Summer Reading Suggestion: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


 Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.

 So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.

 I’m not kidding, he says.

 You should be, she says, we’re 16.

 What about Romeo and Juliet?

 Shallow, confused, then dead.

 I love you, Park says.

 Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.

 I’m not kidding, he says.

 You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

The stigma surrounding Young Adult novels, which are typically dubbed “books for teens,” tends to deter older readers from picking up books like Eleanor & Park. While Rowell’s novel is about teens, it is a story that everyone who has survived high school and/or have fallen in love will relate to. Each of the two protagonists has their own quirks, hopes, desires, insecurities, and fears, all of which are precisely and colorfully illustrated through their distinct voices. Eleanor and Park seem so real, so human and their relationship is just as believable. They are not perfect. Their relationship, their love, is not perfect. But no matter what happens, it is theirs, forever. And that’s what makes it so beautiful.

For more summaries and reviews, click here.

Post submitted by JoAnna

Ask yourself: What new skills/talents would you like to develop?


“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work… It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

-Ira Glass

Recently, one of my friends decided to start dabbling in art. He sent me a picture of his first attempt: a line drawing of a puppy, crafted with mechanical pencil. In a subsequent text message, he self-consciously commented on his beginner status and expressed his embarrassment.

And so I reminded him—it takes time. It takes practice. It takes patience. We all must start at the beginning, as beginners. There was a day when Lance Armstrong didn’t know how to ride a bike. There was a day when Hemingway didn’t know his ABC’s. There was a day when Yo-Yo Ma didn’t know how to tune a cello. And there was a day when even Pablo Picasso couldn’t draw a puppy.

The most important thing is to believe in your own potential.

I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older, it’s been more and more difficult to try new things. I discovered most of my interests when I was very young. I began playing the violin at age five. I began portrait drawing in the fifth grade. And I discovered creative writing when I was twelve years old. Now, I feel like it is “too late” to pursue new interests. It is “too late” to try a sport. It is “too late” to pick up a new language. It is “too late” to learn the guitar. As I get older, I feel increasingly pressured to be competent, skilled. I feel like I do not have the time to start from the beginning, the basics, in the midst of moving forward towards a career, a life as a professional.

But then I remember that all of the skills, talents, and experiences that I take so much pride in now began…well, at the beginning. The basics. I realize that with a little time, practice, and patience, I can have even more skills, talents, and experiences. Regardless of age, growth and improvement requires the same overall process. Time. Practice. Patience.

What new skills and talents would you like practice?

To view the article that inspired this post, click here.

Post submitted by JoAnna


Current Event: Earth to Hollywood: Social Media Is Not the Enemy


Smartphone-enabled tech has been getting a bad rep at the movies, but this summer’s Earth to Echo features heroes who use its powers for good.

An adolescent boy seeks redemption through cyberspace. A young girl is seduced by a middle-aged internet predator. An introverted teen ends his life after his personal photographs go viral.

Adoration, Trust, Disconnect—it seems like Hollywood has a bad case of technophobia. And social media is cinema’s new favorite villain. Now, a whole new breed of coming-of-age, horror film-esque movies is emerging, one which portrays technology, particularly social media, as an ominous, ubiquitous, all-powerful force that overpowers the intelligence and capabilities of the leading teenage characters and their technologically illiterate parents.

However, Relativity Media’s recent film, Earth to Echo, strays from this pack of technophobic cinema: throughout the film, the young leading characters utilize technology to navigate a series of obstacles, all with the intention of helping their new alien friend return home.

Though the film embraces technological advancement, it is very much rooted in the classics.

 The film looks backward to take a step forward. The entire plot (featuring a wounded alien, a hostile military, and a sympathetic young boy) uses E.T. as a model; the establishing conflict is totally The Goonies; the characters are, type-for-type, mirrors of Stand By Me; and there’s even a brief chase sequence with a snapping dog that looks suspiciously like The Sandlot.

Rather than reinforce the generation differences between younger and older audience members, Earth to Echo, with its nostalgic references, achieves a sort of common ground. Not to mention, this film does not present technology as monstrous, nor does it suggest that it is an evil conspiracy crafted by the tech industry. Rather, technology is a tool that may be used for good.

The film has performed modestly, bringing in about $24 million so far (with a budget of $13 million), receiving so-so reviews.

So, readers, what do you think? Do you prefer the cautionary tales that warn audiences of technology’s potential for evil? Or do you prefer Earth to Echo’s portrayal of technology as a useful and crucial tool?

To read the full article by Katie Kilkenny of The Atlantic, click here.

Post submitted by JoAnna

Summer Reading Suggestion: The Giver by Lois Lowry


A world free of war, fear, hatred, and pain—isn’t that what we all want?

Lois Lowry’s The Giver urges us to reconsider.

 Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

I first read The Giver in my seventh grade English class, and to this day, it is still one of my favorite pieces of literature that I’ve read in school. Often I find that the most rewarding reads are those that challenge me to explore a variety of perspectives—the ones that really make me think. A quintessential dystopian novel, Lowry’s The Giver compels its readers to reevaluate the conventions that structure their own societies and communities.

