Tag Archives: Student Writing

2016 Summer Reading Blurbs – Writing Semester, Ms. Davis

Ms. Davis asked her Writing Semester students to pick one summer reading book and write a short blurb in the style of Stephen King, Charlotte Bronte, or themselves. Please read their contributions, and enjoy their writing “masks”!

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A Blurb on Melancholy Play, by Sarah Ruhl

Written by Andrew Roberge in the Style of Stephen King

Melancholy Play by Sarah Ruhl was uniquely beautiful, intensively introspective, and unlike any piece that I had ever read. My reading experience was entirely cerebral, provoked countless life-altering thoughts, and left me with a mix of satisfaction, and a general feeling only expressible by the word “…What?” Melancholy Play follows Tilly, a bank teller; Frank, a tailor; Joan, a nurse; Lorenzo, a shrink; Frances, a hairdresser; and Julian, a talented cellist. The general plot of this play, similar to the waning effects of an acid trip, leaves the reader starstruck as it details the turmoil caused by the divinely attractive melancholy Tilly who suddenly becomes “violently” and “monstrously” happy. Every character in the play falls in love with the melancholy Tilly, and watches their life fall apart as “the result of her great happiness.” Playwright Sarah Ruhl alluringly shows the reader or audience the power and potentially great effects of unbridled emotion, examples of endlessly devoted friendship and lust, the effects of sudden dramatic change, and the powerful symbolism of the solitary almond. You’ll just have to read it to figure that last bit out. Trust me, this modern day theatrical masterpiece is worth a look.

A Blurb On Twelve Angry Men, by Reginald Rose

Written by Gyan Maria in the Style of Stephen King

In this play, Rose lets the story do what I think all authors should do: let the story write itself and the characters do what they want. At the beginning of the play, each of the jurors takes on his own prejudices, his own decision for a verdict, his own life, and his own interest in the whether or not there is a reasonable doubt in the case. Then throughout the play, he lets the jurors influence each other through their personalities, until the original vote of eleven to one in favor of guilty had become twelve to none in favor of not guilty. Most of the influencing happens in two places: the bathroom or at a table in the main room. At the table, the jurors used mostly logic and evidence from the case to convince each other. The table is also where the reader could see the progression of change in vote. But in the bathroom, the jurors used much more personal means to convince each other. They would talk about their own and each other’s lives at home and at work as a way to connect, hoping to sway the verdict to what that juror thought was right.

 

 

 

 

A Blurb On If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

Written by Marion Conklin in the style of Stephen King

I find movies to be unintellectual forms of books. Directors of movies have an idea in their head of what they want you to feel when you watch a certain scene in a film play out on screen. For authors of books, it should be different. I do not expect or want all of the readers of my writing to have the same response from a passage as I do. People should have to think on their own, and ride the wave of uncertainty that is known as fiction, until they have finished the book. Throughout the entire novel they should be constantly thinking about the words that they just read, or about the story that is still to come. This is not the case in If I Stay, however, because the foreshadowing is overdone, and the suspense (or lack thereof) does not require thinking. In fact, just by the title the reader can figure out that Mia, who was in a terrible car accident, was going to survive.

 

 

 

 

A Blurb on Collected Poems, by T.S. Eliot

Written by Clay Wackerman in the Style of Clay Wackerman

Although I’m not quite cultured enough to fully understand all of Eliot’s poems, I sure can enjoy them. Even if I have no clue what he’s trying to get across, just the sound of the words was enough to make me feel something. He has a way with syllables and consonants that makes everything very pleasing to read aloud. His works are brimming with literary devices and historical references, but what really gets me is the imagery. In my head, I create these tiny realms, little spaces for my mind to wander. Each poem inspires a whole different world I can walk around in. Every poem evokes something beautiful, but the feelings were more abstract than simple love and darkness. Eliot combines emotions that are not often put together; some poems are whimsically fearful, and others pensively joyful, or fulfillingly broken. All these things arouse a sort of happy confusion inside the heart.

