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by: 
Zane, Teen Contributor

Last year really impacted me a lot. I did a lot of volunteer work at Arvada, and I still have been. I have never been a huge fan of reading, but helping people is one thing I have always enjoyed doing. One reason I started doing this, was because I needed service hours for scouting! I never thought I would do so much volunteering. I mean, I did some hours here and there at my school, but nothing like here. The staff at the libraries are very kind, and help out if you needed it. I met lots of people during this, and actually, some people even asked if I was there that day. I had to work around other things, but I got 118+ hours in. It was fun seeing the smiles on people's faces when they successfully got things completed, and they got their prizes. This was the main highlight of my summer last year, and I would recommend doing it to any teen. I honestly would rather be there helping others all day, than sitting around and playing video games all day. I have never been a huge video gamer, and this is much healthier for you anyway. Anyone who is looking to do something besides sitting around and doing nothing all day, should really try it. They always need as much help as possible!

Volunteer Application

by: 
William, Teen Contributor

William Specht worked at a science lab to innovate lives. He was working on a genetic enhancer to allow people to react faster to surroundings. At the time the lab was experiencing many break ins. One night while William was working the Virus showed up, (a artificial intelligence robot, more about him later!) telling William to test his genetic enhancer on himself. He was really freaked out because the enhancer could still be unstable. Doing what the robot told him to do he felt a wave of vibration on himself. Also, he saw the world around him going in slow motion. But later, when he could control what was happening to him, he was the one going super fast. So the world around him looked super slow.

 

by: 
Caitlin, Teen Contributor

Book Basics: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken 

Published: January 2016, Disney- Hyperion 

Genre: YA, adventure, historical fiction

Page Count: 

Star Rating: ★★★★ 

Recommended For/If You Liked: PJO fans or fans of historical fiction and adventure

Favorite Quote: “...it matters not who you love, but only the quality of such a love… a flower is no less beautiful because it does not bloom in the expected form. Because it lasts an hour and not days.” 

 It’s been a long time since I’ve read an adventure novel. And Passenger is just that- a good, wholesome adventure story, with a healthy helping of romance and history on the side. Passenger follows the story of 17-year-old Etta Spencer,  a violin prodigy whose only concern is her upcoming debut and what to do with her future. But then a mysterious sound leads her to a passage that takes her to a ship headed towards 1776 New York City. There, Etta is thrown into a family of time travelers, ruled by a power-hungry old man named Cyrus Ironwood and discovers that she too possess the ability to time travel. Ironwood blackmails Etta into finding a special device called an astrolabe, which Etta must find using clues her mother left her and the help of Nicholas Carter, an 18th century privateer. 

It took a couple chapters for the book to get going, but once Etta woke up on the ship the plot picked up quickly. The pacing was a little off throughout the entire book, but it wasn’t a major problem. There were some parts that I had to power through because I knew that the story would get better. Other than the pacing, the plot was nicely developed, with a good balance between romance and adventure. (If you don’t like romance interfering with your adventure then this book isn’t for you. The romance wasn’t overpowering, but it did take up a fair chunk of the story.) 

Nicholas and Etta’s romance was very nicely written and I really liked the added complexity of race as an issue within their relationship (Nicholas is black, and Etta is white). It’s obviously a major issue during Nicholas’s time, but Etta does acknowledge that while people would be much more accepting of an interracial relationship in our time, the present day is still far from free of racism. Sexism was also an issue dealt with in the novel, but wasn’t as heavy as racism. I loved how these issues were repeated and dealt with across the various time periods that Nicholas and Etta traveled to. 

The character development was great and Etta was absolutely perfect as an independent, badass heroine. 

Aside from some minor issues, I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun, adventurous story with complex characters and relationships. And after the ending (spoiler alert: it’s a major cliffhanger) I’m definitely going to read the next book. Anyone who’s a fan of adventure, historical fiction, or both will enjoy this story. 

Don't forget to check out my blog for more YA book reviews and recommendations and follow me on Instagram (@thebookishbookworm) for bookish photography and updates every time I post! 

