10 of the Best Opening Lines in Literature

These are some of our favorites. What are yours?

 

 

 

Teen Book Reviews: We Were Liars and Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from two teens who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, reviewed by Kylee V.

“We Were Liars” is set mostly on Beechwood Island, a private island owned by the Sinclairs. On this island, you can do water activities like boating and there are mansions all over the island as the Sinclairs are a very rich family. The main character, Cadence, is the oldest of her cousins and will most likely be the one to inherit her grandfather’s fortune. Cadence, her cousins, and Gat Patil (a friend) go to this island every summer and do everything together. This group is known as the Liars. The Liars have so much fun and romance starts to bud with two of these characters. However, with so much money, it can be expected that there will be conflict and jealousy. Cadence’s mom and her aunts are always getting drunk and fighting with each other, and this beautiful private island is dimmed by the ugly truth of wealth and power.

I have to say that this book was very good and forced me to try and come up with possible endings as I was reading. The ending is shocking and the little bits of information along the way that the reader gets will have the reader changing their mind over and over again on what might happen. An accident occurs when Cadence is 15 years old, and she (and the reader) must work out what happened on that specific summer vacation. I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars, because it was really engaging and made me get invested in the characters. There were so many unexpected twists that I almost couldn’t keep track of where I was in the story. Along with this, there are a good amount of flashbacks that occur in the story, so at times it may get a little confusing on what is going on. Even though it could get confusing with the flashbacks, these flashbacks also provided Cadence and the reader with information about the accident that occurred when she was 15. A problem for me was that I was always getting some of the characters or the places messed up, so like I said before it was hard to keep track and could get a little confusing. I appreciated how the book was a mystery that was written realistically and thought there were good lessons in this story. This book I think would be definitely popular among teens and I would highly suggest checking it out.

4 stars.

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans, reviewed by Kylee V.

I have read and reread this book countless times because I absolutely love the entire series. Richard Paul Evans does such a great job of developing the main character, Michael Vey, throughout the series. Michael Vey is this shy and bullied kid in high school that isn’t one to get much notice. He deals with Tourette Syndrome, which causes him in his case to blink uncontrollably and gulp for air when he gets nervous. I am a big fan of science fiction and always root for the underdog, so when it turns out that Michael, the scrawny kid, has been born with these electrical powers the story becomes even better.

Michael’s best friend, Ostin Liss, is a genius and will be supporting Michael throughout. Not to spoil too much but other people from Michael’s high school will play a role in this ongoing adventure of stopping Dr. Hatch, the villain, from getting too powerful. He is going to be faced with many challenges, be forced into a fight against evil, and go on a rescue mission to save someone he loves dearly. Throughout, the entire series there is a ton of action, plenty of twists, constant adventure, and even some romance. The characters in these books will never have the same life again once Dr. Hatch steps into their lives, and secrets will be revealed that have shocking conclusions.

This book has something for almost everybody and will want you to continue on in the series. However, if you are not the biggest science fiction fan I might read another book. I would recommend this book to boys and girls from 5th grade to high school, even though it may be an easier read for the older grades. I love this book a lot and had to rate it a 5/5 because it is one of my favorite books in the series and in general. The author does a great job of explaining characters and events, so it is very easy to connect with the character. The reader can clearly see what is going on in the character’s head, which I think makes it so much more enjoyable to read. Since this is the first book, be prepared for lots of surprises as the story progresses. Also, a small negative because this is the first book in a long series, lots of characters are introduced and reoccurring information is brought up kinda fast so I would highly suggest you pay close attention. To combat this, the author does provide a nice character list throughout the series and has a quick Prologue of what happened in the book before it. To further this point it can be at times a little rushed, but not too often. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of series, I would at least try reading the first book because I think after you read it, you would want to give the second book a shot. Heads up though the series is very long. I have read all of the books in the series so far, all the way to “The Final Spark”, and if it turns out you’re interested in this book I would highly suggest reading the entire series. Overall, if you are a big science fiction fan or wanna try something new where the main character is the underdog with POWERS definitely give this book a shot because you won’t regret it.

5 stars.

