Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
|Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
|Summary: It is 1959, and in an alternative Britain the Motherland has won the war. For Standish life is brutal and lonely, until Hector and his parents come to live next door. And then, against the backdrop of man's first steps on the moon, his new friends disappear, dragged away as so many have been before them. Standish is then faced with a dilemma: what is truly important to him?
|Date: September 2012
|Publisher: Hot Key Books
WINNER of The CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013
Shortlisted for Costa Children's Book Award 2012
There are certain books that you know, right from the first pages, are destined to be classics. There is something about the phrasing, about the concept and about the main character which chime so perfectly together that they cannot fail to move you, to open a window in your world and show you another, deeper truth. Such a book is Maggot Moon.
Fifteen-year-old Standish is severely dyslexic (like the author herself) but this is not a story about the inability to spell or decipher words. In the ruthless totalitarian world Ms Gardner evokes, where even school corridors have spy cameras and only informers eat well, he is a double-defective, lucky not to have been turned into maggot meat long ago for his apparent stupidity and his oddly-coloured eyes. He scrapes a bare living in Zone Seven, a dilapidated street of tumble-down houses, and since the disappearance of his parents only the wily cunning of his grandfather keeps them both alive and away from the unwelcome attentions of the police.
What is special about Standish is the fact that he sees things differently from other people. He makes statements which are models of simplicity and directness, but don't be fooled: he is neither a fool nor shallow. On the contrary, he is affectionate, bright and courageous, with a gift for the telling phrase or image which mixes and remoulds clichés to make a language fresh and new and full of the colour he craves so desperately. The few glimpses he has of the world outside (thanks to a forbidden television) teach him what his classmates do not know: this grey life is not the only option. Elsewhere there are ice-cream-coloured Cadillacs with blue leather seats, grass that looks as if it has been Hoovered and delicious drinks called (he thinks) Croca-Colas. His longing for escape is so palpable that he and his friend Hector are able to spend whole evenings convincing themselves they are on a spaceship to a new planet called Juniper where everyone is welcome and bloodshed and hostility are mere memories.
This is not a book for the faint-hearted. At the bottom of many of the pages lie drawings of a dead rat, slowly decaying into dust to remind the reader that there are no happy-ever-afters and easy adventures here. Horrific violence occurs early on, all the more shocking for the setting (a school playground) and the casual savagery of the aftermath. It has flavours of The Diary of Anne Frank, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, of Cambodia, Nazi Germany and El Salvador at their worst. In this beautiful book despair and hope mingle, leading us at last to an ending which forces us to remember that however venal, petty and cruel humanity can be, there will always be nobility, friendship and courage.
Quite simply, it is a book you have to read.
Standish shares some of the nature of Todd, the hero of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, another book that will be read and spoken of for a long time to come. We think you'll also enjoy Invisible in a Bright Light by Sally Gardner.
You can read more book reviews or buy Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner at Amazon.com.
Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner is in the The CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013.
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