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Afterworlds Book Review

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

 

Darcy Patel is afraid to believe all the hype. But it's really happening - her teen novel is getting published. Instead of heading to college, she's living in New York City, where she's welcomed into the dazzling world of YA publishing. That means book tours, parties with her favorite authors, and finding a place to live that won't leave her penniless. It means sleepless nights rewriting her first draft and struggling to find the perfect ending... all while dealing with the intoxicating, terrifying experience of falling in love - with another writer.

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, the thrilling story of Lizzie, who wills her way into the afterworld to survive a deadly terrorist attack. With survival comes the responsibility to guide the restless spirits that walk our world, including one ghost with whom she shares a surprising personal connection. But Lizzie's not alone in her new calling - she has counsel from a fellow spirit guide, a very desirable one, who is torn between wanting Lizzie and warning her that...

BELIEVING IS DANGEROUS.


Afterworlds alternates chapters between the story of a young author, and the book she’s writing. You get to see how her real-life experiences affect her manuscript. The issue is that neither of the stories are even mildly interesting enough. 

Darcy has hooked a publishing contract over her senior year. Now, instead of going to college, she’s decided to move to New York to work on writing. Why the hell does she need to go to New York? Why can’t she live at home and save money? Why can’t she live somewhere cheaper? For whatever reason, she’s decided to blow money on rent by living in New York. And of course she can’t live somewhere cheap. For some reason, she is hell-bent on living in an illegal dance studio. Why??? She literally sleeps in a locker room.

She spends the entire book fighting her parents who are telling her that she’s wasting money. Honestly, I agree. She spends eighty dollars on noodles nearly every day, and is on track to blow all three hundred thousand dollars of her contract in a year. She voluntarily chooses to buy flight tickets to tour the country in a book tour where she’s planning on … handling lines for another author’s fans. *sigh*

Speaking of her parents, they’re apparently extremely traditional Gujarati Hindu parents that are freaking out about her taking a gap year and don’t consider writing an actual career. Yet they named their first born child DARCY. Explain por favor. 

Darcy is hell-bent on focusing on her writing, yet she randomly gets a girlfriend (?) that seems lowkey forced to include diversity. Her girlfriend is also extremely sketchy and is writing a book about a guy who’s mom is a crazy cat lady and then he begins to develop cat powers and turns into a cat burglar.

Darcy’s writing is also not the greatest. Her story about a girl who is wills herself into the afterworld after a near-death experience starts off random, gets a little thrilling and goes back to random.

The book touches on cultural appropriation, which is only fitting as you have a white guy writing about a hindu girl writing about the Vedas. It seems so whack that I was honestly wondering if was some sort of satirical commentary about the publishing world. Nope, it’s just whack.

The only meaningful point of this book is the discussion between authors about the “Sophomore slump” and how they feel like they can only write one good book. This seems to apply to Scott Westerfeld. Verdict: read Uglies.

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn't so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

I went into this book super excited. Korean Brazilian food truck? Sign me up! 

Maurene Goo tried so hard to make this relatable to today’s teenagers, and it worked! Clara’s parents are Koreans who were born in Brazil, then immigrated to America. Clara’s mom is a social media influencer which was literally just as amazing as you’d expect. 

All the characters were brought to life so well. Clara’s snarky attitude is so much fun to read, as is her dad Adrian. Rose and Hamlet are the character foils to Clara’s longtime friends Felix and Patrick, and they really turn up the tension. But their character traits can’t do enough to save this story.  

This book let me down. It felt a bit fragmented, and things were brought up that were just forgotten later on. There was no real overarching plot that carried the story. I thought that the main issue was her frenemyship with Rose. They are left together to work the food truck for one week, and they go from enemies to friends. Sounds interesting. But the week where they become friends is not in the story?! It just flashes forward and the story continues with them being friends. 

Such a let-down. 

Then there’s the angle with Hamlet. Why is his name Hamlet? Who knows? Not me. Why does he live with his parents' friend's parents and not his own parent's parents? Who knows. Clara gets annoyed by people that are rich (like Hamlet). What happens to these feelings? Who knows. Her best friend’s parents are filing a lawsuit against her boyfriend. What happens? Who knows. 

But you do get to find the verdict of a food truck competition :)) 

Am I the only one who doesn’t find that to be the most interesting part of this story?


This book started off with such a great premise, but then it lost its momentum rather quickly. As a light summer read, it was fine, but it starts to fall apart if you think about it too much.

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Teenage Monarchs

Kids Running Countries?