Diverse Romance

People of all ethnicities, body types, sexual orientations, and interests fall in love every day in real life, but until pretty recently it hasn’t been easy to find romance books that reflect that reality. While straight white male/female protagonists are still the mainstay of the romance genre, more diverse authors and story-lines have been getting some attention lately, which is all for the good. Here are some recent examples of love stories with different perspectives.

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory

The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

Passing the Bechdel Test

Have you given anything a Bechdel test? Have you ever heard of the Bechdel Test?
I’d never heard of it either (and I went to a women’s college!) until it popped up on an internet group I belong to, and I had to look it up.

The Bechdel test (or Bechdel-Wallace test) is a measure of representation of women in fiction. It first appeared in Allison Bechdel’s 1985 cartoon strip, Dykes to Watch Out For (I didn’t name it) commenting on films, brought on by a quote from Virginia Woolf, in that women in fiction might sometimes be mother and daughter, but rarely are two women friends in literature. Almost always, women were viewed by their relationship to men – wanting a man, chasing a man, depending on a man, chasing off a man, etc. (Hence Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”). Real women in real life talk to other women about more than just men (even if it’s only about their cat or dog).

Therefore, Bechdel gave three commandments for films to be considered women-friendly (and by default, TV and books):

  1. It must have at least two women in it (preferably with names)
  2. Who talk to each other (preferably for at least 60 seconds)
  3. About something besides a man

And the off-hand comment in a sarcastic lesbian cartoon strip surged until it’s become an almost a standard metric for the industry.

Seems pretty simple, right?

Various groups have researched more than 8000 films, and concluded that 42-50% of films cannot pass the test, and half of those that do pass do so only because two women are discussing marriage or babies. Being a female-oriented show about women does not mean the film or program can pass the test. Even female-cast TV shows such as Sex in the City don’t pass, because almost all the discussion is about men. Big-budget female-lead action films such as Lucy or Atomic Blonde or Salt fail, because the secondary characters are almost always men – there are no other women. Star Trek, which broke many TV taboos, can’t pass the test – there are many women, and they talk quite a bit, but almost never to each other. Lost in Space had three women trapped in a tin can together, and they almost never spoke to each other for more than one or two lines, occasionally. Firefly, for its very brief run, hits the mark more often than not. Okay, I Love Lucy wins for most realistic female friends ever, as does Gone With the Wind, thanks to Miss Melly, so time period is not a decisive factor. We haven’t necessarily gotten better with age, despite feminism.

Various groups have researched more than 8000 films, and concluded that 42-50% of films cannot pass the test, and half of those that do pass do so only because two women are discussing marriage or babies. Being a female-oriented show about women does not mean the film or program can pass the test. Even female-cast TV shows such as Sex in the City don’t pass, because almost all the discussion is about men. Big-budget female-lead action films such as Lucy or Atomic Blonde or Salt fail, because the secondary characters are almost always men – there are no other women. Star Trek, which broke many TV taboos, can’t pass the test – there are many women, and they talk quite a bit, but almost never to each other. Lost in Space had three women trapped in a tin can together, and they almost never spoke to each other for more than one or two lines, occasionally. Firefly, for its very brief run, hits the mark more often than not. Okay, I Love Lucy wins for most realistic female friends ever, as does Gone With the Wind, thanks to Miss Melly, so time period is not a decisive factor. We haven’t necessarily gotten better with age, despite feminism.

Not passing the Bechdel test does NOT make a film bad, nor does it make it not worth watching. Not every movie is going to center around women – Dunkirk, for example, a splendid movie about a specific battle in World War II. Women were just not involved in that. Stand By Me – a magnificent story of four young boys on a quest. Girls aren’t in the story, and if you skip this movie because of that, then you’re missing one of the best American movies. Nor is every film required to pass the Bechdel test. Casino passes two of the three qualifications, but women are mistreated throughout the film. Inclusion is just that – inclusion, not a judgment of how women are treated by the story, not a judgment of female competence, not a judgment of feminism (Gravity, with a female astronaut who saves the day, can’t pass the test, though The Martian, with a male lead, does). A woman may love a movie that can’t pass the test, and a man can certainly love a film that does. Movies of every genre pass or fail; there is no specific type of film to look for.

