Summer Book Reviews

Written by Amber Appel

OMG Shakespeare by Brett White and William Shakespeare

It’s nearly impossible to escape grade school without being force-fed Shakespeare. The sonnets, the plays, the iambic pentameter; it defines our English education. While Shakespeare is taught as the epitome of fluidity, beauty, and poetry in language, have you ever missed the actual plot of the story because of the unique style? I know I have. I’ve read an entire scene between just two characters only to have no idea what actually transpired. It made the tests impossible without Sparknote’s frank and easy-to-read No Fear Shakespeare. However, now you can buy the most popular Shakespeare plays written in the most contemporary language of the land: text message.

You can buy such adaptions as YOLO Juliet and Srsly Hamlet at your local bookstores. It was a fantastic day when I found this hidden gem, and I couldn’t resist buying the first book. I have no guilt, because I have never understood Romeo and Juliet so well. The book has group texts, abundant emojis, relationship statuses, Facebook posts, slang, and plenty of LOLs. For those familiar with social media, Shakespeare has never been so readable and entertaining. The whole series of OMG Shakespeare will help you understand the stories unburdened by the tricky Elizabethan language. Even if you have no trouble with the Shakespearian language, it is still a hilarious experience to see this adaptation in action.

Something to note is that, with this cyber version of the text, these books lose some of their power in translation. Language is a powerful tool, and an emoji heart can never capture the full spectrum of one of the most powerful emotions felt by humankind. By moving Shakespeare to text lingo, it detracts from the emotions and literary genius of the original plays. It is said that you never should break up with someone through text, and the reason becomes viciously clear by examining the differences in language between each version of the same story. When Romeo describes his love in the language of Shakespeare it bleeds through the pages, while in text it comes across as superficial. It is a fascinating phenomenon that reveals the importance of language.

Even the most tragic of the Shakespeare plays becomes comedy in this format. In addition to YOLO Juliet, there is also Srsly hamlet, Macbeth #killing it, A Midsummer Night #nofilter. If the titles themselves don’t crack you up already, then I can assure you that the highly relatable characteristics of social media as used by Hamlet, Romeo, Mercutio, and more, most certainly will. If the humor isn’t enough for you to give this book a try, then I recommend reading it for the candid snapshot of one of the world’s newest languages. But remember that this book isn’t evidence that social media is destroying language and romance, because no matter what happens, Shakespeare will still be forced upon future generations for centuries to come. #Foreals.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

One of the most widely published books in the universe is The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Well, not the actual book, but its fictional counterpart. With the words “don’t panic” stamped on its cover, this ideal book for the many travelers of the cosmos contains a vast index of answers and information regarding the many things one has a probability of running into in the infinite expanse of space. This is the very book that Ford Prefect is revising and updating when he is stranded on a terribly boring planet called Earth, but he won’t be there for much longer. Or a more accurate statement is that in a few minutes, the Earth won’t be there any longer. The bar in which Ford and his good friend Arthur Dent, a most uninteresting earthling, are drinking will be incinerated along with the rest of the planet when a troublesome fleet of Vogons vehemently destroys Earth to make way for an interstellar highway. This may be the end of the road for the experienced interplanetary explorer and Arthur, that is, unless they can catch a ride with a thumb aimed skyward.

Arthur will have to drastically adjust his lifestyle in order to even achieve at the very least the hope of coping with the adventures he will be exposed to. He will stutter the word, “What,” more times than there are atoms in a star. Time and time again, the threat of obliteration will be averted with a wide variety of coincidences that will save Arthur, Ford, and the other colorful characters they interact with, such as Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed President of the galaxy, and Marvin, a manic-depressive robot. The hilariously wacky adventures of the group will keep the reader zooming around in space long after the book concludes at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Douglas Adams has incorporated so much randomness and improbability into this small 200 page sci-fi novel that my confidence in my own capacity for randomness has been compromised. Douglas Adams is the type of author who will interrupt his story to hypothesize what happens to all the ballpoint pens after they are lost; apparently, they all end up on a self-sustaining planet living happy and full lives in a pen society. I can’t compete with his dedication to the unexpected, but I aspire to.

Not only does this story entertain the reader with the fictional history of the universe, but it also provides the answer to the “ultimate question” in its pages. If you don’t appreciate books with a raw display of humor, at least read this one for the passage explaining how a race of highly intelligent beings dedicated their energies to creating a computer powerful enough to calculate the answer to life, the universe, and everything. It takes seven and a half million years to compute the answer, and the reader is present when the day finally arrives for “Deep Thought” to make its reality altering statement.

This book lacked a resounding theme and symbolism, but as a wonderfully charming and hysterical sci-fi, Douglas Adams hit gold. It’s not a book for a typical school assignment, but one can also learn much about how towels are essential for hitchhiking, how the number 42 is more than just the solution to seven multiplied by six, and how robots with “people personalities” suck.

