The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper

Arts and Entertainment

March Book Bites

By Staff Writer Jackie Wong

Student Book Recommendation

Buy a copy of The Song of Achilles here!

Title: The Song of Achilles 

Author: Madeline Miller

Recommended Reading Level: Grade 9-11

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction

When Achilles, a strong and beautiful demi-god, takes Patroclus, an exiled, awkward young prince, under his wing, their unlikely friendship quickly blossoms into a love affair that is put to the test against the tragically fated Trojan War. 

“The reason that I love The Song of Achilles so much is that it doesn’t really sugarcoat anything; it makes it very clear that this person is affected by trauma and this person by internalized homophobia, and it does a really good job of discussing both subjects. And also it’s Greek mythology, who doesn’t love Greek mythology?” — Bonita Wankhade, 11

Staff Book Recommendation

Buy a copy of Circe here!

Title: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Recommended Reading Level: Grade 9-11

Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Historical Fiction

Circe, the daughter of the sun god Helios and a water nymph, is shunned from Mount Olympus because of her lack of divine beauty and skills. Motivated by her desire to immortalize a fisherman she fell in love with, Circe harnesses the power of witchcraft on her own, with which she unlocks her own unique ability to manipulate the world to her will. 

“This author takes this one character [Circe] from the Odyssey and builds a whole backstory from when she’s a young girl and she’s shunned from the god world for practicing witchcraft. It’s cool because it connects with mythology, but it also connects with this idea of her not following the rules of society … It gives her more human qualities that make her more relatable than just a god-like creature doing things to humans.” — English Teacher Elizabeth Waller

Smokie Book Recommendation

Buy a copy of The Vanishing Half here!

Title: The Vanishing Half

Author: Brit Bennett

Recommended Reading Level: Grade 9

Genre: Historical Fiction, Family Saga Mystery 

Desiree and Stella Vignes, two light-skinned Black twins, run away from home at 16-years-old. Now, 14 years later, Desiree and her daughter, Jude, have moved back home, while Stella hides her Black ethnicity and passes as white in Los Angeles with her oblivious husband and daughter Kennedy. Even as their lives branch apart, the twins remain intertwined as their daughters cross paths and discover their mothers’ secrets about the past. 

“Having read this novel with high expectations, Bennett did not fail to meet it; The Vanishing Half created an immersive environment for me to really question societal standards. I think the reason that this novel is so interesting because it is able to explore the depths of a multi-generational family saga while tackling current issues of racial identity, bigotry, and secrecy.” — Helen Tian, 10

Cover graphic by Staff Writer Tavish Mohanti

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