Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau


Title: The Testing

Author:  Joelle Charbonneau


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust


When I first started reading The Testing back in April, I just couldn’t engage with the plot.  I set it aside, thinking that I just wasn’t in the mood for a dystopian adventure.  After a few months, I picked it back up, and I’m glad that I did.  Though the book is very reminiscent of Matched and The Hunger Games, I found it an engaging read in its own right – it just took me a while to figure that out.

Cia Vale has been accepted for Testing, and if she passes, she’ll be attending classes at the University.  This is a dream come true for her, and she has worked hard her entire life to earn a chance to go to the University.  She is bewildered and hurt when her father tells her she shouldn’t have been chosen, and she doesn’t believe him when he implies that there is something more sinister than just academic testing going on in the capital, Tosu City.  He tells her that he and her old teacher worked hard to ensure that none of the students from their small colony were accepted for The Testing.   Though his memories have been wiped of his own Testing experiences, he is plagued by nightmares of the ordeal, and he never wanted his children to suffer through the Test.  Cia dismisses his warnings at first, but as she begins her journey to Tosu City, things don’t add up, and she begins to believe her father is correct.  She soon realizes that his advice is something that she can no longer ignore.  Trust no one.

There are a few things about YA dystopian novels that I have a hard time buying into, and I think it’s because I have read so many now.  The first being – what is wrong with all of these adults?  The leaders of these bleak societies think nothing of their children murdering each other to get ahead in life.  Really?  The United Commonwealth has suffered the loss of countless citizens during a horrific period of war and environmental catastrophe, and they are willing to weed out the most cunning and brutal young adults to become the next leaders of the government?  Isn’t this part of the reason that the planet was inches away from total destruction?  There are 108 students in Cia’s Testing class.  108!  Only 20 will be allowed entrance to the University.  While we don’t know for certain what happens to the students who survive all four stages of the Test, but aren’t chosen for the Univesity, we do know what countless numbers of them were killed or murdered during the Tests.  It’s to the point now that I have to be in the correct frame of mind to enjoy stories that revolve around kids being victimized like this.  At least in The Hunger Games the brutality against most of the populace had a purpose, and that was to keep the downtrodden so frightened they would never rebel again.  In The Testing, the candidates who survive have their memories of the Tests wiped, so I’m confused about WHY all of these adults sit idly by while their charges slaughter each other.  These are the brightest and the best that their society has to offer.  I hope it’s explained in the next book, because that was the major stumbling point that kept me from completely enjoying this story.

What’s the second thing that drives me nuts? They talk about food. A lot.  More than I do, and I am a big foodie.  Reading these survival type stories makes me hungry. Except for the possum. Not so sure I would ever want to eat that.

I did love the in your face narrative.  Cia thinks, at first, that it’s a huge honor to vie for a place in the University.   She wants to help revitalize the country, which has been decimated by warfare.  Like the humans, all life in the Commonwealth teetered on the brink of extinction.  Water sources have been polluted and rendered undrinkable, animals have been mutated into scary monsters, and plant life struggled to survive in the poisoned ground.  Cia’s dedication to assisting with the healing of the land is one of her defining characteristics, and it’s an easy one to like.  It keeps her going, even when everything else has become a nightmare for her.  She also resists acting like an animal during the final, deadly stage of The Test.  She was raised to see the value in all life, and she has a hard time killing anything.  To give her a personal challenge, she is constantly threatened with death, so she must re-evaluate her personal ethics.  I loved this about the story, too.  Even though she is good and just, she doesn’t hesitate to defend herself or her friends.  She doesn’t sit around and wait for some guy to save her, either.  Most of the time, she is the one doing the saving.  I thought that Cia kicked butt, and I am curious to see what happens in the next book, when she is in, presumably, less harrowing  surroundings.

With interesting world-building and a heroine who is not afraid to take charge and control of her own destiny, The Testing is a hard book to put down.  I thought that the pacing of the 2nd half of the book was  much better than the first, and read most of it in one sitting.  I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next book!

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Shaunta Grimes, Author of Viral Nation

Please welcome our special guest Shaunta Grimes!  Shaunta is the author of Viral Nation, a book that I am dying to read because protagonist Clover is autistic and because that super awesome dog on the cover.  Please check out what Shaunta has to say about her new book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Shaunta Grimes] Shaunta Grimes has done a lot of things and been a lot of places, but she always comes back to storytelling.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Viral Nation?