Hhmmmm…. So. It seems that I have developed a slight obsession with a fictional character.  

Yikes. Okay. Anyone that knows me can attest that is a vast understatement. In an effort to figure out exactly which characters retain my attention, I’ve started classifying them. One category is teenage monarchs. I definitely have an affinity towards young souls who are prematurely forced to carry the burden of entire civilizations on their backs.  

So, here are my top seven teenage monarchs.  

7. Maxon Schreave {The Selection by Kiera Cass} 

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks. Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined. 

Okay, so Maxon’s actually pretty nice, and watching him make this super skewed and nearly-impossible decision made me like him (tbh, I liked him more than Aspen from the get-go :). The first time America meets Maxon, she’s having a panic attack. She breaks down and insults him, but he responds graciously and still tries to make friends with her.  Despite all his overwhelming responsibilities, he still makes time for the little things. If he wasn’t the crown Prince of Ilea, he’d like to be a photographer. When America mentions how she used to go to bed hungry before the Selection, he instates a massive program to feed the poor--nearly overnight.  

6. Maven Calore {The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard} 

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power. Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart. 

So Maven Calore is this mysterious Silver prince mentioned in this blurb. He’s pretty quiet and shy, and obedient. He’s constantly overshadowed by his older brother, crown prince Tiberias “Cal” Calore. This totally sold me. Cal comes off as a brag and a show-off, while Maven is underestimated and quietly kind. Despite being a prince, he’s surprisingly powerless. The way to he acts with authority and then sneaks around behind the scenes is great. Maven and Mare finally join forces, but … well. No spoilers today.  

5. Kaito {Cinder by Marissa Meyer} 

Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder's brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it "a matter of national security," but Cinder suspects it's more serious than he's letting on. Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder's intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that's been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter's illness, Cinder's stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an "honor" that no one has survived. But it doesn't take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for. 

Prince Kai comes all the way down to see Cinder, who is a lowly cyborg, for help. A prince asking for help from a commoner? Like him already. Throughout the story, he provides humor and care to Cinder, even though he has many, many issues to deal with as the crown prince of Eastern Commonwealth. Even though Cinder lies to him and misleads him, he still shows her sympathy and respect. 

 4. Eadlyn Schreave {The Heir By Kiera Cass} 

Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, her mother entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible. But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests. Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought. Note: This is the fourth book in the Selection series, and it obviously contains spoilers as to whom Maxon picked. Read at your own risk. 

Eadlyn is actually a pretty annoying person. She is not loved as much as her father, Prince Maxon, and she is severely struggling to show Ilea that she will be a worthy ruler someday. However, her attitude towards life in general is very relatable. Her public façade around others makes her feel in control, but quickly pushes them away. This is a relatable character, as it is tough to find a balance. If someone is too open, they will have fun and be loved. But they risk being manipulated and hurt. If someone stays brisk and aloof, they will always be in control and on track. But then they risk being lonely, and never forming true connections. It’s a timeless conundrum. Throw in Eadlyn’s responsibilities to her country, and the hawk-eyed media, and you have a monarch to watch.  

3. Tyrus {The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid} 

Nemesis is a Diabolic. Created to protect a galactic Senator's daughter, Sidonia. There's no one Nemesis wouldn't kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Now one of the galaxy's most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corruption and Nemesis has to hide her true abilities or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns that there is something stronger than her deadly force: the one thing she's been told she doesn't have - humanity. And, amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity might be the only thing that can save her, Sidonia and the entire Empire. 

This book is filled with so many plot twists. Like, I can’t even. Tyrus isn’t even briefly mentioned in the blurb. He starts off as the next in line to the throne. Some stuff is off about him, the reason to why he’s the successor is very strategic for the gain of some, and the protection of others. As the plot twists and twists, Tyrus does become increasingly important. Despite being the next in line to become Emperor, he gives Nemesis’ life equal value to his. He looks up to her and wants to learn from her. From a diabolic. The respect that Tyrus gives Nemesis helps her learn to respect herself, and his faith in her helps her believe in herself. Tyrus isn’t all fluff though. He’s more than willing to blow people up, stab people, poison people … well, you get the idea.  

2. Khalid Ibn al-Rashid {The Wrath and the Dawn By Renee Ahdieh} 

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all. Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets? 

Tormented heart? Sign me up! I went into this story expecting lots of action, but there really isn’t. What you see here is what you get. Aside from that, though, the way that Khalid is portrayed in this story is wonderful. At the beginning, it’s easy to see Shahrzad’s quest for revenge. You kind of want to see a sword go through Khalid. But very quickly, you start to see the inner turmoil and confusion. Khalid is doing his best to keep his kingdom together, even if it means sacrificing his own conscience.

