Maggot Moon

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“There are train-track thinkers,” says Hector, “then there’s you, Standish, a breeze in the park of imagination.”

This has been on my to-read list for quite some time, after having a glowing recommendation from a colleague. I’d also heard excellent things about the e-book version, which is designed specifically to be dyslexia-friendly. It won the Carnegie last year, and I can certainly see why.

Maggot Moon is an adventure/dystopia led by a young boy called Standish Treadwell, who lives in Zone Seven with his grandad. We’re unclear initially how they came to be here, but know that everything is done “for the Motherland”. The dystopia element of the dictator-style government seems quite far away from every day, but is still hangs in the background through Standish’s every day life. The short and sharp chapters made a pleasant change from other YA offerings and gave a jigsaw-like feeling to our building up a picture of the world. This worked well in terms of building up Standish’s voice, but didn’t always give us a clear way in to the world. We know something is up, but we don’t exactly know what. This lack of knowledge makes Standish’s voice authentic, as there’s only so much a young boy would know, apart from that life is pretty rubbish and there’s no hope of improvement. What I loved about this book was that we don’t ever have the narrative zoom out to give us the super-wide context. We have what Standish knows, and nothing more. It makes Standish’s voice very realistic; we don’t even have hints of the author’s hand in the crafting of his voice. It’s so realistic that even when horrific things are happening, Standish has very little reaction. Because this is normal for life in Zone Seven.

The brilliant thing about this story is that it’s not a dystopia in the popularised Hunger Games way. It’s a dystopia in the way that I remember dystopias being before we got told what the word for it was. I think in the current climate of dystopia, if it’s not spelt out as the whole world and what’s happening in wider society and here is the horrible thing that is happening to the population, it might not be considered of that genre. This would probably classically fit into more of an adventure category. But we have the characteristics of a dystopia: a government ruling with an iron fist, controlling the media and the population and under totalitarian rule where there doesn’t seem to be any hope left. And we have a main character who, somehow, ends up retaliating in some way, no matter how large or small. However, it’s mostly retaliating in a huge way (think Hunger Games and Divergent) and Standish doesn’t respond in a massive way. He is very quiet, very subtle, and uses people’s perceptions of him to enable him to achieve what he wants.

It’s a book about a dyslexic boy who is told he is ‘impure’ but doesn’t let it weaken him. He uses this as his strength to play against the system for his little victory that he wants – to find his friend Hector. It’s got very clear themes of friendship and adventure and determination, and those aren’t ones that traditionally dovetail with popular dystopia, in my view. But these things are the things that make Maggot Moon so strong. In many ways it reminded me of Wonder, as it’s a book about someone not letting a disability or weakness define them. I like to think that most YA is about not letting things define you, but teens are reading these books in a context when the media is barraging them with negative ideas of the ‘right’ way to look and the ‘right’ way to think and the ‘right’ way to treat other people. Apart from Wonder, I don’t have a book spring to mind that I’ve read that has a main character with a form of disability – be that physical, learning, etc. And it’s so hugely important that we have books out there for teenagers that reassure them. We read books to find ourselves in them, and I don’t think YA always does that. It is very good, but could go even further. And Standish, to me, is someone who does this.

Things I liked about this book were: The fantastic characterisation. Standish’s voice is very strong and guides us with real authenticity through the novel.

Things I was less keen on were: The distancing at the start. It took me a good fifty pages to fit together the jigsaw of Standish’s context.

 

Maggot Moon: 8.5/10

 

If you liked this, you might like:

Wonder by RJ Palacio
Slade’s Children by Garth Nix
The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Wind Singer by William Nicholson

 

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Top Five Books On My ‘To-Read’ List

So I’ve been a little bogged in work this week and haven’t finished my next book to review, BUT do not fear! For the wonderful @ellon_wheels did a Top Ten on her fab blog absobookinglutely.wordpress.com (which you should all go check out! Fab reviews) and now I’m shamelessly taking a leaf out of her book for this week’s post – but reducing it to five, because SO MANY BOOKS. 🙂

My to-read list, as anyone who has seen me tweet about it/tweet pictures of it/generally wailing about there not being enough hours in the day, is HUGE. I think at the last count it was at about sixty. So when I go to choose my next read, I’m a little overwhelmed. And as I like to subsection almost everything, the opportunity to super-organise this to-read list of epic-ness was one I simply couldn’t put off.

