Book Discussion: The Sunflower​ by Simon Wiesenthal

*THIS WAS A SUMMER READING ESSAY*

Literature is often used to express moral issues. Through stories, audiences have the ability to reflect on their ethics and values. In The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal, the main character is faced with an important internal conflict: should he forgive a Nazi for the mass murder of his religion?

Wiesenthal begins his book by telling the story of how he was brought to a dying Nazi’s bedside. He explains the hardships faced at the concentration camp to explain why forgiveness is hard to grant. By using harsh tones to describe the Nazis’ behavior, Wiesenthal reveals why the Nazi’s request causes an internal conflict. Ultimately, Wiesenthal decides, rather than forgiveness, to remain silent. Silence poses as a neutral response to the Nazi’s apology. The response leads to a question: was that the correct choice?

The second half of the novel is written by 53 writers of different backgrounds. Each person represented has a different belief system and values. Wiesenthal’s response to the Nazi allows for the other people to question what their decision would be. Each of the 53 writers states their beliefs on the subject and how they would have responded. Even though this story is focused on the Holocaust, the reflections of the 53 writers can be used in any situation. It is eventually shown that this project is not just about the Nazis but also forgiving people in general. Wiesenthal’s novel allows readers to question their moral values.

Overall, the book is an insightful look at who readers are in a moral perspective. Readers reflect on how forgiving they are and it allows them to fully understand compassion.

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Can Reading Help Solve Conflicts

For  the past few months, I have seen a lot of negativity in certain aspects of my life. I have noticed drama where I have been a bystander to various conflicts. Noticing these events, I have realized, that even though I am only seventeen, my ability to resolve conflicts is substantially better than some of my peers. The reasoning behind this, I believe, is that reading has taught me empathy.

One thing I have realized through these arguments is that the people refuse to understand other points of view. They believe that there can only be one person who is completely right instead on understanding that no one is every fully without fault. People rarely consider the actions of other people and their reasons behind them.

Through reading I have began to see people with more dimension. I understand that people’s ethics, thoughts, emotions, and even previous experiences contribute to how people act. Even by reading about the antagonists of stories, I began to understand that their actions have deeper meanings.

For example, in Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Warner is perceived as the antagonist for the first two books. Mafi initially expresses him harshly which results in the audience to view him negatively. Throughout the story, readers begin to learn about his life which explains his motives. By the end of the series, most of Shatter Me‘s fans prefer Warner rather than the actual protagonist.

Reading gives insight into how humans live. Readers are  enlightened with the concept that there is more to humans than their actions and reactions. Understanding feelings and ethics that people possess grants readers compassion. Reading about various lives expresses that we aren’t all the same-especially by how we feel and act.

Another thing that reading has helped me understand is that arguments are not one-dimensional. There are many factors that contribute into conflicts rather than the primary story. Sometimes, previous encounters or missed communication contribute more to a conflict than the actual reason. However, when more people get involved in an argument, it’s easier to focus on whose side to go toward rather than to understand that there is more to a story. Because people want support, they will recount their story to benefit themselves which allows bystanders, people who should never be involved in the first place, to engage in propaganda. Because people want to win their argument, despite whether the argument involves them, they will fight for their belief by speaking out which only creates a bigger argument.  In the end, the only thing we neglect is that there is always more to the story than what we perceive.

Through reading, the audience follows the plot where they see everything that contributes to the conflict. They get a deeper understanding of how the conflict is formed and resolved. The audience understands that there is never a single action that causes arguments but various factors.

Overall, I believe that humans refuse to acknowledge that other people are equally as flawed as them. Also, they refuse to acknowledge that actions are performed by feelings and motives which are typically not sinister. When people refuse to acknowledge these factors, arguments between a few people turn into wars with many people who should have never been involved.

EXCITING NEWS!!!!!!

For many of my followers that have been with me for a while, you may remember when I went to Baltimore to speak at Kidlitcon two years ago. In fact, I have an entire blog post about the experience I had at Kidlitcon.

Kidlitcon is a personal conference where people in the publishing industry gather together to discuss various writing topics. Attendees use the conference to meet others and promote their works. It is a fun and informational event. It broadens your connections and allows you to be surrounded by book lovers.

This year, I have another panel at Kidlitcon in Hershey, Pennsylvania! My panel is at 10:30 on November 3rd. The premise of my discussion is about building relationships with authors and publishers as a blogger. Here is the blurb for my panel: “It’s possible to be a blogger in isolation, but it is much more rewarding to be a blogger connected to the world of authors and publishing!  Join three experienced bloggers in a discussion of how to make and maintain those connections, and how to use those relationships to keep your blog energized and rewarding to both you and your readers”. It is going to be a very fun and interactive experience.

