of connection between people, even if they have differences.

The story begins introducing us to Ove, and gives us flashbacks to his childhood with his family and his current life. Ove had a hard upbringing with his mother passing away when he was very young, and his father passing away in his teenage years. The author does a fantastic job setting up the rest of the story by making this how Ove’s life began. Throughout the entirety of the book we learn why Ove acts the way he does. We as well learn how events in people’s lives affect their personalities and relationships with others. We begin to be opened up to Ove’s problems in the book when the author focuses on his adult life. In the book we see Ove be friendly and kind to his neighbors, but after his wife is injured he changes his attitude. He becomes easily upset and frustrated by little changes that neighbor Rune tries to make. The story's true colors are shown after Ove suffers another tragedy during his adult life. The author asserts emotions into the hearts of the reader, and makes you really feel for Ove. This aspect adds to the gravity of the story and its overall meaning. 

All in all this book was a very enjoyable read and has really resonated with me. Frederik Backman is a brilliant author, who finds ways to make the reader feel attached to the character and move to their fictional reality. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes emotional stories, and to anyone who needs to embrace their emotions for others more. 

- Patrick Masterson

"No Country For Old Men" by Cormac McCarthy
No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

This crime fiction novel is a well-told story of a violent cat-and-mouse journey throughout the bleak western landscape. It all begins when Llewelyn Moss, a Vietnam veteran stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong while hunting, and finds a case of two million dollars in cash. He made the decision to take it, but eventually went back to give water to the only remaining survivor. When he came back, he found that the man was killed, and he is now the target of Anton Chigurh, a hitman hired by the cartel to retrieve their money and kill Moss. Meanwhile, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell tries to navigate the violent and morally ambiguous world around him, as he watches it change before him and the decline of traditional values. 

The novel explores themes of fate, morality, and the idea of  “letting things go.” There are many twists and turns with this wild back-and-forth between Moss and Chigurh, and it is definitely worth checking out. Llewelyn Moss’ story is interesting to me. He is described as a rugged middle-aged welder, with a strong and determined demeanor. Perhaps it was fate, but I’m not sure why he would go and explore the drug deal aftermath, especially not sure why he would take the case of money, knowing that it likely has a connection to some very bad people. The idea of preserving and helping one’s own livelihood is the only logical explanation. He wants a better life for him and his wife, and that money was a perfect escape from their burdens, a fresh start. 

As the story unfolds, with more danger arising, he turns more from focusing on the financial freedom he could gain to protecting his family from the violence that will come from Chigurh. His success was limited and shortcoming as he was eventually overwhelmed and was unable to escape the chaos, ultimately paying the price for his actions and dying off-screen. There are several changes within Moss, his ambition changing from securing a better life for his family, causing him to take the money. But as danger arises, a moral confliction happens within himself, and he has to confront his own morality and actions, and view the problems he’s caused by taking the money. At the end, he accepts what is coming to him and knows escaping isn’t possible. 

McCarthy did a good job world building, being able to perfectly fit his characters in the land he created. He was able to keep the surroundings bleak while also staying involved with the story and keeping emphasis on the characters and what was going on between them. I think that it is a somewhat strange novel, but it is very well written. The development of the characters and the story building was enjoyable. I think that it was strange in a way because of all the suspense and the lack of filter on Chigurh’s stopping at nothing to get what he wants.

- Austin Gahwyler

"The Outsider" by Stephen King
The Outsider by Stephen King

“The Outsider” by Stephen King is a mystery thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat while you are reading it. King blends crime, horror and supernatural elements to this book. It will make you not want to put it down.

The book begins with a murder of a boy in the small town of Flint City, Oklahoma. Terry Maitland is the number 1 suspect off the bat. He is a little league coach that everyone in the town respects and knows well. Detective Ralph Anderson quickly finds out that there is no way that Terry could’ve done such a thing. There is evidence that comes out that Terry is innocent and that the murder looks like it could be a case of something supernatural. Holly names this “thing”, the Outsider. 

I have read a lot of Stephen King novels in my past and this one, like the others, did not disappoint. I feel like he has such a good way of creating creepy stories that are not only thrilling but actually entertaining and interesting. The characters are very well written and there were twists that I didn’t expect. I am usually pretty good at guessing plot twists, but this book really made me rethink that. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes a good thriller movie or is looking for a book that they will actually want to finish once they start. It was an easy read with language that was easy to understand. My only critique would be that some of the supernatural elements seemed to be a little crazy. It was almost too far-fetched for something that I would normally read. 

