Apparently it is time to talk about Maggot Moon, by Sally Gardner. I say this because it keeps coming into my consciousness lately.
First, it won the UK’s prestigious Carnegie Medal in June.
Second, Horn Book, Booklist, and PW gave it starred reviews.
Third, when I was at ALA, I had the opportunity to meet some of Sharon Grover’s teen members of “The Book Club Formerly Known as Printz.” These are the teens who read widely last year, held their own Mock Printz, and like the Real Committee, chose Nick Lake’s In Darkness as their winner. Anyway, when I was chatting with them, I asked them what they were currently reading that impressed them. Two of them immediately responded, “Maggot Moon!”
Fourth, this morning I read a blog post entitled, “The Carnegie Medal–Can Children Have their Prize Back, Please?” in which the author discussed both Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking books and Maggot Moon, about which he said, “Adults should read it. They will love it. The hero is on the side of good and the side of evil is awful and banal and good fights to the bitter end for what it believes in. However, I’m not sure I would give it to a child.”
So, since I read Maggot Moon last week, it’s time to talk about it. Starting from the blog post referred to above, my first comment is that the author, like so many others, consistently blurs the distinction between children’s (e.g., middle grade) and young adult books. I actually thought that Maggot Moon fell a little on the younger side of that distinction, just because of what he said: “The hero is on the side of good and the side of evil is awful and banal.” It was a bit too cut-and-dried for teens. There really weren’t any grey areas; it was obvious from the beginning that Standish and his grandfather were the “good guys” and the despotic government were the “bad guys.”
I can see why the book is appealing, but my biggest problem with it was that it was too improbable. Unless I missed something important, I understood that because the radiation from the moon was too strong to allow landing on the moon, the government had decided to fake a moon landing, to demonstrate their prowess to the world. But if they knew the radiation was too strong, wouldn’t scientists in other countries? Wouldn’t it be obvious (umm. . . .flag waving in the breeze?) that it was a fake? So what would they be proving? And why would it be important for Standish to demonstrate that it was a hoax?
So that didn’t work for me.
The articles about the Carnegie Medal make a big deal about the fact that Standish was dyslexic, and so is the author, Sally Gardner. Again, I didn’t see that as being that big a deal. It struck me as being like so many things in children’s and YA books–a way to create more tension for the main character, and to isolate him, so that his feats would be even more important.
So that was my initial one-read impression: well-written, but too young for YA and with plot holes that I couldn’t get over. Is it this year’s version of Wonder? How about you? Have you read it yet?