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Book Review: Night

by Moises A. Hernandez, age 17

Night, by Elie Wiesel, is based on his own personal experiences with his father in Nazi German concentration camps. Some may not consider the book a memoir since it does not follow the memories of Wiesel himself. However, it is clear that the testimony, story, and emotional truth from Eliezer—the book’s narrator—are primarily those of Wiesel. Even though some minor details are changed, what happens to Eliezer is what happened to Wiesel during the Holocaust.

At the start of the story, in the early 1940s, Jewish teenager Eliezer lives in the town of Sighet in the then-Hungarian region of Transylvania—known today as Sighetu Marmatiei and located in Romania. During this time, Eliezer studies the Torah—the first five books of the Hebrew Bible—and the Cabbala—the ancient Jewish tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible—with a teacher named Moishe the Beadle. However, his learning is interrupted when Moishe is deported for being a foreign Jew. in, led everyone on board into the woods, and murdered them according to a fixed plan. [Read More]

Book Review: It Ends With Us

by Sandy Flores-Ruiz, age 16

Colleen Hoover's It Ends with Us is a standalone romance novel. The slow burn story follows Lily Bloom, a 23-year-old college graduate, as she begins her new life in Boston where she meets neurosurgeon Ryle Kincaid. After some unconventional encounters, they eventually fall in love. However, over time Lily and Ryle’s relationship becomes complicated. What will happen when Lily meets her first love again, Atlas Corrigan, who is the owner of Lily’s favorite restaurant Bib’s?

Just as her life seemed too good to be true, she found herself in a similar position as her mother had been in, an abusive relationship with Ryle. Although she always vowed to never be in a domestic violence relationship, she found herself in one and could not find a way to leave. [Read More]

Book Review: The Hate U Give

by Yani Thoronka

As Winter break draws to a close and marks the beginning of another stressful semester; a good book may just be the remedy to ease back into the remaining portion of the school year. If this is the case, I have the perfect book suggestion, The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. This book was published in 2017, and following its release, a movie was soon developed.

As we leave a year of racial awakenings, this book provides an in-depth perspective into the life of a teenage girl named Starr, who has witnessed a tragedy. During recent years we’ve all seen tragedies broadcasted by various media outlets. This book offers a personal and intimate experience as the main character deals with tragedy. Starr learns to speak up and speak out. Through her character development, we, the readers, see Starr mature and evolve. We see her at her highest and lowest points, battling her emotions and managing her pain.

I first read this book as a 7th grader, and at the time I was just beginning to understand the extent of racial injustice in America. I was beginning to learn about systemic racism and other systems such as redlining or mass incarceration, which are factors in grander-systematic oppression. [Read More]

Gwendolyn Brooks Made History with Her Words

by Katina Maclin, age 15

Amanda Gorman is a well-known poet, scholar and activist in America today. But before there was a young, powerful, Amanda Gorman, there was Gwendolyn Brooks.

Gwendolyn Brooks used her passion and command of language to advocate for change during the Civil Rights movement. She experienced many changes of American history in her lifetime, Gwendolyn Brooks found her voice, and her voice as a Black women, through writing.

Today, Brooks is remembered as one of the most respected writers of the 20th century. She was a Poet Laureate and a Pulitzer Prize winner. [Read More]

Book Review: We Were Liars

by Sandy Flores Ruiz, age 16

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is a book whose title you will want to remember. We Were Liars details the summers of Cadence, the oldest granddaughter of the Sinclair family. She tries to find answers on why her cousins stopped talking to her, why she has daily painful headaches, and why she stopped going to “the island”. Along the way, she discovers a dark secret that her family hid from her.

The liars—Cadence and her cousins Jonny, Mirren, and Gatwick (Gat)—were close until the summer when Cadence was fifteen, the summer when everything changed. Cadence got into a serious accident that left her very injured with no memory of what her life was like before. For that reason, she decides to take it upon herself to discover what happened.

All Cadence remembers is that the liars went to their grandparents' private island off the coast of Massachusetts every summer and that she was also in love with Gat—who was Johnny's mother’s partner's nephew, meaning he was an adopted cousin. [Read More]

Book Review: Artemis Fowl

reviewed by Theodore B. Morrison, age 13

Artemis Fowl is the first book in the Artemis Fowl book series written by Eoin Colfer. The fantasy novel follows Artemis Fowl, a twelve-year-old boy prodigy who lives on a fantasy Earth where magical creatures, known as fairies, live underground.

The plot begins when Fowl kidnaps a Lower Elements Police (LEP) recon officer in hopes of obtaining a ransom of a one-ton of 24-karat gold. The story describes how the kidnapping plays out for Fowl and his personal bodyguard nicknamed “Butler.” Artemis Fowl is such a unique book as it has a young, highly intelligent, and villainous protagonist whose story will keep you at the edge of your seat.