I really would recommend this book to almost anyone. It covers a lot of topics that most people can relate to all while telling a really interesting story. I feel like it is a very unique read but in the best way possible. I would give it a 9/10. It was definitely one of my favorite Stephen King novels. All in all, if you are a person who enjoys reading things that mess with your mind and challenge the way you think, I would recommend this book for you.

- Jack Wheeler

"Skyhunter" by Marie Lu
Skyhunter by Marie Lu

In September 2020, Marie Lu published a book titled "Skyhunter". It is a story that has a science fiction/fantasy fiction theme and is a good read geared towards the younger adult readers.

Mara is the only nation that is free of the Karensa Federation’s hold. The Federation is the evil overlord of the story and has control of every other territory in the book. The way they took over was through using Ghosts, mutant and monstrous creatures who will stop at nothing to get the kill. Mara has teams of strikers that go out to kill the Ghosts that the Federation sends their way every day, trying to break their lines and get control of Mara. Talin is the main character, who has lost her voice, due to an unpleasant experience with the Federation. On one of her routes, she stumbles upon a prisoner from the Federation named Red. Red is unlike any other soldier from the Federation, and slowly forms a bond with Talin. 

Although Talin distrusts Red from the beginning, they slowly form an unbreakable bond over the course of the story. They both work as one, and find strength in their past memories and traumas from the Federation. Together, and with a small group of friends, they uncover something terrible and sinister within the Federation. The plot is named “Project Atlas”, which has been designed to create even more deadly soldiers to use on Mara, soldiers, just like Red. Towards the end, the group launches a daring attempt to shut down Project Atlas and stop the Federation once and for all. While they do attain victory, it does come with a terrible price and soon the heroes will have to deal with the aftermath of their actions against the Federation.

Skyhunter is a must-read for anyone who is interested in dystopian novels, heart-pounding action, and heroic sacrifices. It has everything that a science fiction book could ever need in it. During my time reading this book, I was constantly wondering what would happen next and who was going to win between the heroes of Mara and the Karensa Federation. Some of the great things about the book is its ability to convey horrific situations in a watered down way, like the tragedies of war. Another good thing that was done was making the readers want more in the second book "Steelstriker", which is the same of how I feel as well. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a good page turner that involves corrupt governments, a strong opposing and heroic force, and lastly, and finally a very good cliffhanger onto the next book.

- Harrison Grill

"Orbiting Jupiter" by Gary D. Schmidt
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Written in 2015, I would describe it as a very smooth read because it is easy to read, and it takes no time for the story to really kick in. Some novels take many chapters to really get interesting, but "Orbiting Jupiter" was nothing like that. It says it on the cover of the book, but "Orbiting Jupiter" really is a very powerful story about second chances. In this novel, the Hurd family is looking to foster a child, and it turns out to be Joseph. Mrs. Stroud, the social worker, warns the family that Joseph tried to kill a teacher which is why he was transferred to Stone Mountain, a juvenile prison. On top of the fact he tried to kill someone, he also has a three-month-old baby at the age of 13. The Hurd family still quickly accepted Joseph and the son, Jack Hurd, just wanted to know when Joseph was going to be there. 

After going through prison and not being able to trust anyone, Joseph does not like to be touched or have anyone walk behind him. It was going to be a challenge to make Joseph feel comfortable, but the Hurd’s were up for the challenge. When he got to their house, Jack and Mr. Hurd took Joseph to the barn so he could meet Rosie, the cow. Joseph was caught off guard at first, but Rosie ended up playing a pivotal role in Joseph feeling comfortable because Rosie was so accepting of Joseph right away. School was another issue for Joseph that he had to adjust to. The first day of riding the bus to school, Mr. Haskell, the bus driver, identified Joseph as “the kid with a kid,” so Jack and Joseph walked to school in the cold from then on. The two ended up bonding on these walks and milking Rosie every chance they could. Joseph started to get closer with the whole family, and they realized he was comfortable when he told them “everything.” About the abuse he went through, having a kid with Maddie, not realizing he tried to kill a teacher, and most importantly, just wanting to see his daughter, Jupiter, again. He was held back from seeing her because of his father, Mr. Brook, but the Hurd family promised to help. Will he see his daughter again? 

One thing I would change about this novel is how quick it ends. Without spoiling anything, I think they could’ve extended how much detail they put into him trying to find his daughter. It felt like it was over in the blink of an eye. If you like a story that pulls at your heart strings, but also is uplifting, you should read "Orbiting Jupiter" and you can find out if Joseph reunites with his daughter. 