If you haven’t already, I highly suggest that you read this book.

The film adaptation, directed by Phillip Noyce, will be playing in theaters starting next month. To view the trailer, click here.

For more summaries and reviews, click here.

Post submitted by JoAnna 

Ask yourself: What are your safe spaces?


Having been a student at UCLA for two years, I know this campus pretty well. There are certain, physical spaces on this campus that I’ve gravitated towards—the sculpture garden, the Humanities Building, the Student Activities Center. Each space inspires a certain mood or mentality; each space offers me a degree of comfort that other parts of campus do not.

When I began working here at WSP, I found a new space for myself.

In the corner of the office we have here, there’s this window, in front of which there’s a wooden seat (photographed to the right). In between my counseling sessions, staff meetings, and classes, I would sit here, reading, writing—sometimes I would just curl up here and think. Over time, it became my spot: my co-workers and friends began to identify it as “JoAnna’s Nook.”

On such a huge campus, it feels comforting to have such a small, cozy space to retreat to. I can see the grandiose Royce Hall from the window; it reminds me of my Bruinhood. But, looking the other direction, I see the office space I work in—I can see the WSP office. This reminds me of the smaller, much more intimate community that I belong to, the community of student leaders that work every day to connect to and empower their peers. And looking forward, down, up, I remember my own individuality, my independence. My uniqueness. I suppose that’s why I like this small space: in such a grand institution, it is nice to feel like I have a space for myself.

So, readers—what are your safe spaces?

Post submitted by JoAnna 

Current Event: The Age of Unconventional Art

I’ve decided to approach this week’s Current Event Wednesday a bit differently. Rather than share a single article with you all, I’d like to offer a list of fascinating arts stories/photo series that I’ve discovered recently. The following artists remind us through their unconventional work that the world of art encompasses a wide range of mediums; they show us that we can find art in the most unexpected places. The possibilities for art are endless.



1. Sushi rolls turned into art (Artist: Takayo Kiyota)


2. Magical geometric light art: photos (Artist: Martin Kimbell)


3. Art in a Tin Can: Tiny scenes of daily life (Artist: Nathalie Alony)

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4. Photos: Painted bodies on display (Artists: Participants of the annual World Bodypainting Festival )

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5. Makeup artist’s ‘famous faces’ transformations (Artist : Maria Malone-Guerbaa)

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6. Artist recreates iconic art with scrap bike parts (Artist: Jenny Beatty)

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Post submitted by JoAnna

Summer Reading Suggestion: Good Enough by Paula Yoo


Top Five Reasons Why You Have a Bad Violin Audition:

1. Mendelssohn is hard.

2. Cute Trumpet Guy smiled at you!

3. You lose your place in the music and have to start over.

4. Mendelssohn is really, really hard.

5. You wonder if you will ever see Cute Trumpet Guy again.

 Protagonist Patti Yoon is right: Mendelssohn is really, really hard.

Now, you may be wondering how I know this. Well, I, like the main character of Paula Yoo’s YA novel, Good Enough, have played the violin for most of my life. Fourteen years, to be exact.

The world of classical music, like many other fields, is incredibly competitive. You must always practice, practice, practice. You must aim to be better, better, better. No matter how much you practice, practice, practice, your teacher will still tell you that you need to improve your intonation. Your shifts are sloppy. Your dynamic changes are not noticeable enough. Your posture needs work. Those three measures that you spent three hours practicing are still horrendous. So you must return home and continue to practice, practice, practice.

Often, it feels like the underlying message is that you are not good enough.

Paula Yoo’s debut novelreminds me that I am good enough. I, myself, am good enough.

Patti’s parents expect nothing less than the best from their Korean-American daughter. Everything she does affects her chances of getting into an Ivy League school. So winning assistant concertmaster in her All-State violin competition and earning less than 2300 on her SATs is simply not good enough.

But Patti’s discovering that there’s more to life than the Ivy League. To start with, there’s Cute Trumpet Guy. He’s funny, he’s talented, and he looks exactly like the lead singer of Patti’s favorite band. Then, of course, there’s her love of the violin. Not to mention cool rock concerts. And anyway, what if Patti doesn’t want to go to HarvardYalePrinceton after all?

Paula Yoo scores big in her hilarious debut novel about an overachiever who longs to fit in and strives to stand out. The pressure is on!

-from the author’s website

Admittedly, my love for this book is due in great part to my similar experiences as a musician. However, Yoo’s story goes beyond the competitive world of classical music, exploring themes of culture, racism, perseverance, and self-discovery, creating a narrative that will undoubtedly resonate with an array of readers. Although Yoo’s novel raises deep, weighty questions on the aforementioned themes, her narrator tells her story in a fresh, vibrant, and humorous voice, making Good Enough a delightfully entertaining summer read!

Enjoy :)

For more information, click here.

Post submitted by JoAnna