Aza, a sixteen-year-old junior, struggles to find her true identity, suffers from the mental illness of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and deals with complicated relationships. Along her journey to adulthood, she encounters endless obstacles, which of course, has its ups and downs. Her mental illness and the everlasting spiral of thoughts create a wedge between her and other people.
Consumed by questions on her identity, Aza feels as if she is trapped inside of an estranged body. “You’re right that self isn’t simple, Aza. Maybe it’s not even singular. Self is a plurality, but pluralities can also be integrated, right?” (Green, 87) Aza does not see herself as an individual, but rather as a fictional character possessing separate identities. Dr. Singh, Aza’s therapist, encourages her to think of herself as an “integrated plurality”, and compares her with a rainbow made up of different colors. Just like Aza, Charlie Gordon from Flowers for Algernon faces the same problem with real identities, only in another way. After Charlie underwent a surgery to improve his intelligence, he becomes “normal”, but comes to realize that his old self is still prominent. He tries to find who he truly was between the new Charlie and the old Charlie. Aza is convinced that she does not have control over her own thoughts. “Maybe you’re not even thinking this thought.” (10) She becomes agitated after learning her brain and the bacteria in her stomach can communicate with each other, proving to Aza that she did not have control over her own thoughts. “You’ve just had a successful train of thought, with an engine and a caboose and everything. Your thoughts. Authored by you.” (231) Aza attempts to encourage herself, but it does not seem believable nor tangible to her.
The fact that Aza struggles with OCD adds to her fear of bacteria, bringing many difficulties to her life. “It’s like I have this demon inside of me, and I want it gone.” (88) Aza describes her illness as a demon that constantly reminds her of the bacteria crawling in her body. She wants it gone, but the voice in her head has already been deeply engrained in her. While normal teenagers worry about grades, clothes, and popularity, Aza is troubled that she will get the deadly infection of C. Diff. When she learns that the human body is made up of 50% bacteria, her OCD makes it unbearable and almost drives her insane. “Maybe your thinking’s infected.” (10) This information is overwhelming to Aza, leading to the obsession of cleaning herself to make sure she was as bacteria-free as possible. Splitting open the wound on her finger becomes another obsession as she believes she would drain the germs inside. Aza would constantly “drain” the cut, as well as applying new Band-Aids as frequently as she possibly could. The wound on her hand was one of the most dominating symbols that represented her anxiety. Her fear of bacteria becomes so serious that she drinks hand sanitizer: “Pressed it again, and shoved a scoop of it into my mouth.” (229) Aza even thinks she was disgusting herself, but she could not help it. She begins taking new medication over the course of the next few weeks and finally accepts that her illness was a part of her.
As Aza faces new and old relationships simultaneously, more dilemmas appear. Being awkward around other people was her thing, and she knew it. Aza never expected she would fall in love with Davis, or that she would fall out with her best friend Daisy. She gets dragged along by Daisy to search for the missing billionaire together because of Aza’s connection with his son. Davis, unsurprised by the girls’ appearance, assumed they were there for the money, so he gives them $100,000 himself. However, as the novel progresses, Aza begins a relationship with Davis. This may seem like a good thing, but it only bothers her more. With an extra boy in her life, more perplexing thoughts and quandaries develop. In addition to her complicated relationship, things get even messier when she finally decides to read Daisy’s fanfiction. Aza hates the character Ayala in the story, but realizes that this character was herself. Annoyed yet guilty, Aza tells her best friend the next day that she had read her fanfiction, only to be replied with complaints. “You don’t know what it’s like for me, and you don’t ask.” (216) Aza was self-centered, spoiled, and an exhausting friend in Daisy’s perspective, and perhaps that was what other people saw as well. At last, everything was figured out; the two girls returned to being best friends again, and was informed that Davis was moving.
Aza is troubled with different identities, experiences OCD, and gets surrounded by confusing relationships. Having spent most of her life suffering from various anxiety disorders, Aza was not a typical teenager. She stumbled her way through everything, but she navigated her way out. In the end, she learns that following the spirals inward makes her more anxious, but she had never thought of following them outward. Not only can this lesson be applied to Aza, but we can also gain valuable insights, as we progress and mature through our lives.
