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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Maggot Moon, written by Sally Gardner. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2012. $19.99 ages 14 and up

"By now I was near the wall that runs along the side of the railway track. A word to describe that wall would be impenetrable. See. I might not be able to spell but I have a huge vocabulary. I collect words - they are sweets in the mouth of sound.
The wall was built so high that Gramps and me, whose garden backed up to it, couldn't see over the fricking thing."  

Oh boy! This is one of those books where I have 'sticky-noted' page after page. It is the outstanding writing...Sally Gardner is a word master! She writes with such clarity and spellbinding turns of phrase:

"The man was coat-hanger thin, with a shock of gray hair. He had gray, bushy eyebrows, the only barricades against a large expanse of wrinkled forehead that threatened to tumble down in an avalanche of anxiety over the rest of his features."

Standish Treadwell is dyslexic. Although he doesn't communicate as others do, he has the most astonishing ideas and imagination. It is what draws him to Hector, who doesn't see Standish in the same way that others do. He appreciates his differences, and recognizes how truly gifted Standish is. He helps Standish deal with the bullies, and to see himself in a different light.

When Standish is called to the office one day, there is a man sitting in the corner:

"He looked as if he was made up out of a geometry set, all triangles and straight edges. He face was hidden by a hat. It wasn't at a rakish angle, not like they wear in the land of Croca-Colas. No, this hat was knife sharp with a brim that could slice a lie in half. He wore black-framed, eye-socket-fitting sunglasses."

The narration moves between past and present seamlessly and we learn that Hector has disappeared. Standish knows that Hector should never have gone to the other side of the wall. The Motherland has forbidden such a thing for everyone. Hector is gone because he saw what he was not supposed to see. His parents are gone, too. In this dark future world, differences are seen as a threat, and sameness is the ideal.  When Hector and his family disappear, it has a powerful effect on Gramps:

"What I remember about Gramps after the Lushes went was that he looked older, more worried, with each day that passed. We were being watched. One thing bled into another. The wound kept oozing grief, no matter how many bandages of "it will be all right.""

Through this finely drawn, unforgettable narrator, we see that world in a unique and powerful way. Standish is our guide through an ever unfolding story. There is so much pain and violence, laced with a hint of hope. He is a symbol for the imperfect; yet, he perfectly embodies a brave, impressive, incredibly astute young man who sees so much more than anyone can imagine. His quest to destroy the conspiracy being perpetrated on the rest of the world, and to find his best friend Hector, will keep you awake at night.

It is unceasingly real and immediate. It is the story of friends, of love and fighting to survive, and it ends as it should. It will break your heart, and you will never forget reading it.

"I say, "When you left, there was this huge hole. I couldn't walk around with a hole that size in the heart of me."
He says nothing but I know he is listening. Words are the only medicine I have.
"You make sense of a world that is senseless. You gave me space boots so that I could walk on other planets. Without you, I'm lost. There's no left, no right. No tomorrows, only miles of yesterdays. It doesn't matter what happens now because I've found you. That's why I'm here. Because of you. You who I love. My best friend. My brother."

I will read it again when I have had time to savor it, and to more fully appreciate the incredible story that it is.

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