This book takes a unique approach to the good guy. bad-guy formula by telling the story of the bad guy (Fowl), the anti-hero. The story displays how ruthlessly far Fowl is willing to go to achieve his goals, which he does in a cold and emotionless manner. [Read More]

The Four Key Ways to Create a Story

by Leilani McNeal, age 17

As an avid staff writer at Simpson Street Free Press, I believe it’s only fair to explore the four ways a writer can construct a story. Whether one chooses the complex, detailed route of descriptive writing, or the logical, clear-cut direction of expository, all writing styles contain their own unique purposes to both readers and writers.

Expository writing means to explain or expose a topic in a chronological order. This type of writing is the most common and can be found in textbooks, business writing, and journalism. The writer synthesizes multiple sources of information into an unbiased, factual, easy-to-understand paper. Some elements of expository include compare and contrast, cause and effect, and analysis. The main goal is to inform the reader about the topic at hand.

Narrative writing is when the writer tells a story to the reader. Unlike expository writing, a narrative doesn’t have to be read chronologically; the writer’s sole focus is to maintain the reader’s attention. Narratives can be fun, compelling, evoking, and even personal. Whichever direction is taken, the goal is to make the reader feel a part of the story. [Read More]

Book Review: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Reviewed by Katina Maclin, age 16

Many of us are aware of the racial injustices that society has been fighting against for many years, especially these past two years. Through these years, many shortcomings pertaining to black disparities in education have been exposed. Change comes in many different stages and society is beginning to evolve into a stage of education so that injustices can be avoided altogether.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is a nonfiction detailing the stories of countless individuals who were treated unfairly in the criminal justice system. Stevenson is a social justice activist and an American lawyer. He is most famous for representing an innocent black man, Walter McMillian, and gaining his freedom from death row in a racist criminal justice system. Then later he won the emancipation of another innocent black man, Anthony Ray Hinton. Stevenson’s work is famous nationally and is very controversial. A hidden figure in the black community, he has contributed much of his life to winning justice for underserved people through his non-profit, the Equal Justice Initiative.

This book essentially details Stevenson’s journey of restoring justice. It dives deep into what most criminal justice systems wouldn’t want people to know and it allows readers to understand the lives of people facing the system. Stevenson also analyzes the emotionally taxing parts of his job. He narrates the background, history, and interactions he has with individuals, some of which are emotional and graphic. [Read More]

Book Review: Life of Pi

by Hanna Eyobed, age 17

Life of Pi is an acclaimed fiction novel written by Yann Martel. The riveting tale is “a story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction,” according to the Los Angeles Times. While this book depicts a life very different from my own, it touched my soul and I’m sure it will touch yours too.

The story begins in Pondicherry, a former French colonial settlement in India. We follow protagonist Piscine (Pi) Molitor Patel in what at first seems to be a normal adolescent life. Pi is the son of a zookeeper and was given his infamous nickname after memorizing extensive digits of the infinite numerical figures of pi. Pi tells readers the story as he looks back on one of the most pivotal moments of his life. In an attempt to leave India in search of better financial opportunities, Pi and his family head to Canada via ship. In an unfortunate turn of events, the ship sinks, killing Pi’s parents and his only sibling. Shortly after, Pi realizes he isn’t alone on the lifeboat he finds himself on, but that he is accompanied by a tiger among other animals. Pi finds himself on a remarkable journey. “Survival had to start with me. In my experience, a castaway’s worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little.”

Martel’s profound writing style is what made this book so special. He made the story feel so human, by the end I almost felt compelled to believe the book was nonfictional. That, in turn, made me question the idea of truth, and what that meant in this book. Like Pi says, “the world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?” [Read More]

Book Review: Front Deskreviewed by Aissata Bah, age 11

I recently read Kelly Yang’s Front Desk, a book that won the 2019 Asia/Pacific American Award for Literature. Front Desk is a story about Mia Tang, a 10-year-old girl whose family immigrated from China to America, and the challenges that come with living in a new country. Aspiring to be a writer and even a motel owner, Mia wants to feel like she belongs. She experiences many difficulties including navigating a new school and environment, being stereotyped, and feeling the need to hide her immigration status. But that isn't even half of it, there are even more! With all these challenges, will she do it all? [Read More]

Book Review: Four Secretsby Allison Torres , age 13

Four Secrets by Margaret Willey is a book that follows three best friends Katie, Nate, and Renata who end up getting in trouble. They find themselves in detention accused and facing charges of kidnapping and druggin Chase Dobson. Chase is an infamous bully at school. His parents are rich and his grandfather used to be the mayor. What matters is that Katie, Nate, Renata won’t stand up for themselves against Chase. They also made a big promise and can’t break it. They would be able to go back home and return to their normal lives. [Read More]

Puss in Boots Sequel Set to Air Late 2022 — by Amare Smith, age 18

In 2011, the Puss in Boots movie was released. It was a spinoff of the hit movie “Shrek.” Since the film's release, many films have been made and displayed on Netflix. Ten years later, Puss in Boots finally has its sequel! The sequel will center around Puss getting his nine lives back after losing eight. To get his lives back, he must go on a journey to find a genie to grant him a wish. [Read More]