Every family has a different cultural background, and with that comes their varying ideas and beliefs. Our parents love us unconditionally no matter what, yet we do not always recognize their intentions. Our mothers play a significant role in our childhood, and will stay by our side throughout our lives. They gave birth to us, raised us, and shared their life experiences with us. In the chapter Rules of the Game, the mother is very strict and insists on using the traditional Chinese way, but she is undeniably proud of Waverly’s accomplishments.
Being a stern mother, she watches her daughter’s every move. “Bite back your tongue,” scolded my mother when I cried loudly, yanking her hand toward the store that sold bags of salted plums.” (Tan, 1) By the bitter tone she used towards Waverly, it is obvious that she believes her daughter would do as she says. Through her diction and actions, such as ‘yanking her hand’, it shows how serious she becomes, even over a small situation. Although Waverly is still young, her mother speaks to her in a demanding tone, indicating that she expects a lot from her daughter. “My mother’s eyes turned into dangerous black slits. She had no words for me, just sharp silence.” (5) The fact that she did not shout at, or lose her temper at Waverly, shows her disappointment in her daughter’s behavior. Waverly’s description of ‘dangerous black slits’ illustrates her fear of her mother, even without her mother talking. “My mother had a habit of standing over me while I plotted out my games.” (5) Waverly’s mother is, as we may call it, a control freak, meaning she has be in charge of everything. While she may think this is all preparing Waverly for success, her daughter does not seem to agree.
Waverly’s mother is the stereotypical Chinese woman who believes her traditional ways of teaching would help her children rise above their circumstances. “It was her chang, a small tablet of red jade which held the sun’s fire. “Is luck,” she whispered, and tucked it into my dress pocket.” The Chinese culture and people have little amulets that are believed to bring luck. Halfway across the world and the mother still follows these traditions, portraying the importance of Chinese culture to her. (4) “Is shame you fall down nobody push you,” said my mother. (4) Her ideas and logic are very similar to the Cantonese culture. Cantonese parents often expect their children to excel in everything, from grades to playing instruments, or in this case, playing chess. Waverly is expected to win all of her chess tournaments, otherwise, she would bring shame on the family. “Chinese people do many things. Not lazy like American people.” (2) From her biased opinion, it clearly represents how proud she is of her Chinese background and her disagreement with the American way. Of course, she was an immigrant from China, and her broken English shows her struggling to cope with life in America. It may be difficult for the mother to teach, more or less communicate with her “American daughter”, but being the firm believer in Chinese traditions, nothing can stop her manipulative ways. “Next time win more, lose less.” (4) What she said appears to be that she is still not satisfied with Waverly’s victory. She does not know the “American” chess rules, so she assumes losing less chess pieces means a more valuable win. Instead of acknowledging the actual chess strategies, she stubbornly demands for more wins.
The mother may seem harsh on Waverly, but her love is inexplicable and she is proud of how far her daughter has come. “I won again, but it was my mother who wore the triumphant grin.” (4) When she first discovered her daughter was interested in chess, she was not exactly thrilled with the idea. As Waverly begins winning more tournaments, her mother fills with pride, but taking more freedom away at the same time. “This is my daughter Wave-ly Jong,” she said to whoever looked her way. (5) She perceives Waverly’s success as her own achievement. The way she would ‘proudly walk with me’ embarrasses Waverly, but this is the only way of expressing her motherly love. As readers, we might feel as if she is not considering her children’s emotions, but in the end, all she ever wanted was their welfares and success.
Despite her severity and determination in keeping the Chinese style, she truly loves Waverly but simply expresses it in another way. Growing up in the States, Waverly and her brothers naturally go along with the American way of doing things. Their mother, however, has her own ideas; this is how a schism is formed between the two generations. She imposes strict rules for her kids and imparts her past experiences, hoping they would thrive later on. Certainly, her Chinese theories also contribute greatly to the mother’s “educational method”. Underneath her demeanor, she loves them dearly and nobody can ever replace that. We will never understand how much our parents care about us, but they have already sacrificed everything for us.