[Shaunta Grimes] Viral Nation is a YA science fiction story about a group of kids who accidentally start a second American Revolution. It has a time-traveling submarine, the Ponderosa Ranch, Lake Tahoe, and a casino called The Dinosaur.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Shaunta Grimes] When I started writing Viral Nation, the US economy was at its worst point of the current recession, gas prices were soaring over $4 a gallon for the first time, people were losing their houses all over the place. The US was involved in two wars, people were scared about the possibility of the bird flu becoming a serious problem, the weather was doing weird things. I wanted to write a story about a collapsed society from the point of view of the young people who inherit it.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write about a really interesting character who happened to have autism, and that I wanted to explore the experience of being the sibling of a person who has autism. I was inspired by the relationship between my two oldest kids when I was writing Clover and West.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Clover?

[Shaunta Grimes] brilliant, awkward, freak

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Clover had a theme song, what would it be?

[Shaunta Grimes] The one song that I listened to over and over again while I was writing Clover’s story was “Raise Your Glass” by Pink. I love how it celebrates being different. But, I think that if Clover had a theme song all her own, it would be “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keyes.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Clover is never without.

[Shaunta Grimes] I had a hard time choosing between her dog, Mango, and her mother’s old red Chucks. In the end, it’s Mango. He’s an extension of her.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Clover’s pockets?

[Shaunta Grimes] Anything slimy, lipstick, a cell phone.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Shaunta Grimes] Amazing stories. I read a lot. My favorite authors are Octavia Butler, Neil Gaiman, Nancy Farmer, Paolo Bacigalupi . . . I could go on and on. I also go to a lot of movies and I watch television to feed my addiction to stories. I try to read, watch movies, and even watch TV like a writer. I look for what’s working in a show, for instance, that keeps me coming back week after week. If a movie keeps me watching without even noticing that time is passing, I try to figure out what made it special.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Shaunta Grimes] A notebook, a good pen, and a computer. I never revise while I’m writing a first draft, but I keep a notebook of notes for later editing.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Shaunta Grimes] Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Wreckers. What an amazing story.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Shaunta Grimes] When I was in the sixth grade, I took the city bus a few blocks to my local library and checked out Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. The librarian made me prove I could read it before she let me take it home. It was my first real trip out of the children’s library. I still remember the excitement I felt when I read it. I have always been a reader, so I didn’t really need to be turned on to it. There was something special about Scarlet O’Hara, though.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Shaunta Grimes] I love thrift shopping. I’m slightly addicted to finding vintage stuff.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Shaunta Grimes] They can reach me at They can also find me at, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Viral Nation from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below


About the book:

After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.

Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.

When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined… and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever

Waiting on Wednesday–Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I’m waiting to read Through the Ever Night until Into the Still Blue, the last book in Veronica Rossi’ trilogy is released in January 2014.  Can hardly wait!

Cover image from Goodreads.



Not available yet


What are you waiting on?

Waiting on Wednesday–All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill


Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I love time travel books, and All Our Yesterdays by Cristing Terrill looks fantastic.  I love the cover, too!


"You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.


What are you waiting on?

Possession Series by Elana Johnson Scavenger Hunt!

 photo Elanas-Button1_zpscc8012ab.gif Welcome to the Possession series scavenger hunt! We’re celebrating the release of the third and final book, ABANDON, in the series. You can find out the details of the series scavenger hunt on Elana’s blog. Elana has given us a short excerpt today from Abandon. This is Zenn and you’ll be able to find the city clue in the excerpt. Once you know the city, you can ENTER TO WIN a prize package of signed paperbacks, as well as a $50 Amazon gift card.

Not only that, but there is a series swag package up for grabs every day during the scavenger hunt, which runs until June 14. Be sure to enter in the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now, onto the excerpt!

Abandon Excerpt June 8

To continue the hunt today, go to My Reading Room. If you get lost, you can always go back to Elana’s blog and click through to the right links.

Happy hunting!

As a bonus, S&S will be lowering the price on the ebook of POSSESSION from June 4 – 11! Grab it for $3.99 while you can!

Interview with Shannon Stoker, Author of The Registry

Please give Shannon Stoker a warm welcome to the virtual offices.  She dropped by this morning to chat about The Registry.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Shannon Stoker] A happy author/researcher who tends to fall in love with something and stick with it. I love writing, reading, the Northern Illinois University Huskies, my family, and my little dog. I’m OBSESSED with the color pink and cupcakes. I also collect Care Bears and their memorabilia. If I ever feel down I put on something pink, hug a Care Bear and eat a cupcake.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Registry?