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

I stand by the thought that JJ Abrams is a better producer than director, and here to support this thought has come 10 Cloverfield Lane, a wonderful little thriller produced by the man himself. Abrams’ skill comes from the marketing of films, as well as who he gets to work on them. The original Cloverfield was brilliant, the original trailer revealed nothing about the movie, not even it’s name. This intrigued audiences, and led to an 80 million dollar lifetime gross. This new Cloverfield movie (although it hardly deserves to be called that, for 10 Cloverfield Lane has little to nothing to do with the original movie) has had marketing just as ingenious. The first trailer came out mere months ago and the existence of the movie was kept secret until that moment, a feat that’s practically unheard of. JJ Abrams did a good job with the release of the movie, and an even better job with the movie itself.

10 Cloverfield Lane stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle. After leaving her fiance and getting in a car accident, Michelle wakes up in a concrete underground bunker. She’s not alone, for also in the bunker are Howard (creepily played by John Goodman) and Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.). Howard informs her that there has been an attack on the city and the air is poisonous. He saw her in her car, flipped over on the side of the road, and rescued her. As the film progresses, Michelle starts to doubt the story she was told, as well as Howard's sanity, and how safe she truly is around him.

The film really shines when it comes to the acting. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle wonderfully, who is a tough yet fragile character. She is compelling and intelligent, commanding the focus of the audience. Emmet is also played wonderfully by John Gallagher Jr. He is a sweet, charming southern guy who you can tell likes Michelle but wouldn’t dare try anything. The best performance of the film though has to go to John Goodman as Howard. I have never seen him act so creepy or so unsettling. The whole movie, you can tell that there is just something wrong with him, something wrong with his behaviour. Goodman is equal parts frightening and mysterious. With this allure, he steals every scene and is most definitely the standout of the film.

The director, Dan Trachtenberg, did an excellent job with the film. Every moment cranks up the tension, invoking feelings of anxiety and fear from the audience. This is his feature film debut and certainly delivers on all of his promise. Interestingly, he was chosen for the film mainly due to a Portal fan film he made and posted on youtube. Whatever the reason they hired, I’m glad they did because he just does such a great job. There are certainly worst first movies (David Fincher, after all, debuted with Alien 3).

The writing of the film was also very nice. The development of the film is interesting, for it originated as a spec script (meaning that it was independently made and sold, rather than a studio requesting for a specific script from a specific person) titled The Cellar. It was bought by Bad Robot (JJ Abrams Production company) and then given a few rewrites to conform a little better to the world of Cloverfield. One may think, among all those changes, that somewhere along the way the filmmakers would have lost the magic and essence of the script. Luckily it did the opposite. Most of what I read about the original script is less good than the final project.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a great movie. Not just fine or good, but great. I have a few complaints about the ending, which does not live up to the rest of the film, but for the most part 10 Cloverfield Lane delivers exactly what it needed to. I highly recommend seeing it even if you just go for John Goodman (understandable, he’s that good). 9/10

For more reviews visit my blog

Image credit Kate Brady on Flickr

by: 
Brooke, Teen Contributor

The walls spun and colors filled my vision. Swirling around with the cyans, magentas, and yellows were horrible thoughts of people making fun of me, Evergreen. As the magic started to work its way through my hair, sparks of light swirled in and out of the strands. Suddenly, I hit the floor and lost my breath. Slowly my vision came back, and I could once again see my old fashioned, white walled room. A slimy, snake-like, savage fairy named Puff slithered out of my room after completing my wish to change my hair.  

   “Thank you!” I screamed at Puff. 

   I got up and admired my new hair. It was beautiful. It was no longer an unnatural color of green. Instead, It was a rich, beautiful, brown. Oh, how I loved seeing the sun kissing my hair, lighting it up with its gorgeous rays. Then, I not so gracefully danced around my room. After a few minutes, I stumbled into my bookshelf, causing my sisters to swarm into my room to make sure I was okay. 

   “Evergreen, are you okay?” sighed my sister Misty.

   “Yeah,” I laughed. “I'm just fine.”

   “You sure?” asked  Ann, my other sister, as she cocked her eyebrow. 

