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girl reading


Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

by Mary Roach
W.W. Norton

This book is surprisingly entertaining. I found it enlightening because of the odd topic. Mary Roach is a writer who researched and wrote this book about the ways human cadavers are useful. It was a bit unsettling to read at first, but Roach puts a unique perspective on cadavers and their post-mortem lives. She covers medical uses for cadavers (like med students studying anatomy), and debates the moral aspects of using human remains for various product or safety testing. Her research gets her a lot of odd looks and questions, but she is fearless in her investigations. A lot of people Roach talks with don't understand why she would want to write a book on dead bodies; a few of the people she meets even have trouble discussing death, even though they work with cadavers themselves. 

Cadavers have made immeasurable contributions to science throughout history. My favorite section was on beating heart cadavers, people who are brain dead, but able to donate vital living organs. This is a controversial subject, but people can be heroic in death by saving peoples' lives. Mary Roach also goes over different burial methods, from classic burials, to cremation, to the latest scientific alternatives. 

I loved the witty voice and unique perspective of this book. It leaves you a lot to think about, like science, history, and even the possibilities of the afterlife (physically and metaphysically). 

Reviewed by Emily Schindeldecker


The Prom Goer's Interstellar Excursion

by Chris McCoy
Knopf, 2015

After being waitlisted at the only college he applied to, Bennett Bardo is convinced he is going to live out the rest of his life on his parents' couch, wearing the same plaid boxers, eating ramen noodles, and melting in the New Mexico heat. Then, just two days before prom, Sophie, Bennett's out-of-his-league Dream Girl, agrees to go to prom with him. Everything starts to look up for Bennett. Of course, it's only fitting that hours after Bennett achieves the impossible with Sophie and prom, she gets abducted by aliens in the middle of the desert. Rather than go to prom alone, Bennett does what any rational, right-minded person would do: gets himself abducted. The only problem is that the aliens that decide to "capture" Bennett are a couple of middle-aged, wine-drinking, washed-up rock stars going on one final tour for a band that everyone in the universe has stopped caring about. Navigating snarky band members, outlandish aliens, and a couple of crazy concerts, Bennett has Sophie's life (and his social life) on the line.

This hilarious and eccentric novel is a must-read for those who liked The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Completely unpredictable and perfectly fast-paced, The Prom Goer's Interstellar Excursion is seriously out of this world. 

Reviewed by Danicka Bright


Popular, a Memoir: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

by Maya Van Wagenen
Dutton, 2014


Popular, a Memoir was such a fun book to read.  It all starts with a vintage book called “Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide”.  Maya’s father buys a copy of the book at a yard sale, and when Maya finds it, she’s inspired to follow the book’s outdated advice and see what happens.  It’s her 8th grade year and Maya is set on becoming popular.  She’s a bit of an outsider at school, and she wants to know if the book will still help someone like her gain popularity.  She keeps a diary of her social experiment.   Can a book from 1951 help Maya reach her goal?

 I breezed through this book wanting to find out.  At first, Maya only gets odd looks for her long skirts and old fashioned shoes, but then things start to turn around a little. She starts to be brave and confident. The last chapter in “Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide” advises her to make friends with everyone.  Maya realizes that being popular is really about including all the social circles, not just one.  Maya’s writing is funny, relatable, and has some good (if old) beauty tips. My favorite tips were rag curlers and applying ice cubes to your pores.  Maya redefines the word popular for herself and her friends.  I recommend this book for any teens that are curious about the idea of popularity, how important it is, or if it even is important.  You’ll be rooting for Maya the entire time.

Review by Emily Schindeldecker

Jing: King of Bandits

by Yuichi Kumakura
Tokyopop, 2004

Right off the bat, this manga proves that it may not be happy-go-lucky as we start at a funeral and with this confusing scene, it also proves that it won’t be simple. Jing, the hero of this story, has placed a mysterious trap to capture the funeral-goers valuables.  But when the trap goes off, a weird demon-like being shows up for a split second and all the valuables are gone.  All that’s left is a note saying, “Congratulations on your acceptance to heaven” signed “The King of Thieves.” Still interested? If not, you may not like what follows.

The main character, Jing, is what most people would call a cool-blooded badass, someone who is always on top of everything. Yes, this is a stereotype, but I happen to appreciate that stereotype. As for our second in command, he’s also an overused character; he’s your typical perverted character who lusts after everything that bounces. Oh, and he’s a bird. Don’t question it. I personally believe their personalities fit the world: Jing represents the dark and awesome side of it all, what with constant death and stuff like triple-barreled shotguns. Whereas the bird represents the more hilariously stupid aspects of the world, like the mutants, or stuff like triple-barreled shotguns.

And while I must admit that I like that an entire city got stolen, the rest was unmemorable. Whether it is because of poor writing or simply the manga style, Jing: King of Bandits felt way too confusing.  If you really want to get into manga, you may want to skip this one for now, but if you’ve been reading the genre for years and are used to deciphering the mess—and if you happen to be entertained by perverted birds—you may find a new favorite in this.

Reviewed by Travis Keegan

by Thomas Pendleton
HarperTeen, 2008

Gene and Mason Avrett do not come from a stereotypical family, with both their parents gone and living with their aunt. Gene and Mason may be kin, but could not be any more different.  Mason is kind hearted, sympathetic, and a little slow in the head, but none the less has a beautiful soul and loves to draw. Gene on the other hand is a vicious sociopath who has it out for his brother from the very beginning. Gene often beats Mason, just for the kick of it, but he then starts dabbling in other sick pastimes worse than beatings. Rene Denton was Mason’s only childhood friend but they have long since grown apart. But Mason has a disturbing power, one that he himself does not even understand. Rene one day gets brutally beaten, and the attackers now face Mason’s wrath. Can Mason keep her safe? Can Mason even save himself from his horrible brother Gene? This is a fast paced horror novel that paints horrendous images in your head, just like how Mason can make his enemies see the images he projects. If you like suspense, eeriness and a touch of gore that grabs you and won’t let go in your reading, this is the book for you. After I read it once, I had to read it again because I wanted to relive Mason’s struggle. This story will haunt you long after the last page has been turned.

Reviewed by Justine Philippi