What’s it all about?:
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 neighbour, 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.
What did I think?:
I’m a regular subscriber to New Books Magazine here in the UK whom I was lucky enough to do an interview for a while back and with every issue, they offer you the opportunity to purchase books and just pay the postage cost. So when I read the synopsis of Maggot Moon I was instantly compelled to buy it and sadly, due to the sheer number of books I have it languished on my shelves hidden for quite some time until the beginning of this year when Chrissi and I started to compile our Kid Lit list for this year when I remembered about it and begged for it to be included.
I’m so glad I did because this is one of the most special, compelling, incredibly unique and indeed sinister books that I have read for a while. It’s easy to see why it has won the awards it has – The Costa Children’s Book Award in 2012 and the prestigious Carnegie Medal in 2013 and tells the story of an alternate universe in the 1950’s under a totalitarian regime not unlike the Nazi’s (it actually begged the question is this what the world would have been like if the Nazi’s had won?).
Standish Treadwell is a young schoolboy living in dark days under a right wing, fascist dictatorship. Unfortunately, he happens to be a bit different from the ideal according to “The Motherland.” He has one blue eye and one brown one, he is dyslexic and his parents have mysteriously vanished and feared dead after his mother dared to speak up against the regime. This leads to him and his Gramps being relegated to Zone Seven, the poor area of town designated for all outcasts, political troublemakers and basically anyone else who does not conform to the propaganda that is being spouted at them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Standish doesn’t have a great life. He is tormented at school by both teachers and students and lives from hand to mouth as his Gramps tends a meagre vegetable garden to try and get them enough to eat. His life improves dramatically however when a new family moves into the house next to him and he makes a friend, Hector and a whole new planet, Juniper in his imagination that the boys can escape to when things get a bit too much. Then Hector too disappears, something terrible happens at school and he and his grandfather take in a special visitor that they could pay for with their lives. Determined and brave Standish is desperate to expose the regime for what they really are by revealing one of their biggest secrets but the dangers of doing so could mean he and Gramps could lose what little they already have.
This book is beautifully presented in short snippets of chapters that say so much in very few words. I have to admit to being unsure at the start but by about ten chapters in I was completely hooked. I absolutely love how young adult fiction is really pushing the boundaries at the moment and this book does exactly that. It is brutal, raw, violent and highly emotional but so touching and heart-rending that it’s impossible to put it down once begun. I fell in love instantly with brave Standish and his grandfather and cherished every word I read as each one was so expertly conceived and written. The illustrations of flies, rats and maggots on each page tell their own story as you go through and gave the book even more punch than there is just with the text. Although at times I was slightly disgusted, I knew exactly what the author was trying to do and was incredibly affected by it. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone who likes their stories a bit different, a bit quirky, a bit heart-breaking – just read it!
For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):