I rolled my eyes. They then proceeded to pester me with their questions about what had happened and why I was so ecstatic. 

   “My hair is no longer that ugly shade of green!” I exclaimed.

   “Yes, it is! It is still the same old lovely color green that it has always been,” replied Misty. 

   After what felt like hours, they left. So I crashed out on my bed with a hand mirror. What could they have possibly meant? I saw light brown hair with touches of highlights and beautiful curls. I ponder on this for hours wondering what they could have meant. Could I still have green hair? Are they pranking me? Did my sisters want to wreck my day? 

   The next day at school wasn't any better. Kids continued to throw weird looks at me, attached notes to my backpack and called me ugly. I sat on the same old rock at lunch watching as my tears created a puddle underneath me. The only good thing was that my sister, Misty, saw me crying and wrapped me in her gentle embrace. While this did allow for a quick mental break, it couldn't have lasted the whole day. This is when I finally realized that I would call Puff back to my house and make him give me the ability to see my hair for what it truly was, and not what I wanted it to be. 

 When I came home I threw my backpack in a corner, raced past my sisters’ rooms and into mine. 

   “Puff!... Puff!... Get out here Puff!” I yelled through my tears, “We need…to talk.” 

   Finally, I give up and laid back on the bed. I was tired of screaming. This time, I didn't watch as the tears fell down my face. This time, I just lay there, letting my emotions take control of me. Now I couldn’t even see why they were making fun of me. All I knew was that they saw something that I couldn't see.

It was definitely something unforeseen when I watched the tips of his devil-like wings start to appear through the window. My whole physique brightened as the slimy, snake-like, savage fairy slid through my door. Puff’s smirk greeted me. He flew around me chanting, and his words put me into a hypnotic daze, until finally, with one last flick of his wrist, it was over.

   This time, I could see my hair for something that it truly was. A gift. People could make fun of me for it, but deep down that's not what mattered. What mattered was that I think that I am beautiful. Others look like the same copies of the same clothes and hairstyles. My hair was something that made me stand out in a world that tried  to make me into something that I was not, because I will never be that brown haired girl with caramel  highlights. I am that girl with gorgeous, green hair and a beautiful face. I learned that all that matters is to love myself, and now I do! 

   At school, I stood up to the bullies, my rock became a place to eat lunch and happily do my homework, and the nasty notes stopped coming. Soon enough people apologized and I made friends. Now I am the happiest person alive because I no longer fret about my green hair. 

 

Image Credit: Sharon Wesilds on Flickr

by: 
Lydia, Teen Contributor

Curley’s Wife and Mayella Ewell from the books Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird may seem like different characters at first, but share more commonalities than meets the eye. While one speaks at the trial of a black man and the other dies at the hands of a mentally handicapped man, these characters play essential roles in bringing about the authors’ purposes in addressing social standpoints. Both young ladies portray the objectifying and stereotyping of women through their physical appearances, isolation, and interactions with other characters.

Curley’s Wife plays the role of a woman who focuses almost entirely on her physical appearance, how unfair it is that she must remain cooped up all day, and how everybody simply views her as a tart. First off, the appearance of this character displays her as very child-like, as shown with “She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers” (Steinbeck, pg 31). Wearing excessive amounts of makeup certainly reminds the reader of how little girls often play with their mother’s makeup, covering themselves with it. As well as this, the clothing choices of Curley’s Wife also reflect her child-like qualities, making her appear to be much like a child’s doll toy. Her curled sausages of hair also seem reminiscent of the locks of an innocent little girl. Moving on to the position of isolation that Curley’s Wife finds herself in, “‘I get lonely,’ she said. ‘You can talk to people, but I can’t talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad. How’d you like not to talk to anybody?’” (Steinbeck, pg 87) paints a scene of Curley’s Wife showing some emotion to another character, Lennie. Due to being a married woman, Curley’s Wife, as per the standards of society, has limitations on what she can do with her time. Speaking with men other than her husband certainly does not abide with the rules laid out for her to follow. However, as she said, loneliness often overtakes Curley’s Wife, which explains her reasoning for visiting the bunkhouses to speak with other men. The basis of this dilemma can simply be accounted for by the isolation of becoming the wife of a working man. As such, Curley’s Wife can no longer have a good time with her life without being looked down upon. Lastly, discrimination of gender and self presentation also plays a role when “But Candy said excitedly, ‘We oughtta let ‘im get away. You don’t know that Curley. Curley gon’ta wanta get ‘im lynched. Curley’ll get ‘im killed.’” (Steinbeck, pg 94) takes place after Lennie accidentally ends the life of Curley’s Wife. Thanks to her flirtatious ways, Curley’s Wife became known as a tart. Needless to say, her value didn’t match that of any of the other characters. However, Lennie’s murder of her brings up the idea that, even though she had the flirty qualities of a tart and nobody liked her much, the blame for her murder still landed on Lennie. This incident shows that her position as the wife of Curley accounted for Lennie’s conviction of her murder. Henceforth, despite being a woman and a tart, Curley’s Wife stands superior to Lennie, entirely thanks to her position as the wife of Curley. A child-like appearance, the quality of being isolated, and only an aspect of marriage account for the entirety of Curley’s Wife, yet this character still brings forth social issues of discrimination from gender and behavior.