[Shannon Stoker] The Registry is about a futuristic America where young girls are sold into marriage through an online system. Mia has been picked up by a younger, handsome groom only problem is he is awful. She decides to escape the system with her best friend Whitney and the reluctant Andrew, a farm hand who works for Mia’s father. The three try to make it out of the country without being picked up by federal agents or Mia’s intended. I hope that readers find it an entertaining way to escape into another world for a few hours.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Shannon Stoker] One of my friends refuses to join facebook. She says facebook is evil. I think facebook is far from evil and I really enjoy connecting with my friends and family. In my mind I was kind of like “I’ll show her an evil facebook” and that is how the Registry started.

For the characters I wanted Mia to come off as real. She makes a lot of mistakes and some of them are stupid, but nobody has ever made the right choice every time. Andrew on the other hand is patient and kind with a hard exterior. He is a bit of my “dream boy” so a lot of his qualities are just what make me swoon. Grant is my favorite. I had such a good time writing his scenes. He is pure evil and someone once said true evil is unexplained. I think I tried to weave that in a bit. He’s an enigma, but I hope readers still get a kick out of him. Sometimes I think about doing a novella just on Grant because I like writing him so much!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Mia?

[Shannon Stoker] Impulsive, Intuitive, and Stubborn

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Mia had a theme song, what would it be?

[Shannon Stoker] Around the World by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Mia is never without.

[Shannon Stoker] A mirror. At first it’s so she can look at herself, but by the end it’s in case she needs to start a fire or send a signal.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Mia’s pockets?

[Shannon Stoker] Keys (she’d forget them)

A hair tie

Her hands

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Mia’s greatest regret?

[Shannon Stoker] Not being more patient. Sometimes circumstances forced her into action, but there are moments where if she could have waited a bit longer she would have gotten what she wanted.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Shannon Stoker] My friends, family, and coworkers. I steal a lot of what they say or stories they tell. I have also been known to frequently borrow their names.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Shannon Stoker] Fuzzy socks (I frequently write in my basement and it gets cold!), Tea, and my dog. He always gives his honest opinion and is willing to lend an ear when I get stuck on something.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Shannon Stoker] The Elite by Kiera Cass was fantastic. I always judge a book by how angry I am when it ends. I wanted to keep reading!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Shannon Stoker] I’ve been a huge reader all my life, my parents said I used to throw books at them and scream read before I could even walk. This resulted in bruises on their legs from the corners of little golden books. I make no apologies. The first book I remember reading over and over again was Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz. That led to the Fear Street books which were pretty easy to pick up at any garage sale in the mid 90s. Those were my pleasure reads for sure.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Shannon Stoker] I am a television junkie, I watch pretty much anything. I just finished Hemlock Grove and I loved it! My other favorites are Supernatural, Game of Thrones, Dexter, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Sherlock, Elementary, Law and Order SVU, Criminal Minds, Modern Family, Suburgatory (and the list goes on and on)

I’ve also been accused of “motherboying” my dog. Nucky is a nine pound terrier mix. He is my little angel and I spend as much time with him as possible. I love dressing him up and he gets so excited when I pull out his little sweaters, so it’s a win-win for both of us.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Shannon Stoker] They can follow me on twitter @ShannonRStoker


Or look me up on Goodreads.

I’d love to hear from everyone!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase The Registry by clicking the links below:

About the book:

The Registry saved the country from collapse. But stability has come at a price. In this patriotic new America, girls are raised to be brides, sold at auction to the highest bidder. Boys are raised to be soldiers, trained by the state to fight to their death.

Nearly eighteen, beautiful Mia Morrissey excitedly awaits the beginning of her auction year. But a warning from her married older sister raises dangerous thoughts. Now, instead of going up on the block, Mia is going to escape to Mexico—and the promise of freedom.

All Mia wants is to control her own destiny—a brave and daring choice that will transform her into an enemy of the state, pursued by powerful government agents, ruthless bounty hunters, and a cunning man determined to own her . . . a man who will stop at nothing to get her back.

Interview with Jordan Link, Author of The Sacrificed and Giveaway!

Please give Jordan Link a warm welcome! She’s visiting the virtual offices to chat about her new book, The Sacrificed.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Jordan Link] I’m a sophomore in the tenth grade, and am currently contracted with Entranced Publishing for my novel, The Sacrificed, which is due to be released as an E-book on May 6th, 2013. A few months before I was whisked away into long hours of editing, I became the first place winner of the Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest in 2012 for my short story "The Bubble". I was accepted soon after into the Oh, the Stories They Tell! anthology for my short story "Demon Slayer."