  1. Rhiannon Ta’an {Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza}

 CROWN PRINCESS RHIANNON TA'AN WANTS VENGEANCE. The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, RHEE has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne - and her revenge. ALYOSHA is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye. Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder. The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding - even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee's name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy. 

 Rhee is such a great character because she defies expectations left and right. Everyone thinks that she is docile and obedient, and she uses it to her advantage. She shows that underestimating your opponents is a costly mistake. She was helpless once, and she has made sure that it will never happen again. As her empire crumbles around her, she is forced into hiding to find out who is behind her—and why. Her need to avenge her family’s murder and lead her empire to peace are warring interests as Rhee struggles to win back all that she has lost.   

BONUS. Tony Stark {Iron Man Robert Downey Jr.} 

Okay, so Tony Stark is not a teenager. And he’s not really a monarch, more like a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, but c’mon. That’s basically a 21st century monarch. And he was definitely a teenager at some point.  

Tony is great because he is super sharp; literally a cacti. He can be rude and flippant, mean and sarcastic. He’s used to being left behind and fending for himself. He’s never found the benefits of teamwork, because he’s always, always, had to watch his back. No one has ever given him a hand just for the sake of helping. He’s learnt to distance himself. He’s not a bad person, but he is afraid of being hurt. Also, he’s a genius! Literally. 



We Need a Black Widow Movie

Marvel Studios, 

LLC 500 S. Buena Vista Street 

Burbank, CA 91521   

To whom it may concern:  

I am a huge fan of the Marvel characters and movies. I have fallen in love with the franchise ever since I watched The Avengers. Since then, I have been hard at work collecting merchandise and staying up-to-date on new releases. However, I have one complaint for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a female superhero fan, I have noticed a startling void of strong female leads in the Marvel movies. One of the most under played characters is Black Widow. Her character has such potential for a super hit Marvel movie. Not only is her past dark and mysterious, she’s also a quick thinker and a superb fighter.   

Of course, Black Widow has appeared in The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. But rather than her character becoming more defined and relatable, she’s been pushed off to the side. We’re learning more about her male counterpart, Hawkeye, but her role has been deteriorating. Rather than focusing on her competence in the field, viewers are told to focus on her romance with Bruce Banner. Instead of her being portrayed as a strong asset to the team, she is captured and jailed by Ultron, only to be released by Bruce a few scenes later.  

In an era where nearly half of superhero fans are female, there is no reason to continuously portray Marvel women as love interests and damsels in distress. Black Widow, particularly, is not only a wonderful action hero, she is quite close to mortal. Some comic book storylines state that she is genetically enhanced, but most can come to a consensus that she has gained her skills through hard work and sheer dedication. She has faced great challenges, but made her way through. She would make a wonderful role model to children all over the world. Watching Natasha’s marvelous journey will surely inspire young girls and boys to become better, stronger, people.   

Moreover, parent company Disney seems to have embraced their female leads, delivering hits like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Zootopia. Seeing as Marvel’s popularity and sales skyrocketed after the Disney acquisition in 2009, one can only wait for the day when Marvel takes the hint as well.   

Marvel is not only a company; it’s a way of life. I just hope that this way of life can be more inclusive in the future.   

Sincerely,

Medha Upadhyay

For the Love of Books!

Books can change your life ...

Every time I talk to someone about my book, they always ask, “How did you start writing?” And the answer to that, always, is that I started reading. All the books that I read filled my head with imagination and wonder, morales and beliefs. When I sat down to write, I realized that I was just bursting with ideas, and a lot of that came from the stories that I read. Somehow, people today don’t seem to have time for books. They’re always busy, or telling themselves that they’re busy. They’ve always got something better to do. But I’m here to tell you that that is false. You are not too busy to read, and it is not something to be taken lightly. As Sean Covey, Author of Seven Habits for Highly Effective Teens has pointed out, some of the greatest minds in the world barely attended school. Abraham Lincoln spent less than twelve months in a formal school. Then how did he, and others like him, become so knowledgeable? Because they were constantly reading. They read every book they could get their hands on. Of course, we are all very lucky to go to such a wonderful school. But for those who had no choice, they turned to books. And it paid off. 

See, books teach us lessons. They appeal to our human nature and try to make us better people. By trying to understand these fictional characters, we are forced to look at the people around us, and then finally ourselves. Characters can serve as role models and show us what we should strive towards; or as bad examples, and what we should stay away from at all costs. 