A Blurb on The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson

Written by Lucas Henderson in My Own Style

I loved reading The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson. In fact it was one of my favorite books of all time. I thoroughly enjoyed how the characters developed, and how gritty and (somewhat) realistic the story was. On top of that, I felt that all the characters were believable and essential to the story, including the supporting cast. One example of this is Lisbeth Salander’s caretaker/ guardian, Nils Bjurman. In the first book, he played an abusive and overpowering character, but in this second installment, Bjurman is finally submissive, for reasons I won’t ruin. How Salander deals with Bjurman’s new position in her life was realistic and it really struck me. Finally, the storytelling in this book is something I can only aspire to in my writing. I could not put this book down with all of the cliffhangers and exciting sequences. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.

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A Blurb on Transfer of Power, by Vince Flynn

Written by Nikhil Etikela in the style of Stephen King

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my dad about hypothetical situations on a car ride to school. One thing that popped up was the idea of the White House and President being taken hostage by terrorists. As we were talking, my dad noticed and mentioned an interesting point – we weren’t considering this scenario from a terrorist’s eyes. Vince Flynn’s Transfer of Power entertains the bad-guy perspective while still showing us the rational thinking behind each move that our country made without the president (who was locked up in a vault at the time and couldn’t communicate with the outside world due to a frequency jammer). Seeing the action play out from the terrorist Rafique Aziz’s point of view is very interesting; there is a thirst to get something done that most of us have never even considered, let alone felt. But behind all that drive and motivation is a very powerful mind, which planned to create and maintain a two-step advantage at all times. Everything was planned out so well, that when HRT and SEALs began flooding the White House, our terrorist escaped. It’s very intriguing to see Flynn create an insightful character out of someone who we would all brand an enemy.

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A Blurb On The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Written by Annie Banks in the style of Stephen King

Charlie. An interesting boy, stuck in the dark tunnel that adolescence is. But, I would bet my left hand and then some that if he somehow found a way to skip these years, his situation would be a whole lot worse. Back when I was in the midst of my teenage years, damn I was lost and confused. With all the babysitters outgrown, and no one to screw around with, David and I had nothing to do. All the fun was gone, but I must admit, by the end of this flat out awkward time, I did find the light. Charlie is a great kid. Despite his occasional usage of adverbs, I found myself to grow quite fond of him. In the end, he did gain perspective, but I gotta say, my teenage years were a breeze compared to his. He just about went through hell from witnessing Ponytail Derek physically abusing his older sister to experiencing the suicide of his only friend. The stuff he saw sure as hell messed with the kid; however, they did lead him to realize his aunt, Helen, raped him back when he was a youngster and this realization drove him to get help. If you ask me, his parents should have kept a closer eye on him. It would have saved him a boat load of trouble, but who gives a damn about what I think. All that said and done, Charlie’s therapy did help him, and now that he is feeling better, I think I could make a hell of a writer outta him. Between his letters and his essays for Bill, he must write close to 1000 words a day. That’s the first and most important step. With a little help from my memoir and the obliteration of adverbs, the kid has potential to go places.

 

 

 

 

A Blurb on Room, by Emma Donoghue

Written by Galen Smith in My Own Style

Over the summer I read the novel Room, by Emma Donoghue. What stood out to me among the many themes was the relationship between Joyce and her son,  Jack. The hardships that they endure are beyond what most people could imagine, yet their bond is only strengthened. As most mothers do, Joyce shields Jack from the real world, convincing him that the room they live in is all there is, therefore creating the fantasy that besides their kidnapper,  Jack and Joyce are the only humans living on earth. Instead of questioning this reality, Jack embraces it and uses it as an excuse to grow closer to his mother, finding comfort in their solidarity.  Jack, unlike other children his age, lacks interaction with anyone but his mother. She serves as his playmate, his cook, his doctor, his teacher, and everything in between. She is the only person that Jack has in this world, which forms a bond almost too strong for Joyce to handle. When they finally escape and are thrust back into reality, Jack yearns for the closeness to his mother that he had in ‘room’.  Joyce, however, does not look back and tries to introduce Jack to the other wonders the world has to offer besides her love. At first, Jack doesn’t understand and resents their escape and the independence that ensues, but eventually he accepts his role in the real world and the fact that he can love his mother while also living his own life.

