Once again I’m reading an awards book – not the winner, but an “honor” book for the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.
What I’m Reading Now: Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner.
What’s It About (Jacket Description): 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.
Do I Like It: I think this is a phenomenal book and I can’t put it down…but I also can’t say I’m exactly enjoying it. I’ll have to get to the end to see if this goes on the re-read shelf!
Thoughts: The short answer is to see what I said about “do I like it.” Maggot Moon is unquestionably a great book – original, compelling, immensely readable, and extremely well-written. The alternate history/dystopia setting is reminiscent of Nazi Germany and Cold War Russia, but with details that are uniquely its own. Despite the 1950s flavor, this dystopia feels like it could exist at any time and in any country.
Standish is an interesting narrator. Despite his unique voice and turns of phrases, his character takes a while to begin coming through. I’m about halfway through, and Standish’s character is finally starting to appear. He daydreams often about escaping the prison-like Zone 7, but is caught in a tension between a passiveness that allows him to keep existing and a dangerous stubbornness and fearlessness that could threaten his life. He’s an interesting character, but I’m still not fully invested – I’ll have to see how the second half of the book plays out.
This book is incredibly readable. The chapters are short, the questions that I hope to have answered are many, and I am RACING through it. Standish’s gramps, in particular, is a character I’m dying to know better, and I’m hoping we learn more soon. The action is harsh and violent, but definitely keeps things moving. And I’m desperate to uncover even one or two of the secrets the regime is holding.
So for many reasons, this is a really good book. I think what’s holding me back from enjoying is the straight-up bleakness and brutality of the world Standish exists in. Even as a reader, it’s hard to really see a way out or a way to fight back. This world is people disappearing around you with no notice, near-starvation in winter, reporting on your neighbors to feed your children, teachers beating children to death, and on and on. It’s a difficult world to be immersed in, so “enjoyment” is a hard state to reach. That said, so far it’s absolutely worth it, I have high hopes for the rest of the book, and I can unequivocally say I would recommend this to a lot of different people with a lot of different tastes.