Author: Sally Gardner
Release date: September 2012
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Hot Key Books
Maggot Moon is a dark almost dystopian Young Adult novel. It’s a story of oppression and the struggle for survival in an unjust society.
I’m not sure what I expected this book to be but it really wasn’t what it is. That’s not to say that what it is isn’t striking, refreshingly different, compelling and imaginative. It is all those things but somehow I got it into my head that this would be a comical tale of a boy not quite fitting in.
Standish Treadwell has never been any good at putting things now on paper. He can’t read too well but he does love words. He loves their sounds even if he finds their shapes elusive. He’s full of imagination and dreams of landing on a new planet. At school he is bullied by the other boys but he’s also picked on by the horrid Mr Gunnell. He’s pretty miserable there until he finds a friend in fearless Hector. They live in the same street. A street that’s almost deserted. People are taken without warning. Standish believes they become maggot meat. But really they are victims of the Motherland. Standish and his grandfather are living on the poverty line. The world of luxury is reserved for the people who live in Zone 1. Out in Zone 7, only the traitorous snitches have enough food to eat. A boy like Standish – who everyone thinks is dumb – holds the peoples’ freedom in his hands.
I found this book so easy to read. The chapters are short and the language is at once accessible and startlingly imaginative. The interesting thing about this book is that the dystopian society is not explicit. The author chooses not to spell everything out. So in fact I “read” it as more of a parallel universe story. This is an England where the Second World War was lost. It was not the Führer that lead the mass extermination of innocent people but a Mother-figure in this book. Well that’s my interpretation I’m sure there are many of equal value.
The characterisation was quirky and authentic. The capacity for humanity to do the most inhuman things is felt so strongly. But so is the capacity for random acts of kindness. The ending was bitter-sweet and left me with a lump in my throat.
So yes, what I got from this book, I never expected to. It was a pleasure to be surprised and though this book explores some very bleak, brutal issues, it is none the less a captivating read. Maggot Moon is a worthy contender for the Carnegie Award.
Source: Review copy from the publisher. Thank you.