Mayella Ewell of  To Kill a Mockingbird plays a very similar role to Curley’s Wife in terms of objectifying women, such as having certain physical characteristics that change the way other view her, being isolated from the rest of society, and interacting with other characters in ways that determine how she appears to other members of the story. Starting off with physical appearance, “Mayella stared at him and burst into tears. She covered her mouth with her hands and sobbed,” (Lee, pg 205) shows Mayella as child-like and weak. Although it would be natural to be anxious or nervous when on stand, the act of out-right crying makes Mayella appear to be a weak child. Much like Curley’s Wife, Mayella portrays herself as sensitive or weak, making her seem much like a young child with emotional qualities. Moving on to Mayella’s own personal form of social isolation, “Mayella looked as if she tried to keep clean, and I was reminded of the row of red geraniums in the Ewell yard,” (Lee, pg 204) refers to how Mayella tries to grow geraniums in order to seem more cleanly than her family. Throughout this novel, the fact that the Ewell family represents social outcasts sings out loud and clear. However, since Scout states that Mayella attempted to make herself look good, it can be inferred that although she may be isolated from the rest of society due to family and economic status, Mayella Ewell still tries very hard to fit in. Geraniums, a pretty red flower that grow fairly easily, fit in well with the same red tone of the lips and shoes of Curley’s Wife. Bringing up the ideas of social discrimination, “‘Guilty… guilty… guilty… guilty…’” (Lee, pg 241) refers to how Tom Robinson, a black man, “lost” in his trial. Despite being a dirty, child-like, and generally disliked social outcast, Mayella Ewell’s value outweighed that of Tom for the sole reasoning of her being white and him being black. This incident goes to show that, at the root of it all, Harper Lee managed to cram it into her masterpiece that racial discrimination will always outweigh social segregation. Much like how John Steinbeck imposed that Curley’s Wife’s position as the wife of the boss’s son held her above Lennie. A run-down, unliked white woman who behaves more like a child than not, Mayella Ewell certainly brings out the segregation and discrimination found within society.

Both of these ladies come from the masterpieces of John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men and Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. Although these characters may have some subtle differences, it cannot be denied that each show their child-like habits and isolation from the rest of their community, yet play vital roles in laying out social implications of female objectifying and the stereotyping of women.

by: 
Chase, Teen Contributor

I took one glance in to her eyes and noticed that they were different. The pale blue color was the same, and so was the reflection of the sunset that I first saw that one night when we first met. This time was the very first time that I looked into her eyes and didn’t see her. The beautiful, charismatic, and talented girl I looked forward to seeing every single day in advanced calculus was gone. For the first time, I saw what every other person in this awful place called Earth saw. A liar.

