Summer Book Reviews


Freshmen: “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding

Sophia Ibrahim

If William Golding’s novel “The Lord of the Flies” was a song from the early 2000s, it would be “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. Just like the hit song, it’s engrossing and unprecedented diegesis makes for a great start that draws the reader in. There is a bit of a mess in the middle due to its unorthodox structure—but it maintains enough interest to keep going without losing too much rhythm, and has a satisfying ending that makes the reader close the book with a sigh. 

The story follows the journey of a group of boys stranded on an island in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean as they work towards forming a civilization—or what seems like one at first. Plagued by sickness, hunger, and the deaths of vital characters, it seems unlikely that the boys will be rescued, but the rollercoaster-ride of a plot leaves nothing for certain. Golding’s use of vivid imagery, impeccable characterization, and model transitioning from one subplot to another takes the reader on a whirlwind of emotions that leaves them smiling regardless of whether the plot struck their fancy or not.


Sophomores: “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

Olivia Biggs

At first glance, John Steinbeck’s naturalistic tale “Of Mice and Men”, seemed disheartening and tragic, but throughout the book I was able to build meaningful connections to the characters. 

Steinbeck’s colorful — if a tad simplistic — characters are both relatable and perfect foils for each other. Lennie, the bigger of the two, has a good heart yet people see Lennie as a bad guy because they don’t understand his mental disability. George has a seemingly devil-may-care attitude, and is often impulsive. 

I enjoyed the odd friendship between the two men; that despite George’s piss-off attitude to the rest of the world, he could never shake off a profound empathy for Lennie. This book has been banned countless times for showing vulgarity and euthanasia, but “Of Mice and Men” shows these in a not very violent or vengeful way, and enables us to have open discussions about those issues. Overall, this book remains a classic and deserves the praise it gets.


Juniors: “The Stranger in The Woods” by Michael Finkel

Anna Arnsberger

“The Stranger in the Woods” by Micheal Finkel follows the story of Christopher Knight, a hermit who spent 27 years living alone in the Maine wilderness. Finkel uses a journalistic style to investigate the past of Knight, who is detained in a local prison for numerous counts of robbery. 

I appreciated Finkel’s dedication to the story, carrying out hundreds of interviews and making extensive trips throughout Maine over multiple years in order to achieve a thorough narrative. Personal anecdotes, interviews, and historical references all add to the fascinating intrigue that surrounds Knight’s life. As readers delve deeper into Knight’s character, they are left contemplating the significance of society and human interactions. 

While I enjoyed reading about Knight, I couldn’t help feeling as if I were encroaching where I didn’t belong. Knight only begrudgingly agreed to have this book written about him and he never appeared enthusiastic about meeting with Finkel. As Knight’s aversion to attention is clearly developed in the story, a national bestselling novel based solely around him seems to be the antithesis of what he would want. Nevertheless, Knight’s story was certainly a captivating one, and the 224-page novel made for a much-appreciated casual summer read.


Seniors: “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

“Wild” has two significant roadblocks to reading it built into its central conceit. First, hiking any trail for longer than a couple of hours would seem ludicrous to most. Second, upon reading past the first few pages, one wonders how anybody could document every step of their journey and keep it interesting.

Suffice to say that if you stick with the book, Cheryl Strayed has done just that. The reader does not feel every step of Strayed’s physical journey, and that may be its one weakness, but they certainly feel every step of her emotional journey, and that’s the most important one.

Keeping a self-aware but serious tone throughout, Strayed completely wraps us up in her travails so that we feel each triumph and failure as it comes. Especially when Strayed experiences certain highs, such as reuniting with a hiking buddy, we feel a sense of elation as well.

While it may not seem like it during the early stages of the book, “Wild” slowly builds to a gut-punch of a resolution that satisfyingly wraps up Strayed’s spiritual cravings. Finishing the book is almost as cathartic of an experience as Strayed’s real-life odyssey.