Want to exercise your mind? Here are reviews of 5 new novels available now in the Commons.

Lauren McNeese, Features Editor

As a society, we have been told countless times of the benefits of working through a sudoku, taking in more turmeric, learning a foreign language, or going that extra lap around the block. By 2022, the brain-training industry is estimated to reach $8 million in profits, according to a major market research report. The desire to improve one’s memory and cognitive functioning is a common one. Yet, few people are aware of the positive implications of routine reading in one’s life.

However, not all reading is equal. Studies conducted at Stanford University prove that close literary reading in particular gives your brain a major workout. In fact, MRI scans of individuals who were deep into a Jane Austen novel had increased blood flow to areas of the brain that control both cognitive and executive functioning, as opposed to the less dramatic effects that come from a light, leisurely read.

How to best engage in said reading and mental exercise is a conversation being had among many students within the community of Chattanooga Christian High School.

Not sure where to start in your venture to improve your mental state by reading? Confused as to what great new novels are just out there, waiting for you to pick up? The Learning Commons recently ordered several new books to get you started! Here are some quick reviews to peak your interest:

Book #1:

The Sun is Also a Star, Nicola Yoon















Can you prove that true love exists?


Ever feel labeled as a high school stereotype? Bound by others’ expectations of you? Nicola Yoon, author of bestseller and motion picture Everything, Everything explores these ideas in her latest novel, The Sun is Also a Star. The main character, Daniel, is a senior in high school whose parents expect nothing less of him than his attendance of Yale University. He has always been a perfect son and a perfect student. While he is not enthused, he begrudgingly accepts the plans that have been made for him regarding his life. On his way to the interview, though, he just happens to pull this girl out of the way of a car, saving her life. She is all like “you saved my life; let me buy you coffee…” She causes him to question the “fate” that he had previously accepted. The theme of destiny and “love at first sight” is definitely interwoven throughout the story, and there are many parallels to the conversations about Romeo and Juliet in 9th grade English. Also, I may or may not have thrown this book across the room upon its’ ending. This book was a quick, easy read. While it was not my cup of tea because I don’t appreciate a predictable ending or instant love, if you’re looking for a beach read Yoon’s latest bestseller may just be for you.

Book #2:

Genuine Fraud, E. Lockhart


“The thing which heals the patient is the actual re-telling of the story. You tell the story about yourself, and maybe it doesn’t heal you, but it does empower you to take a narrative about yourself and choose to tell it. And it maybe is not true. Or, what is true? If it feels true to you, maybe it is true. If you tell it enough, you believe it. That can set you free, but it can also be dangerous.” - E. Lockhart  

I genuinely appreciate this novel by E. Lockhart. This is my second-favorite book of all time, my favorite being We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I have read it five times. This book asks questions of who can you trust, and how do you know? What causes people to act the way that they do? How far can jealousy really go? What if it goes too far? And also, why is identity theft a big deal?

In Lockhart’s latest, an anti-hero story is showcased. Lockhart summarizes this novel as being about “two young women who look enough alike to share a passport.” Something else notable about this book is that it is told in reverse. Starting with Chapter 18, 18-year-old female protagonist Jules West Williams has been living at a fancy Mexican-resort hotel for four weeks. Alone. So you don’t know why. Next, very quickly, she goes on the run. She gets in a fight in an alley and escapes and changes how she looks, takes one cab, then another, then another, and ends up at another hotel where she is paying cash and arranging to buy a car the next morning to get herself out of town. Each chapter back in time, you find out a little more about why she’s there. She’s in Vegas. And then she’s in London. The reader keeps going back and following her around the world, learning about this famous friendship between her and a young woman that she looks very much like who is a runaway heiress named Imogene Sokoloff.

E. Lockhart, graduate of Columbia University, says that her writing style has confined her creativity in a way that actually stimulates it. To learn more about Lockhart and her work, listen to one of my favorite podcasts, with an interview with E. Lockhart: http://www.somanydamnbooks.com/episodes//episode-eighty

Book #3:

A Study in Charlotte, Brittany Cavallaro


A school nurse. A cocaine addiction. Two college freshman trying to solve a murder mystery while simultaneously battling the idea that they have fallen helplessly in love. Charlotte Holmes, a descendent of her infamous relative Sherlock Holmes, is a mysterious, complex girl. Jamie Watson is determined to figure her out. They find themselves mid-way through a relatively normal year when all of a sudden Charlotte’s roommate is murdered at a school dance. A few weeks later, Jamie’s rival is also killed mysteriously. Charlotte and Jamie are accused of the killings, and are intent on solving the puzzle, and in doing so, proving their innocence. This re-telling of a classic mystery will have you not wanting to put the book-- or the next two of the trilogy-- down.

Book #4:

The Girl with the Red Balloon, Katherine Locke


What would happen if we could go back in time and change history? In Locke’s debut novel, the idea of relativism is explored on a deeper level. Set in the time of WWII, it raises some points which are key in the way that we view history. If killing one could save millions more, what is the appropriate response? Did Hitler single-handedly lead the mass genocide of millions, or was it the ideology that he stood for which caused tragedy throughout his reign of terror? Was it inevitable? While Locke’s first book in this duology had a slow start, by the end of it the reader is drawn into the story, dying to know what happens next. The author somehow manages to seamlessly interweave time-travel, historical fiction, love, and red balloons all into one book, leaving the reader wondering how she did it.

Book #5:

The Waning Age, S.E. Brove


“In a world where only the rich can afford emotions, what is the cost of love?”

Set in utopian San Francisco, Natalie Pena, an orphaned teenage girl, must take care of her eleven year old younger brother after their mother’s tragic death by suicide. In this world, all children “wane” around age ten. Waning is the process of losing ability to feel emotion. All rules set in place for the good of society must be viewed from a strictly logical perspective, all choices made based on reason. Calvino is taken by the government for testing when officials realize his brain has not adapted properly. Natalie must save her brother from the government’s experiments, and in doing so runs into a dashing yet troubled billionaire’s son, a group of killers, and a surprising truth about the world in which she lives.