If you are interested in attending Kidlitcon, the convention is November 3rd and 4th at the Hershey Lodge in Pennsylvania. Hershey is an interesting part of Pennsylvania because it is home to the Hershey Chocolate Factory and amusement park! There is books, chocolate, and rides- there is nothing else you could want! Also, the Hershey Lodge, where the conference is held, is gorgeous!

The price of attending both days is $130. However if you buy it before October 15th, you can save $5! The tickets also include breakfast on Saturday, the reception on Friday, and lunch on both days. You can buy tickets here.

I hope all of you can make it and that I can see all of you!!

ARC Review: They Both Die In the End by Adam Silvera

Title: They Both Die in the End

Author: Adam Silvera

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Date of Publication: September 5, 2017

Publisher: HarperTeen

Description: On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.


I received They Both Die in the End at Bookcon after waiting over an hour at Adam Silvera’s book signing. Needless to say, it was worth the wait.

Adam is as great a writer as he is a person. Not only is he extremely talented, he makes his readers feel important to him. He is a high-quality writer AND person.

The story has a unique premise. It focuses on the “live as if you were dying” motto. The story begins with the characters receiving a call from a company called Deathcast. Ultimately, the company’s job is to inform ‘Deckers’, the stories term for people about to die, that their time on earth will be ending in less than a day. Because of this call, the characters are faced with an internal conflict: do they live out their final day or do they try to stay away from harm? Throughout the story, readers begin to reflect on this question as well. How would you live if you knew you were dying in less than twenty-four hours?

The world that Silvera builds is descriptive and thought out. Silvera explains Deathcast vividly to give readers an image of what it represents. Silvera, also, explains the world’s viewpoint on Deathcast and Deckers. He explains the perks that Deckers receive on their last day. These perks include simulators that give Deckers a safe alternative to experiencing life’s thrills and, more importantly, an app that allows you to find a friend who will help you live out your final day.

Not only does Silvera build the world in a flawless way, he creates the story effortlessly through characters. The story is told through more than just Mateo and Rufus’ point of view. It is also told by members of their families and other people they do not know that contribute to their story. Because of the various points of view, the story has more dimension.

My favorite character of the story was Mateo. Even though at times he was way too afraid of living out his final day (but, I mean, who wouldn’t be afraid when they are guaranteed death), he was the character who I felt more attached to. He truly cared for his dad and his friend. The story revolving around them was emotional and at times made me cry. He made the story has a deep impact on its readers.

My least favorite character was surprising Rufus. At first, I felt he was obsessive over his ex-girlfriend. He was too aggressive. In my opinion, he was not a great character. I did not feel any emotions toward that character.

Overall, it was an incredible story. It made me feel every emotion. I cried, I laughed, I just was an emotional mess. I highly recommend this story!

 

ARC Review: Top Ten by Katie Cotugno

TitleTop Ten

Author: Katie Cotugno

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Date of Publication: October 3, 2017

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Description: Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?


Top Ten

I had high hopes for this book. Top Ten had everything going for it. The cover and the synopsis were both captivating and made me wait in a line for over an hour to receive the book. However, the book, though still good, did not live p to my expectations.

top tenn

The cover for Top Ten

Top Ten revolves around the relationship between Gabby and Ryan, two friends best friend. The protagonists both believe a romantic relationship will never come from their friendship. However, after an event that occurs one night, they begin to reconsider this fact while recounting their top ten moments of high school.

Cotugno uses their top ten moments to enlighten readers of the relationship between Gabby and Ryan. This list includes pivotal moments between the protagonists that reveals the history of their friendship. Through the top ten list, we meet character and experience events that have shaped their relationship.

The premise of using the list to portray the characters and their relationships was a clever idea. However, I do not believe it was executed properly. Cotugno incorporated important events into the list to show the history of their friendship. Even though it made sense to add these events to the story, there is no way they would logically be one of their top ten moments. Every single moment that was mentioned ended in a major conflict. One of the characters’ favorite moments resulted in Gabby and Ryan not speaking for five months.

In the beginning of the story, the friendship between Gabby and Ryan appears to be unbreakable. They are referenced to not ever being apart. Also, Gabby constantly states how she does not know if she will be able to survive without Ryan.  However, throughout the story, there are multiple events where Gabby and Ryan are not close or have stopped being friends. Reading through the moments where Ryan and Gabby are not friends makes the statement illogical. Gabby has been without Ryan many times, why would this time be different?

Another flaw is their damaged relationship. The protagonists rarely converse in public which results in Gabby constantly questioning their friendship. In every top ten moments, the friends fight about their difference in lifestyles. Whenever one of the friends doesn’t understand the other’s choices, they get in a massive argument instead of trying to understand the other person. When the characters fight, they choose to say the words that will hurt the other person to an extreme extent. That is not a healthy relationship.

Besides the minor flaws, the novel was written well. The writing style was my favorite aspect of the book. Cotugno has an easy writing style that makes the book a quick read. Overall, I believe that the book could excel without these issues.