Forced Survival: A Review of Pride and Prejudice

What are basic survival needs? Food, clothes, shelter—these seem obvious; they have been so for centuries. But what about survival in a world slightly different, survival in a world of complicated social rules and hierarchies—what else would we need besides food and shelter? Perhaps we would need money, an education, good connections. But what if there was something more, something that would make the difference between living comfortably and scraping by; what if the last element was a profitable, well-negotiated marriage?

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A Room Full of Laughter: A Review of The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest

My two siblings sat in front of me, holding the script to the monologue in their hands. I stared back and took a deep breath. Then I began the monologue. My younger sibling smiled, and soon my older sibling followed suit. As I continued, speaking the ridiculous words in a ludicrous accent, they laughed outright. I tried desperately to keep my face straight. But the words to the monologue were so absurd that I gave up and succumbed to laughter, sinking down the wall. My companions laughed right along with me, filling the room with our laughter. The script, so painstakingly copied from an exceptional play, was left lying on the bed.

The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by the Irish playwright Oscar Wilde. It relates the story of John Worthing, an earnest young man seeking to marry Miss Gwendolen Fairfax, a young woman residing in London. Although Miss Fairfax accepts John’s proposal, her mother, Lady Bracknell, opposes the union. When John’s best friend, Algernon, joins the fray, he wreaks havoc on John’s social life in a hilarious game of mixed identities.

The Importance of Being Earnest is more than a comedy: it is a criticism of Victorian society. Through puns and wordplay, Wilde exposes the hypocrisy of Victorian social customs. In one such instance, Algernon and John’s protégé, Cecily, become engaged, but Lady Bracknell once again opposes the marriage. However, Lady Bracknell quickly changes her tone when she discovers that Cecily is heir to a small fortune, although proclaiming that marriages should never be mercenary. With his subtle and hilarious use of dialogue, Wilde creates a satirical, absurd, yet realistic image of Victorian life.

Despite the apparent dryness of this story’s format—after all, plays are without internal narrative or description—The Importance of Being Earnest is extremely vivid. The characters are lifelike, if somewhat farcical. Take Algernon, the quick-witted dandy who adores food, or Lady Bracknell, the brisk matron who says the most ridiculous things. Through only their words, these characters come to life. It is a true delight to read John and Algernon’s nonsensical banter, and even the house butlers Lane and Merriman are unique in their droll gravity.

The Importance of Being Earnest is a stunning work of art. Although almost 125 years old, this story remains fresh and funny—enough to fill a room with laughter.

Ages: 13 and up.

You can buy this book here.

Inside and Out: a Review of Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces

I knelt by the scattered makeup tubes which lay heaped on the floor, picking them up and putting them into their proper places. They were only props for a sketch we were performing, but the other girls with me were examining them expertly.

“Do you wear makeup?” one of them asked me, twisting a perfume bottle in her fingers.

“No,” I responded simply. I don’t, and I don’t particularly care.

“Oh, that’s too bad,” my friend said earnestly from behind me, “You would look really pretty.”

“I’m not pretty enough already?” I gasped in mock horror. The girls laughed, and that was that.

Later that night, the conversation came back to me. I wondered at the silliness of it. Why this fixation with outward beauty? Don’t our actions speak for themselves?

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold is a retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche, written by C. S. Lewis. Orual is the ugly daughter of the King of Glome. Her beautiful half-sister, Istra, who is also called Psyche, is one of the people Orual truly loves. But Orual’s heart breaks when Psyche is tied to a tree on a mountainside, as a sacrifice to the goddess Ungit, who according to legend will devour Pysche. As Orual grows, her grudge against the gods deepens, the injustice of it torturing her day and night.

Orual is haunted by her ugliness throughout her life. Her father calls her a hobgoblin, and she never denies it. But as she grows older, she becomes more self-conscious. When she becomes queen, she dons a veil and does not take it off for decades. Eventually, Orual’s ugliness begins to affect more than just her face. As her grudge grows and her loneliness deepens, she realizes something terrifying: she is ugly—inside.

Orual discovers the error of her ways only days before she finally dies, in the form of a vision. In the vision, she is put on trial before the gods. She realizes that her grudge, which embittered her throughout her long life, was childish and sullen. To find beauty, she must look beyond the face. Beyond the hair, skin, lashes—beyond the physical. Mortals will only accept one with a truly beautiful face; the gods will accept one with a beautifully true soul.

Till We Have Faces is a singular novel. C. S. Lewis’s signature honesty and thoughtfulness make it heartbreaking and thought-provoking: a testimony of the difference between outward appearance and inward beauty.

High-school historical fantasy, ages 14+

You can buy this book here.

Little Hungry Pizzas: A Review of Ready Player One

Ready Player One - Gate

I found myself staring at the words INSERT COIN. I clicked the button. I was playing Google’s Pac Man doodle, and as the game started, I maneuvered the little pizza around hesitantly. I lost. I played again. I lost. I played again. Seized by a mad determination to win the game, I played for over half an hour until I won. What if the world was like a video game? I wondered, grimacing as the words GAME OVER appeared again on the screen. What if the world was a video game?

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Just A Few Years: A Review of The Last Unicorn

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I remember my little sister crying by a window. She was crying because I didn’t completely believe something she’d told me. It was a few years ago, (I, of course, completely trust her now) but that scene has stuck with me: her red, wet face; my mother’s voice talking to her patiently; my older sister’s impassive expression. Trust is something which you cannot hold and cannot measure, and yet it is so important that people trust you—how can you earn it?

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Observations on Staring: A Review of Wonder

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When I was about five years old, my family and I went to a museum in Paris. On the steps outside the museum, I painted my face green with face-paint and pretended to be a T-Rex. It was incredibly entertaining to pretend to be a dinosaur . . . until we had to go home. To do this, we took the subway. I remember sitting in my seat miserably, my face painted green and the people across the row staring at me. They probably thought I was adorable, but I didn’t see it that way. I almost started crying because I wanted that paint off my face so much.

Wonder, by R. J. Palacio, is the story of August Pullman. August is a homeschooled eleven-year-old. He eats ice cream, he rides his bike, and he plays video games. But August is not ordinary: he has a massive birth defect that makes his face horribly disfigured. All his life he’s faced involuntary winces, outright stares, suppressed yelps, second glances. Now he’s up against something more difficult than ever: school.

Have you ever looked at someone and wondered what they were thinking about? Wonder is especially interesting because it is written in the perspective of many different people. There’s August’s perspective, of course, but also the perspectives of Jack Will (August’s best friend), Summer (another of August’s friends), Via (August’s sister), and Miranda (Via’s friend.) It is intriguing to see how different people react to the same things. When Jack says something mean about August, he is disgusted with himself. August is surprised and resentful; Summer is sympathetic with Jack.

Wonder is like chestnut honey. When you first taste it you feel sweetness, although there is a hint of bitterness. When you swallow, the bitterness stays (although not unpleasantly). Just like chestnut honey, August is a sweet boy. He jokes about his defect, like the time he claims that UglyDolls were based on him. When I read that, I couldn’t help laughing a tad. But in the book there is also a bitter sadness that lingers—sometimes it rubs your throat raw.

Wonder is wonderful (no pun intended): funny, sad, insightful, and bittersweet. Being stared at for ten minutes in the subway felt horrible, but it is quite another thing to be stared at your whole life. I don’t think I’m going to stare ever again.

Ages: 11+

You can buy this book here.

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