All the Bechdel test does, really, is point out films in which women – a full 50% of the population – are a larger focus of the story, and even if they aren’t, they’re portrayed as real, well-rounded people who speak to each other about real subjects, even if it’s about burning a roast, not just love-starved buttercups who are nothing without a man. So, if you’re on the lookout for films that show women – important or background characters – in a more realistic light, here are 15 various films that do pass the Bechdel test:

The Finest Hours

Little Miss Sunshine

Wonder Woman

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Last Jedi

Girl, Interrupted

Hidden Figures

Kill Bill

Thelma and Louise

The Exorcist

Chicago

Frozen

Birds of Prey

Bill and Ted Face the Music

Knives Out

Teen Volunteer Book Reviews: One of Us is Lying and Dread Nation

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from two teens who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

One of Us is Lying by Karen A. McManus, reviewed by Julia F.

If you enjoy a mix of realistic fiction, mystery, high school drama, and social media intrigue, One of Us is Lying, by Karen M. McManus, is for you.

Who murdered Bayview High School’s Simon Kelleher? Was it Bronwyn, the bright academic who wishes to attend Yale? Or could it have been the Cooper, the group’s “jock”? Maybe you will suspect Addy because she is popular and social? Or was it the troubled Nate who already has a checkered past? You may be wondering why someone would want to kill Simon in the first place. He ran the school’s widely followed juicy gossip app ABOUT THAT, which was set to reveal secrets about each of the suspects. All four had skeletons in their closets, but was someone’s secret devastating enough to warrant a murder?

We find out that Bronwyn has gone to interesting lengths to protect her academic future and her family’s legacy. Cooper has a baseball career in the balance, and his tangled web of lies threatens to take away his opportunity to be a star. Addy is not who she seems to those around her and now she stands to lose those closest to her. Nate doesn’t have as much to lose, but the post could land him in jail. Simon’s death causes new alliances to form between the suspects as they scramble to protect their secrets and prove their innocence. As you read this book you will find yourself suspecting each of the four students at one point or another.

This book will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. If you are looking for an exciting thriller and quick read, be sure you have a chunk of time available because you won’t want to put it down! Good news— there is a sequel (One of Us is Next) that follows Bronwyn’s younger sister Maeve and it is just as captivating.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, reviewed by Stephanie D.

Dread Nation is a historical fiction novel that takes place during the American Civil War… with one important twist. In this alternate history universe, the fighting stops halfway through, around the year 1863. Why? The answer is simple but terrifying: the soldiers don’t stay dead anymore. The Civil War is postponed as Northerners and Southerners alike grapple with a zombie apocalypse, and our story focuses in on a teenage girl named Jane. Jane is sent from her mother’s plantation to one of the recently opened combat schools. These have been springing up around the country as African and Native American teenagers are forced to learn to fight zombies (or “shamblers”, as they are called in the book). Dread Nation follows Jane and her classmate Katherine as they are sent to defend Summerland, a frontier town under the constant siege of shamblers. Once in Summerland, Katherine pretends to be a wealthy white woman and Jane her Attendant (someone who is responsible for their employer’s life in the event of a zombie attack). Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Summerland, the town is soon overrun by shamblers, and Jane and Katherine must flee to save their lives.

I gave this book a solid four stars. I really enjoyed the universe building and detailed description of historical events, because I could compare it to the version of history I had learned in history class and the fictional zombie version. It was fast-paced, which I enjoyed, but I also felt that the pacing was rather inconsistent. The first part of the book felt much slower than the second, even though the latter seemed like it was supposed to be the focus of the story, as it contained a majority of the action. In short, there was too much build up to the climax of the book, and in the wrong places. I would have liked to hear more about Jane’s life on the plantation and the story of her family, which was revealed piece by piece throughout the novel and provided an interesting side plot. Additionally, I would have preferred a more complete ending. I understand that this is the first of a series, but the conclusion did not feel nearly concluding enough to tie up all the loose ends left by the big zombie invasion and battle of the final chapters. One final criticism is that I found the character of Jane to be a very typical YA heroine: a rebellious tomboy, always the best at everything, and generally “different from everybody else”. These characters can certainly contribute a lot to a story, but they seem to be everywhere and therefore Jane did not earn this book any points in the protagonist department.