Westmount Newspaper’s writer Taha Aziz gives you short and concise reviews to help you pick the next book to read. The reviews may include spoilers.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a fast-paced novel about a boy surviving in the wilderness. The story starts out with our main character, Brian, flying in a small plane on his way to visit his father. However, the plane crashes, and Brian becomes stranded in the wilderness with nothing but the clothes on his back, the plane wreckage, and a hatchet that his mother gave to him. Paulsen has done an amazing job going into all of the little details of the physical trauma and internal suffering that Brain goes through. He doesn’t cut corners with Brian’s personal thoughts and emotions; they are very well laid out and developed throughout the story, as he slowly gets used to life in the forest and all of the struggles that comes with it. In addition to Brian’s internal conflicts, there is also a lot of attention to detail of the nature and the forest that Brian is trying to survive in. All of the animals and their behaviour is very realistic and feels so natural that you would imagine Paulsen himself was living in a forest while writing this book.
In all, I think that Hatchet is a great read for people of any age, but especially to teens who can relate to such a dramatic change in Brain’s lifestyle, and how he slowly learns and adapts to it. This first novel is a great start to a fantastic series.
Rating (out of 5): ★★★★★
The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clark
Many twelve year-old boys with no friends would jump at the chance to start a new life in a supernatural world. Not Callum Hunt, however. He has to do everything he can to fail the Iron trial, the key to being enrolled to the Magisterium, a death trap disguised as a school, according to his father. Call does his best to fail the trial, according to his father’s wishes, but fortunately or not, Call’s overwhelming talent is noticed and he is forced into the world of magic.
Yes, the story has many similarities to Harry Potter, but many of the concepts in Harry Potter are completely flipped upside down, especially with Call sincerely hating and wanting to escape the academy. I also took a liking to the three main character’s personalities and quirks, especially with Call being rather selfish and unrelenting. I also found the mystery surrounding Call, his past, and family to be very captivating, he slowly starts to learn along with the reader who he is throughout the book. Call also grows very much throughout the story, before he was living a life sheltered by his father, but after being forced into the Magisterium, he starts to see the world on his own and develops his own views on it. He becomes his own person throughout the book, and almost an admirable lead character when compared to him at the beginning of the story. Overall, The Iron Trial is a great read with interesting characters, and twists, making it a solid start to the series.
Brave New World By Aldous Huxley
Brave New World is a story with an amazing concept around a dystopian society. The World State ultimately controls everything, and the people of society are turned into seemingly emotionless robots doing their jobs. People are genetically manufactured in factories called “Hatcheries”, and they are controlled to be of one of five castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta or Epsilon. As you could probably guess, Alphas are superior in terms of intelligence and fitness, and are designed to be leaders and high class workers. On the other end of the spectrum, Epsilons are designed to be extremely stupid and physically weak, and are designed to do labour. You might think that society would be against this, but they see the world as an utopia. The World State uses, propaganda, drugs, and sex lives to keep the citizens happy. Since everyone is basically on a drug high all the time, nobody questions what the World State is doing, and simply think “A gramme is better than a damn”.
The story starts focused on a character named Bernard Marx, a citizen of the World State, who is completely brainwashed and follows what the the World State wants. Later in the story however, a man named John seems to become the protagonist. He realizes that something is wrong with the World State and tries to fight against it. He discovers Shakespeare, which is banned in the World State, discovers love, and tries to pursue it. The concept of Brave New World is very eye opening, and makes you question values and morals of society. Aldous Huxley does a good job naturally expressing how dystopian the society is, while the characters mainly regard it as an utopia. I’d recommend this book to a more mature audience, and is a good read if you are interested in philosophy, social aspects, or anthropology.