Book Review: What I’ve read throughout high school


Ellen Dieteman, Staff Writer

Throughout my time at Villa Maria Academy and Cathedral Preparatory School, I have read my fair share of literature. So I took the time to review every novel (and play) I have read throughout my high school years (2019-present), in chronological order, including summer reading.

Freshman year, Honors English I

Dawn by Elie Wiesel 

This novella takes place during the course of a single night in which Elisha, a Holocaust survivor and member of the Movement attempting to regain Palestine, is tasked to kill a hostage British captain. It is the second book in The Night trilogy, and although a shorter work, a haunting and poignant story that reflects heavily upon death, inner conflict, and the act of taking a life.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare 

The famous tragedy about young star-crossed lovers is iconic for a reason. Shakespeare’s use of language is truly impressive and engaging, with many memorable monologues and soliloquies. It was quite enjoyable to read the play aloud as a class, especially with all of the situational irony.

Sophomore year, AP Language and Composition 

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons 

Odd Girl Out, as the title suggests, provides insight into the often-ignored phenomenon of female aggression. Simmons explores how female aggression is frequently overlooked due to its different nature, touching on her experiences and interviews with other women and young girls. To be entirely transparent, I did not finish the book. I didn’t find the subject matter very engaging (but fear not, I read just enough to cite adequate evidence in my essay).

I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb 

In her memoir, Yousafzai tells of her peaceful childhood in Pakistan with her loving family before the Taliban came to Swat Valley. From a young age, Malala had a love for education which is unwavering throughout the book. The book is inspiring and a testament to the power of education.

Junior year, Advanced English III

Sula by Toni Morrison 

Morrison’s Sula uses the narrative of two seemingly opposite girls, Nel and Sula, to illustrate the similarities between characters that are perceived to be good and evil, respectively. Perhaps a more complex text than I expected, Morrison weaves a rich account of the people living in a small town in Ohio full of developed characters.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain 

Although a controversial book for its charged language, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an entertaining book that satirizes the South and its racist beliefs rather than condones them. It tells the story of two unlikely companions: Huck, a young southern boy fleeing his abusive father, and Jim, a runaway slave, on their journey along the Mississippi River. The story is both amusing and meaningful.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin 

The Awakening, an influential feminist text, tells of how Edna, an unhappy, trapped housewife, is slowly transformed and begins to stand up for herself. Chopin creates a plot that the audience wants to invest in. The ending, however, leaves something to be desired and didn’t satisfy me.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Fitzgerald’s narration style and prose are truly captivating, as he tells the story of the tragic and mysterious Jay Gatsby. The novel, which parallels Fitzgerald’s life, is interesting and page-turning.

Senior year, AP Literature and Composition 

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver 

The Poisonwood Bible is a lengthy multi-narrative account of the women in the Price family, a family of Christian missionaries in the Belgian Congo. Kingsolver masterfully utilizes the titles of different books of The Bible to craft her biblical narrative, which tells the story of the Price family’s stay in Congo. Her book serves as a searing critique of white colonialism in Africa but at times feels too on the nose.

A Doll House by Henrik Ibsen 

The second play I read aloud with my class, follows an oppressive marriage doomed to fail because of a secret. It is also considered to be a feminist text and follows Nora Helmer as she begins to gain autonomy in her marriage with her husband, Torvald. A Doll House is suspenseful and entertaining to read.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley  

Frankenstein, widely regarded to be the first science-fiction novel, is a frame story about a young scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who creates a monster from spare body parts during an experiment. Terrified, he abandons the creature with unexpected and horrible repercussions. The story is both suspenseful and thrilling, which kept me reading.