The Giver- Lois Lowry
Red Scarf Girl- Ji-li Jiang
The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins
Ender’s Game- Orson Scott Card
The Joy Luck Club- Amy Tan
Flowers For Algernon- Daniel Keyes
The Hobbit- J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hate U Give- Angie Thomas
Twilight (first 3 books)- Stephenie Meyer
Boys Without Names- Kashmira Sheth
Turtles All The Way Down- John Green
My first week in eighth grade was actually quite fun yet kind of stressful as well. The first day was the most exciting because I got to catch up with my friends who I haven’t seen all summer, and meeting my classmates was nice. During the activities in the gym, I met several new students and through the games, I was able to know them better. We also met our teachers and some had unique ways of teaching that I have never been exposed to before. However, there were a few who set high standards and rules that I struggled with, but I will try my best to meet those standards and follow those rules. As it is the first week, there was not much homework assigned; they were mostly on introducing ourselves or getting the materials ready for every class. Hopefully, eighth grade will be a success and that I will try my best.
- What are you looking forward to learning in Grade 8 this year?
I am looking forward to learning about the different revolutions, like the French Revolution and the Chinese Revolution. I am also hoping to learn more writing techniques and vocabulary to raise my writing level.
- What challenges will you face?
I think I might struggle with writing long essays or stories because I usually have trouble getting started and end up stuck in the middle. Another challenge might be my time management and distractions while doing homework.
- What is your plan to meet those challenges?
My plan is to create a checklist of all my assignments and their due dates so that I do not mix up the subjects. I will get right to my homework once I get home and try to get rid of all possible distractions that may cause procrastination.
Last week we did (Grade 6) the No sugar week challenge. We did that challenge because our target was to eat less sugar and be careful of what we’re eating so that we can be healthier. I had to control myself from drinking ice tea and juices since they contain lots of sugar, and was not allowed to eat any candy or snacks that had sugar in it. I had to read the ingredients on the containers and wrappers to see if there were any sugar in it. I think I did pretty well since I didn’t eat or drink anything sugary and even when I was really tempted to eat something, I stopped myself from doing that.
I have to change myself from drinking sugary drinks nearly every week because it is very unhealthy for us. It was so tempting to see students from other grades drinking ice tea and juice..etc, but I still restrained myself. I think the school should ban some sugary drinks and snacks so students wouldn’t be able to buy it. They should also sell 100% fruit juices that does not contain any sugar in it, only the natural sugar from the fruits. The main meals that they serve don’t have enough food groups on one plate so I also think they should add some more healthy food groups. For my family, I think we should also control ourselves a bit more although we are already minding what we are eating.
We should always be careful of what we are eating and what the ingredients contain of. Things that have lots of sugar, salt and fat are very bad for us, we shouldn’t eat a lot of that often, only once in a while. All the things that we learned in the Health Unit in P.E was quite interesting as there were so many information I never knew before. This unit taught us lots of ways on how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Girl Online is the title of my favorite book and the author is Zoe Sugg. I really like this book mainly because the story is fiction yet it seems amazingly realistic, like it could actually happen. The main character, Penny, always has panic attacks randomly and at first, she didn’t have the nerve to tell her parents about them but she finally told them. The funny thing about this is that I have to write blogs in class and Penny writes blogs online too. Her blogs are anonymous and she writes about her secrets and problems, such as the panic attacks. She has qute a lot of readers and fans on Girl Online (Her blog’s name) and they write nice and friendly comments on every post. I personally don’t have panic attacks but I get anxious and nervous and this book has really helpful ways on how to calm down each time it happens to you. Girl Online is also funny and I love funny books. Don’t they just make the whole book better? Although this novel includes a lot of romance and I don’t like romantic things, the author manages to balance it out so there isn’t that much of romance. The last and most favorite thing about this book is that the author, Zoe Sugg is also a really famous youtuber and she happens to be my favorite one too! Her preferred name on youtube is Zoella. She’s also written the second book titledGirl Online:On Tour, I haven’t read it yet but I bet it’s going to be great!