So, here, in no particular order, are my top five books I’m excited to read!

Winter crown

1. The Winter Crown by Elizabeth Chadwick
This is the second book in Chadwick’s Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy. I LOVED the first book, The Summer Queen, and when I saw the cover the other day on twitter I wanted to cry at how pretty it was. Of course, that doesn’t seem a particularly good reason to be excited about it, BUT! I’ve read a few of Chadwick’s novels already and found her historical accuracy simply fantastic, her plot well thought out, and characters interesting. I’ve done a lot of research into this time period with my creative writing dissertation, and I recognised many things I’d looked up myself. Chadwick charts her research on her website and it’s clear that she knows this time period inside out. She tells Alienor’s story authentically, and get a real sense of her character. After all, this is a girl who lost her father, was swiftly married to the French Prince, and then had to try and negotiate her way around an unfamiliar court. The Winter Crown begins charting Alienor’s marriage with Henry, and towards the time where she helps lead her sons in rebellion against their father. Want authentically written historical fiction? Look no further than Chadwick’s work.

 

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2. Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan
I am an ardent Trudi Canavan fan, as I may have mentioned already in this blog post. It’s been interesting seeing Canavan tweet about the process of writing this novel, and I was excited to hear about her new trilogy. I adored her Magician’s Guild trilogy (and subsequent trilogy) but struggled with the Age of Five series. However, I do still own all of them, Age of Five included, and was keen to pick up her next novel. It’s another dual-storyline novel, which works well in the Traitor Spy trilogy, but confused the heck out of me in Last of the Wilds. So watch this space…! You can check out the blurb and read the first chapter on Trudi Canavan’s website .
ocean lane

3. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman
My previous Gaiman experience came in the form of both The Graveyard Book and Coraline (which I reviewed here) and I thoroughly enjoyed both, especially the former. I read the first chapter of Ocean… in the bookshop when it was in hardback but couldn’t justify the spend, so waited until it was paperback. And also on buy one half price, so I also bought The Humans by Matt Haig, another book on my list. It seems to have the same slightly otherworldly vibes that I got from the other Gaimans I’ve read, and I wanted to try some of his adult books. The general reaction to it seems to be quite positive, so I’m looking forward to it as an intermission between swathes of YA writing I’m excited for.

 

maggot-moon

4. Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
I was recommended this by a friend at work, who said that not only was it fab, but it was also really well designed and that the ebook came with a whole interactive element that makes it dyslexia-friendly. Frankly, I think this is an absolutely excellent thing, as it’s something that nobody really seems to cater for outside of specific ‘designed for x type of student’ books (in my experience). I’ve read and enjoyed Gardner’s work before, particularly I, Coriander, which I thought was magnificent. Maggot Moon seems a well-pitched young teen story, probably for students moving up to secondary school – much like Wonder by RJ Palacio. It also looks to be illustrated, and so far in my reading I’ve only ever seen illustrations done well: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, etc. I’m hoping this is another I can add to my list of great reads.

 

wintersmith

5. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
I ADORE Tiffany Aching. I think she really is the character I most wish I could be. I read The Wee Free Men, the first book in the series, after Witches Abroad (at uni I planned a devilishly awesome essay on fairytale mashing that I loved far more than my tutor did…) and I didn’t think I could get much better than Granny Weatherwax. But Tiffany is just so real and relateable and sensible, and makes the kind of observations that a young person of that age would. The way she deals with the hilarious Nac Mac Feegle is delightful, and now in Wintersmith we see her move on with her training.
As a mark of my adoration for Tiffany Aching books, I save them until I am in dire need of some Tiffany to make me feel better. I have had Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight on my shelf for months, and when I have finally reached the point where I just need a bit of Tiffany Aching to make the world better, she doesn’t disappoint. I was ecstatic to find out that Terry Pratchett is currently working on a fifth book in the sequence, and can’t wait to have it on my bookshelf. The more Tiffany, the better. She is, quite possibly, the YA character I feel akin to the most. (I couldn’t choose which ones I love the most. It’s like asking you to pick your favourite child!)

 

So, hopefully you’ll see reviews for these appearing on the blog over the new few months! If you’ve read any of these books already, do let me know your (spoiler-free!) thoughts in the comments. And let me know of any other books that you think I should add to my to-read list!

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