- Eli Werner

"Dune" by Frank Herbert
Dune by Frank Herbert

In 1965 author Frank Herbert published the first installment of the soon-to-be seven book series, "Dune", becoming one of the most recognizable names in the science fiction genre. Yet 59 years later we are still hearing about it with the recently released movie, "Dune Part 2". What about this book has kept us talking about it fifty-nine years later.

Dune is set in the year 10,191, society at this time has spread out and colonized planets around the universe. The book follows Paul Atreidies, a young man living on the planet of Arrakis. Arrakis is a desert planet that is used for mining melange, a type of drug used almost entirely by the wealthy. Paul’s mother Jessica is the concubine of the newly positioned governor of Arrakis, Leto Atreidies. Both Paul and his mother possess an ability called “The Voice”. Both Paul and his mother are looked upon as an almost messianic savior by a group called the Bene Gesserit, who believe they will turn Arrakis into a lush paradise. 

In just the first few chapters of "Dune" we are thrust into an entirely foreign universe, given a brief glimpse into the political and religious landscape of the world. This is part of what makes "Dune" so special, Frank Herbert uses world building to introduce us to an entirely different universe. However, Frank Herbert only introduced what the reader needs to know at the moment, "Dune" doesn’t begin with a large exposition dump instead it begins right where it needs to leaving the reader curious for more. We are firstly introduced to the main focus of the story, the characters where through dialogue readers are able to piece together the world that is being portrayed. The first thing that happens in dune is we read about an interaction between Jessica and another character unfamiliar to Paul, we the readers as well as Paul at this point can only speculate on what the strange words the mysterious character says when she says “He’s awake and listening to us,” said the old woman. “Sly little rascal.” She chuckled. “But royalty has need of slyness. And if he’s really the Kwisatz Haderach…well….”

Overall "Dune" is exactly what makes science fiction the all-time greatest genre to exist. Dune’s incredible world building builds a fascinating universe inside the mind of readers that captivates and inspires. The characters interact with each other naturally and their motivations and actions feel realistic in the context of the story. I would recommend Dune to anyone who loves Sci-fi and deep, immersive world building.

- Connor Reverman

"Between Shades of Gray" by Ruta Sepetys
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

This novel that really takes you back to World War II. It's about a Lithuanian girl named Lina, and her story shows the terrors and trauma of WWII. Set against Stalin's harsh regime, it takes you through a journey of survival and hope, showing you just how people can persevere even in the darkest times.

In this book, it follows the story of Lina, a girl from Lithuania during World War II. When her family gets deported to Siberia by the Soviets, her life completely changes. It talks about her struggles to survive in this harsh new reality, but also about what keeps her going throughout the novel. It talks about her experience from when she arrives, to how she was transported, to how she was treated, and to what she witnessed while in the camp. 

I really enjoyed this book because it shows what life was like during the war. This book is based upon stories that the author, Ruta Sepetys, heard when she visited her family in Lithuania. All the horrors from WWII really make us open our eyes and realize what these people went through every day. I can not think of any bad things to say about the book because it truly touches the reader and gives you a better understanding of these times. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about history and wants to learn more about WWII specifically. I recommend it because of the experiences this book sheds light on. Any reader that wants to be swallowed into a book and have trouble putting it down, this is for you. The novel has a certain grasp on you, and you will enjoy every minute of it, solely on the way your view will change.

- Ben Shulz

"Prisoner B-3087" by Alan Gratz
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

The setting is in Poland where a little Jewish boy named Yanek is living in the early stages of the Holocaust. Yanek and his family are a well of Jewish family who had their lives stripped from them in the Holocaust. They begin to be isolated in quarantines, then are ultimately shipped to 10 different concentration camps. The family is shipped around from camp to camp like cattle in big train cars that are overcrowded with people. This story shows many valuable lessons anyone can use in life. Never give up, work hard, and love your neighbor are just a few to name.

This novel has many thrilling moments and cliffhangers that will leave you on the edge of your seat while reading. Naturally, I loved the book. I am a history buff, who is obsessed with World War Two. The book is filled with exciting scenes and some scenes that are tough to read as they capture the hardships that these Jewish people went through during the Holocaust. I recommend this book to anyone who loves history. They highlight many concentration camps, including Auschwitz. The book also does a good job using pathos to make you feel like you are a part of the family living through the tough times too. I will give this book 4.5/5 stars. 

I do believe that Alan Gratz could have highlighted Yanek's life after the war, as he moves back into normal life. Having to make that adjustment back into school and sports has to be relieving and also nerve-racking as he was in concentration camps for over five years. The books use pathos and how he uses many life lessons makes it a great read. I would recommend this book to everyone even if you are not a history buff. It has valuable lessons for everyone. 

- Ryder John

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