A Blurb on Bringing Down the House, by Ben Mezrich

Written by Jimmy D’Amato in My Own Style

One of the books I read this summer was Bringing Down the house, by Ben Mezrich. This book is about a group of men and women who are able to cheat the Vegas casinos for millions. These individuals are a group of M.I.T. students, supersmart “nerds,” who excel in mathematics. The game in which they “cracked the code” for is blackjack, one of the more simple casino card games. While the profit was huge, and these college students instantly became millionaires with, essentially, all the money they could ever need, the risk was high. Cheating the game is illegal, and if caught the consequences are huge. The students did not only figure out how to cheat the game, but also devised a whole system in which they would act as a team in the casinos. There would be designated “players” who played in the casinos and won all the money, while others had jobs including one to lookout for security and others to indicate certain things to do in game. I found the book very entertaining, and very exciting.

A Blurb on The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant

Written by Olivia Conway in the style of Olivia Conway

The Red Tent follows Dinah, a character from the bible who’s story is often glossed over as a small part in the larger, more important portion about her father, Jacob, and her brothers. In the bible the story is that her brothers protected her honor after she was defiled by the prince of Shechem. What actually happened, in Diamant’s version of the story at least, was that they wanted to protect their family’s honor when they felt that the prince did not treat their sister the way they thought she should have been treated, even though he actually had feelings for Dinah and her own for him. This results in the deaths of the prince and all the members of family and staff being murdered in the night by the brothers. From here Dinah leaves home and makes a name for herself as a midwife in Egypt, using the practices taught to her by her mother and aunts from birth within the female sanctuary of the red tent. She eventually finds love again and rebuilds her relationship with her brother Joseph. When returning to her homeland with Joseph she realizes that while the men of Jacob’s tribe had forgotten all about her, her mother and the women of the tribe kept her story alive along with the vibrant practices that took place within the red tent.

A Blurb on Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

Written by Helena Lyng-Olsen in the style of Charlotte Brontë

One can at times find lengthy books of knowledge to be rather dry, which is understandable when considering how passion can induce a writer to flood the reader with details piquant to the former but irrelevant to the latter. Nevertheless, in an exception to prior experiences, I came upon a factual book that sparked the mind and enlightened the conscience. I had purchased it a few months before when contemplating the contents of a shelf in back of a dimly lit bookstore; the voice and subject matter of the opening pages had spoken deeply to the events that have taken place in my life thus far. In the volume, the author eloquently weaves together a tale noting the societal preference for a dominant extrovert, an inclination evident in various spheres of professional and even adolescent life. Having thus described the circumstances in which her research, and our lives, takes place, she then explores various qualities, many to be lauded, that introverts possess; she alludes with care to the poignancy of the discrepancy between their role in society and their inherent ability. With the word count I am held to, along with the lengthy nature of my sentences, I am no longer able to continue; I shall now conclude this piece of writing, the scrap of my mind that it is.

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A Blurb on War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

Written by Ana Sotelo-Emery in My Own Style

Leo Tolstoy pays great attention to detail in his character’s emotions, physical actions, facial expressions, language, and character development. He describes a character’s complicated emotions in a way in which you can understand their inner turmoil or thought process, and their transition from one emotion to another. He has a clear understanding of their character, and he makes it obvious to you through their thought process, even if their physical actions contradict those thoughts. He can describe the emotion of a character simply in the way they lift their lip, or in which language they speak to others. Through his detailed analysis of his characters’s thoughts and actions, you feel as if you know them, and through whatever hardship they endure and every happy moment they experience, you can see them evolving on the page, growing in character and in spirit.

Erica Meno’s Book Review

When Everything Disappeared in the Blink of an Eye

Tom Perrotta writes in a mysterious, captivating way about connections, relationships, and heartbreaking losses.