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Sacrificed

[Jordan Link] The Sacrificed is a young adult dystopian fantasy novel. It follows 16- year-old Emerald Hayden as she struggles to survive in the City of Centsia. There are two classes in the city: the winged, and the walkers. For a long time, it seems that the division between the two can never be breached, until Emerald meets Dusk, a winged who is undoubtedly different from the rest.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Jordan Link] The concept was really a spur of the moment decision. Often times, for short stories, I brainstorm dystopian plots. The two questions I ask are what type of division is there, and how can that division be penetrated?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Emerald?

[Jordan Link] Persisting, enduring, and rebellious.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Dusk had a theme song, what would it be?

[Jordan Link] That’s a hard question. I’d have to choose Maroon 5 – Runaway. It would work for both Emerald and Dusk, actually.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Emerald is never without.

[Jordan Link] Persistence: throughout her whole ordeal, and despite the many obstacles that threaten her goal, she never loses sight of what she wants.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Dusk’s pockets?

[Jordan Link] You would never find any photographs or trinkets of or from the walkers, including Emerald. In fact, Dusk has to dissociate himself from the lower level completely to keep Emerald safe. But since that answer is rather vague, I’ll list three things that you would always find: a few slices of bread, a note for Emerald or a piece of blank parchment paper, and a small tin of ingredients. You’ll have to read the novel to find out what’s inside!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Emerald’s greatest regret?

[Jordan Link] Emerald has little to regret, but her misunderstanding of the winged is definitely her greatest. For years, she scrounged for food in the winding streets of Centsia, cursing the winged, not knowing what else to think of them.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Jordan Link] My greatest creative influences are other young authors; people who have struggled or are struggling to get published and who, hopefully, see their dreams fulfilled.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Jordan Link] I need a writer’s state of mind, a laptop, and a glass of something delicious.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Jordan Link] The last book that I read that truly knocked my socks off was The Selection by Kiera Cass. It wasn’t because of the quality of the writing, or the creativity of the plot. It was very relatable and incredibly hard to put down.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Jordan Link] That would be The Naming by Alison Croggon. The descriptions and details in the book are abundant and dark. While reading it, I truly felt like I was there, in a world filled with the terror and beauty. And to think that someone could create that with words—that was what turned me on to reading.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Jordan Link] I love to log in to fantasy roleplaying games, and to flip through the pages of a good book. And when I’m not indulged in those, I’m at a friend’s house, or wandering through the streets of Old Ellicott City.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Jordan Link] Readers can connect with me by liking The Sacrificed’s Facebook page, by reading my blog, or by following me on Twitter at JordanLink3.

Thanks for the interview!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Purchase links coming soon!

About the book:

Emerald Hayden lives in the City of Centsia, a half-winged among the other walkers. She has no family, friends, or food: only a grim future filled with tiresome labor in the upper level’s factories. But everything changes when she meets Dusk, a winged from the place that she previously scorned. He opens her eyes to a new possibility: the possibility of the unity of winged and walkers, of freedom, and of love. Together, they decide to challenge the upper level’s supreme, winged council. But when a friend betrays them, they must choose whether to sacrifice their beliefs and save their own lives, or to remain along the thin line that divides the city in two. Success could mean liberty; failure, death

Book Trailer –

Buy Links:




About the Author:

Jordan Link is currently contracted with Entranced Publishing for her novel "The Sacrificed", which will be released on May 6, 2013. She won first place in Jack L. Chalker’s Young Writers Contest of 2012 for her short story “The Bubble”, and attended Balticon 46 last year. She earned an honorable mention on December 3rd for the Young Voices Foundation Short Story Contest and will be published in their anthology "Oh, the Stories They Tell!" which will be available on Amazon. Her early love of reading inspired an equivalent passion towards writing, and she plans to continue doing so.

Author Links:


Author Blog:


Twitter: @JordanLink3

Giveaway Code:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Slowly, ever so slowly, she dropped to her knees and peered around the corner.

There was a winged boy standing there, muttering something to a few walkers. It was impossible to distinguish the color of his eyes, or even his expression from her sheltered position, but his features were still rather shocking. His hair was a creamy white, a pigment that Emerald had only ever seen on the heads of other winged. His skin was pasty and faded. She wondered between pounding heartbeats how the winged remained so pale when they spent so many days in the sky above Centsia, arcing near the curve of the sun and circling back around again as they went to and from their duties. The boy’s wings, however, were by far his most striking feature. The feathers seemed to form intricate pictures as they fluttered in the midnight breeze. Emerald continued to stare as the boy withdrew something from his pocket.

It was bread.

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.


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