 

Image Credit: Danielle Elder on Flickr

by: 
William, Teen Contributor

Utility is a Swiss army knife but human-like. One day he had imagined for some more people to be like super heros but better. He worked on a suit that would grant powers in a mechanical way. He then realized it is too risky to give others a suit like this. They could cause a lot of chaos. He then wore the suit himself and became a hero, influenced by many heroes before him. The suit he is wearing now is mark 3. The suit has a machine gun, hand blasters, small chemist lab, foldable swords, jet pack, boots, and other helpful things.

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned:This film is rated R. 

Most horror movies are bad. It’s not necessarily a judgement on them, for at the very least I understand why they are this way, but it’s still a consistent problem. They are riddled with issues, and very few contemporary horror films succeed at even the most basic standards for quality cinema. Character development, engaging characters, a coherent plot, good acting, all these are thrown out the window in favor of a few cheap thrills. This ideology of thrilling the audience with jump scares and frightening visuals (which, let’s face it, most horror movies don’t even get that right) is ludicrous, as the singular focus cripples the entire film. Because of that thought process, the genre is riddled with terrible films, which really give a bad name to the grouping as a whole. The rare, quality horror films struggle to escape the ever looming presence of their genre. 

Even with this background and struggle, every year it seems a new, exciting, and unique horror movie gets released, restoring faith in the genre. These annual delightful frights break the general horror movie trend of awfulness by being surprisingly good. 2013 brought us The Conjuring, 2014 gave us The Babadook, 2015 It Follows, and nice and early in the year 2016 gives us The Witch.

The Witch follows a deeply religious protestant family living in America sometime during the 17th century, specifically the teenage girl Thomason. They leave their community due to religious differences and move to create a brand new isolated farm at the edge of the woods. Unfortunately for the family, an evil Witch lives in the woods that decides to curse them, stealing their youngest child as the first part of the torment.

Roger Eggers, the writer/director, spent years researching 17th century colonial America. The tagline, A New England Folktale, is really revealing about the story. He scoured over folktales of that era and, under their influence, created his own unique one, one that could easily have been told back in the day. It is less of an in your face horror movie and more of a dark, looming, and horrific story of a family.

The director does an excellent job in every aspect of the film. The cinematography and pacing create a brilliant sense of tension and creepiness. The dialogue, some taken directly from documents written during the time period of the film, is excellently written and revealing of characters. Eggers did his job splendidly, and we can expect a lot more from him in the future.

The acting is top notch, specifically the children actors. You never know how it’s going to pan out, hiring children so young, but they were really quite excellent. Haley Joel Osment from The Sixth Sense good. The whole cast spoke in an olden tongue, with thy and thou and hithers throughout the film. I believed that the actors actually spoke like that too, with all the ease and naturalness they brought to the dialogue. They really held nothing back.

As far as the film itself goes, as a horror movie, I’d say is excellent. With a tone that sort of combines The Shining with The Crucible, The Witch is consistently horrifying. It’s a slow burn horror, requiring attention to the characters and emotional investment in order for each scene to crank up the tension. A few incredibly disturbing visuals and a stunning finale seal the deal, so to speak, in the end.

When the movie finished, and I sat reflecting on the incredibly enjoyable film I just saw, I heard some of the other audience members behind me.

“Well that movie was terrible, what a waste of money.”

Another person farther back was yelling. “Refund.”

I was confused to say the least. Here I had watched one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen, and these other people hated it. Did we even watch the same movie? So that left me with this advice. Know that the Witch is a slow burn horror in which the characters talk a lot like a Shakespeare play. If you can’t handle the sort of mental capacity it takes to comprehend what they are saying, you will not like the movie. If you like your horror movies SAW-like, more like thrillers, and are expecting that from The Witch, you too will be disappointed. But if you go into the Witch expecting a creepy, often horrific film with great characters, a great plot, great cinematography, and patience, well you’re bound to enjoy it immensely. That’s why I give it 9/10.

 

Image credit: Stella Marris on Flickr

by: 
Emily, Teen Contributor

beauty

is in the eye of the

beholder they

say

therefore who are they to

set the standards

instead of gowns and glory

to me beauty is honesty

truth love and kindness

you can be as beautiful

as you want to

be

for who is to

say otherwise

so say it

I'm beautiful

 

Image Credit: Wouter Beckers on Flickr.

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