By Erica Meno

While many of you were focused on the The Leftoversuncharacteristically unstable weather events in 2011, such as an earthquake in August, followed by Hurricane Irene, and a snowstorm in October, by the spring of 2011, people of Mapleton, a small New Jersey suburb, were still grieving the loss of family and friends and trying to understand the rapturelike events that struck three years earlier, when millions of people vanished from the Earth. Some Christians believe that when the rapture comes, those who deeply believe Jesus to be their one an only God will vanish from their earthly state and be brought directly to heaven. Certain members of a family will vanish in the rapture, but some will still remain. Those who remain are traumatized, emotionally scarred, and forever changed as a result of watching their family members or close friends vanish right before their eyes.

Through this fictional story, Tom Perrotta writes an elaborate response to how an everyday, normal family, the Garvey family, consisting of Kevin, Laurie, and their two children, Tom and Jill, respond and react to the inexplicable rapturelike events. Together, they help each other grieve, heal, and come to terms with the events that happened and the disappearance of their friends and loved ones.

Perrotta does a very good job portraying Tom Garvey’s character as a typical college student, trying to live a normal life in the midst of all the recent events. His college life remains fairly average until he joins a fraternity, and one of his fraternity brothers informs him about Holy Wayne. At the beginning of his “career,” Holy Wayne preaches to grieving survivors and suggests coping mechanisms to them. One example is hugging them, since he claims that all their pain will be channeled from their bodies into his, and they will feel like changed people. Over time, Holy Wayne grows increasingly more popular among survivors who make him into a famous figure. Unfortunately, fame overcomes Holy Wayne. He becomes a pedophile known as the “age-old scoundrel, the Horny Man of God.” He proceeds to start the Healing Hug movement, where he impregnates one teenage girl who will give birth to the “miracle child.”

I find the next part of the book to be very chaotic, bizarre, and unnecessary. Tom runs off with the sixteen-year-old girl who Holy Wayne impregnates. Together, they join the Barefoot people, a group who believes the only way to cope with the events of the rapture is to drink, have sex, and do drugs all the time. I feel Perrotta loses his audience’s attention during this part of the book because it is written in a completely different style than the rest of the story.

Perrotta describes Laurie Garvey as the family member who is the most emotionally traumatized by the rapturelike events. She wants to start a new life, so she decides to join the post-rapture group, the Guilty Remnant. Members of this group must take a vow of silence, dress in all white, and smoke cigarettes in public. The main objective of the Guilty Remnant is to follow and watch the non-members and try to recruit them to join. Perrotta stresses that although Laurie helps herself by joining the group, she hurts her husband and daughter by leaving them. “It was better to leave well enough alone, to avoid unnecessary encounters with people you’d left behind, to not keep poking at that sore tooth with the tip of your tongue. Not because you didn’t love them anymore, but because you did, and because that love was useless now, just another dull ache in your phantom limb.” Although Kevin and Jill feel betrayed, they know they need to carry on with their lives and keep their daily routine as normal as possible.

I feel Perrotta does the best job describing Jill Garvey, “a former straight-A student with stellar SAT scores,” who goes through a complete physical and social transformation after the rapture and especially after her mother decides to join the Guilty Remnant. Perrotta describes the gravity of the situation as Jill was “failing Math and Chemistry.” Jill’s best friend, Aimee, moves in with her after the rapture occurs because Aimee needs a stable home life. Aimee influences Jill to make many poor decisions that her mother would not approve of. Jill’s physical image and social status in school significantly changed as a result of Aimee’s influence.

Perrotta also does a good job portraying Kevin Garvey’s character, who has the most responsibility. After Laurie leaves him to join the Guilty Remnant, he is left as a single parent to raise his teenage daughter and her best friend, and he is also the mayor of the town. Kevin knows he must move on from Laurie, and he becomes attracted to a woman who lost her husband and young son in the rapture. She is very emotionally damaged, which puts a large strain on their relationship.

Overall, I think this is a very good and cleverly written book by Tom Perrotta. Each chapter focuses on the story of a different member of the Garvey family. I recommend this book to a mature audience who enjoys reading about relationships between family members and to anyone who loves a mysterious novel with continuous plot twists.