Books push us to become the best version of ourselves, they challenge our beliefs, and show us new ways to solve old problems. Books force us to slow down and think. And it  is these thoughts that allow us to grasp the immensity of a story.  Books can force you to take a step away from ourself. To think about others; to notice and observe a little more. Books can show us the vastness of the universe, and our problems don’t look so very big after a good book.  By sifting through a story carefully, we can find the morals. With a little more practice, we can find the ways to apply these lessons to our lives. An author’s goal is to present a story that stays with the reader, because it made them a better person.

Women on 20's

Women on dollar bills?

Recently, there has been a big controversy in politics. Feminists across the nation have been heading a movement to put a woman on a dollar bill. However, there is more to the debate than you might realize, and there are several underlying issues that have come to the light as a result of this movement. 

Looking over all American dollar bills, it quickly becomes clear that there is not a single female face. From George Washington to Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin to Alexander Hamilton, all the figures immortalized on paper currency are men. 

And a spark was lit. The flames quickly grew, with feminists jumping to action. “Girls are just as important as boys!” one kindergartner protested. From young girls to grown women, many were outraged by this blatant show of sexism. 

One such change-maker wrote a letter to President Obama. Nine-year-old Sofia explains that there should be more women on American currency due to the important things that they have done. Another group of pioneers got together and created Women on 20’s.  

The group has been gaining popularity rapidly. The nonprofit organization hopes to convince president Obama to put a woman’s face on American paper currency. Pointing to examples from other countries, they state that “A woman’s place is on the money.” 

But Women on 20’s faced a tough decision. Which iconic founding father should be booted off his bill? They decided on Andrew Jackson. He was a slave owner and he passed the Indian Removal Act, which lead to the death of over 4,000 Native Americans.  

Another question was who to replace him with. Which woman deserved to be on the 20 dollar bill? Women on 20’s set up an online poll to answer this. Options included Sojourner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and many others. 

With one hundred eighteen thousand, three hundred and twenty eight votes, Harriet Tubman emerged as the top choice of America. Second runner up was Eleanor Roosevelt, seven thousand votes behind.  Harriet Tubman was an inspirational and courageous woman that risked her life to guide thousands of runaway slaves to freedom. The people she helped called her Moses, because she led her people out of slavery just as Moses did in the bible. She truly was god-gifted. 

Perhaps more influentially, the government is sending a message as well. If they put Tubman on the twenty dollar bill, they are saying, “America isn’t sexist. Look at this woman on the dollar bill! By the way, we aren’t racist either.” But if you dig down, you can see what this would really show about our country. So we have a woman on a dollar bill. Big whoop. The only reason she’s on there is because she’s a woman. 

When looking to get rid of the scandalous Jackson, only women were considered. What if there were other men that could have taken Jackson’s place? The fact of the matter is that Harriet Tubman is going to be on the twenty dollar bill because she is a woman. It’s only a move of pity. They thought that the only way a woman could be on the dollar bill was if only women were considered. Similarly, WHY do we have a best actress award? Why do we have to put women in a separate category for acting? Because that’s the only way they could win an Oscar? 

Taking a step back from these particular examples, I would like to clear up some misconceptions about feminism. Feminism is simply a belief in the equality of genders. It’s called feminism because it is focused towards raising the status of women to be on par with those of men. In today’s world, feminism has become an excuse for sexism. Women who look down on men are not feminists; they’re sexists. 

Feminists simply want women to have the same opportunities and rights as men. The goal is to level the playing the playing field, so that women can be successful alongside men. The idea is not to give women an unfair advantage. Feminists hope that women will not be discriminated against, treated differently, or underestimated just because of gender.  The bottom line is that women have goals and dreams, too. They are tired of being pushed around and demeaned, and denied what they want. They would like to be appreciated and treated fairly. They want the world to accept that a woman is capable of working hard and achieving great things.  

Really, the country should focus on bringing people together. I feel that putting a woman on the dollar bill is not doing that. By putting a WOMAN on the dollar bill, they’re dividing people. Rather than bringing everyone together, they’re clearly splitting men and women. At the end of the day, I look up to the courageous women that have worked so hard to make their dream a reality. But I feel that putting a woman on the dollar bill is simply going to drive our country apart. 

If people believe a woman should be on the dollar bill, that’s great! But she should be on there because she is a great person, not because she is great woman. Feminism is not a shortcut for women to get what they want. It’s a movement to give them the opportunities they need.  

Thank you,

Medha Upadhyay