The 100 by Kass Morgan

So, the apocalypse finally happened. It wasn’t aliens; it wasn’t a solar flare; it wasn’t the perfect storm, nor a volcano; it was the humans. They nuked themselves. Of course, they were all aiming for their enemies, but the radiation and destruction that resulted from the nuclear warfare forced them all to abandon their home, Earth. Now humans live in orbit, miles above the planet from whence they came, in a patchwork of space stations from every country. The remains of the human race may be safe from the noxious atmosphere, but not for much longer.

Time is running out for the inhabitants on the stations, or more specifically, the air. After 200 years in space, Earth resembles an abandoned pool with a broken filter and no cover, filled with leaves and June bugs; but now it’s time to test the water for survivability. A decision is made to re-colonize the Earth by sending down the most able-bodied, respectable citizens. Just kidding; they send the juvenile delinquents, one hundred of them to be exact.

Just think about it: one hundred hormonal criminals completely separated from any governing body and given the entire planet to do whatever they want. It’s quite a picture. I imagine it would look like a woodsy Fox Day—and like Fox Day, this story could have gone in many different directions. The author chooses the best one possible.

The four narrators of this book may be the age of most college students, yet they do not carry themselves that way. Bellamy, Wells, Glass, and Clarke have all suffered tragedies and have matured beyond their years as a result; these character traits give the book a serious and calculated tone. It is not a classic survival story, nor is it a teen romance, even though it has plenty of “ships” to have fun with and root for.

This sci-fi book also contains elements of mystery. The four main characters and the remainder of the one hundred all have a hidden past. Slowly, buried secrets begin to surface about them and the system that put them there. Due to these stories told in flashbacks, this book becomes less about survival and more about relationships.

This is the first book of three, and while the second installment is teased as being closer to science fiction, this first book is an almost purely human story that is centered more on the drama than the actual character development. While enjoyable, this book seems to be better suited for television than a piece of literature. And it is. The television show of the same name and premise is on its third season, which I have been avidly watching. For those who have also seen it, long live Clexa. If you can, you should watch the show, but just in case you don’t own a TV, you can always read the book.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

If I were to go up to someone and demand, “Make me dinner reservations at that restaurant reviewed in the newspaper I was reading last week,” they would leer at me like I was a loon and back away slowly. This is a ridiculous request for anyone to make, yet when Miranda Priestly says “jump,” you jump. In The Devil Wears Prada, when Miranda makes a command, it is followed in a blink of an eye without hesitation or question, because in the fashion industry and in her esteemed position as editor of Runway magazine, her opinion is the only one that matters. She holds her power over people and makes them dance like puppets. To be her assistant would be hell, but when Andrea lands the job all she knows is that it is a position that “a million girls would die for.” Sounds like a great opportunity to enhance a resumé, until you realize that expression should be interpreted more literally.

If Andrea works for the “Dragon Lady” for one year, she can get a position at any newspaper, including her dream career of writing for the New York Times, but the question is: can she last that long? She must fulfill every one of Miranda’s outlandish requests, and they are quite outlandish. For example: securing a steak dinner for Miranda’s lunch while simultaneously obtaining the next Harry Potter book before it is published. Andrea is on call at all hours, and as she becomes increasingly immersed in the fashion world, all other aspects of her life begin to fall apart. In order to make it throughout the year, she has to become the kind of girl who cares about how she looks and leave her old friends behind repeatedly. She is mercilessly pulled apart by the pressures of her work and the growing strain on her relationships with loved ones. This book may seem like a book about a girl who starts loving her shoes more than her boyfriend, but that is a shallow, almost slanderous, comment on an impactful lesson on where happiness and true success originate.

Yes, it’s true that Andrea makes some significant mistakes, but overall, her character is representative of what happens when a person is repressed and blackmailed. She is learning to manipulate people in order to keep Miranda happy, all for the promise of achieving her career goals. As the year wears on, she is warped into one of her boss’s drones and loses her individuality. The friendly sweater-wearing “Andy” gives way to a career consumed and stiletto-wearing stranger. Andrea begins to learn that not all of the evils in life are obvious; sometimes, they wear Prada.

Given the nature of Andrea’s character, the reader sympathizes equally with both her and the people she leaves behind in her career-focused pursuits, causing us to question: how far will she go? It may be a book aimed at girls, but it succeeds in focusing on some of life’s toughest lessons, while entertaining us with Andrea’s outrageous plights and extravagant errand running. It could definitely pass for a “beach read,” but there is a dark underlying layer that gives The Devil Wears Prada surprising depth. It’s worth a read. However, if it gives you pause to carry around a book with a fashionable shoe on the cover, you can always balance it out by pairing it with 1984 by George Orwell. No one will question it.