Review: Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

 

Title:  Maggot Moon

Author:  Sally Gardner

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

In Sally Gardner’s stunning novel, set in a ruthless regime, an unlikely teenager risks all to expose the truth about a heralded moon landing. What if the football hadn’t gone over the wall. On the other side of the wall there is a dark secret. And the devil. And the Moon Man. And the Motherland doesn’t want anyone to know. But Standish Treadwell — who has different-colored eyes, who can’t read, can’t write, Standish Treadwell isn’t bright — sees things differently than the rest of the "train-track thinkers." So when Standish and his only friend and neighbor, Hector, make their way to the other side of the wall, they see what the Motherland has been hiding. And it’s big…One hundred very short chapters, told in an utterly original first-person voice, propel readers through a narrative that is by turns gripping and darkly humorous, bleak and chilling, tender and transporting.


Review:

Wow!  I was stunned and breathless when I reached the last page of Maggot Moon. I should have picked up from the book’s title that things are not happy in Standish’s world, but whoa, I wasn’t expecting something quite it dark.  Standish’s voice is compelling and haunting; here is one young boy who has seen too many things that he shouldn’t have.  Poverty, repression, violence against himself, his family , and others.  Standish’s world is dark and disturbing, and not a place that I ever want to witness first hand.

Standish is dyslexic, which on it’s own is enough to make him a social outcast.  To make his life even more difficult, he has different colored eyes as well.  In his oppressive society, he should have been sent away, to a school for those with impurities, or worse, to be maggot meat.  Instead, his parents enroll him in the school where they work.  Because he is different, he is mercilessly bullied, which only gets worse after his parents are vanish.  Alone with his grandfather, Standish just tries to keep his head down and not draw any more unwanted attention to himself.  Being at the bottom of the social ladder, that’s not really too tough.  It’s only after Hector and his family move in next door that Standish’s world is tilted on its axis.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, so I’m trying to keep the spoilers to a minimum.   This is a fast-paced read, with explosive bursts of violence and action.  Standish is passive and takes his beatings without much of a fuss, until after Hector and his family are also taken away.  Then he’s had enough and all he wants to do is save his best friend.  When he learns that the government is pulling the biggest history in the history of hoaxes, and that if they succeed they will be an indisputable world power, he is determined to do something about it.  I loved this about Standish.  He realizes that he is David to a powerful, corrupt, and deadly Goliath, but he doesn’t care anymore.  He is going to find way to throw his stone and topple the monster that threatens the entire world.

A word of caution; while I loved this book, it might be too intense for younger readers.  Maggot Moon is a bleak story, with a bleak ending. Despite the affection and support from his Gramps, Standish’s life hadn’t exactly been a happy one.  Everyone he knows and cares about has either been taken away by the government or is in immediate, mortal danger.  It’s scary.  It’s overwhelming.  And at times, it will leave you just as numb as Standish has become to all of the brutality around him.   I wondered where Standish kept finding the courage to keep going on. This book was impossible to put down, and  I gobbled it up on a Sunday afternoon.  Standish’s voice will be with me for a long time to come.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher