Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Moon's Control

Susan Beth Pfeffer is a giant among authors. Her name might not be as well -known as J.K. Rowling, but she has such a powerful and versatile writing style that her books will stay with you long after you have finished them. When the third Life as We Know it series ended, I thought the series had ended with it. But here, years later both in the publishing world and in the setting of the story, we are lucky enough to find a fourth book in the series called The Shade of the Moon

Jon was always the little kid. He was the kid who had to be taken care of and kept safe. That was how he came to be a claver. Only people with passes were able to "slip" into the Enclaves, and Lisa, Jon's stepmother, had three passes. One for her, one for her son (Jon's half brother) and one for Jon. It was decided. The rest of his family wanted him to live in the Enclave and have as close to a normal life as possible with the state of the world as it has been. Years ago a meteor hit the moon, and since then, the world has been subject to severe shifts in weather patterns, geological disasters like earthquakes and volcanos where they shouldn't be, and mass extinctions caused by a host of catalysts. When the blended family couldn't survive any longer in Pennsylvania, they traveled to the Enclave, hoping for something better but not knowing what to expect. 

Now Jon is a claver and his mother, sister, brother, and their families all live outside the clave. Everyone outside the clave is known as a grub. If you weren't fortunate enough to be a claver, your life as a grub was determined by the people of the clave. If they needed a domestic, it didn't matter if you had a PhD, you were a grub who would work where they told you. If you defied the Enclave, you were sent to the mines where no one lasted very long. Life in and outside the clave wasn't ideal, but at least it was life. That was more than most people in the world had. Jon has grown into a virtual adult as a claver, and even though he has family outside the wall, he still carries the entitlement that comes with being a member of the clave, even though those who aren't "slips" (slipped inside with a pass), don't let him forget that he is only one step above a grub. Slowly, however, it becomes clear to Jon that there are some ugly and even scandalous things happening in the clave. When a soccer match turns ugly between the clave and the grubtown, everyone sees just how lopsided the power truly is, and the results get deadly. 

I was so ecstatic when I realized Pfeffer was writing another of the Moon books. Beside myself, even. I loved the original series that consisted of the first book about Jon and Miranda's family, the second about Alex (who became Miranda's husband) and his family, and the third brought everyone together. With this new book we really had an opportunity to see them outside survival mode and really trying to live their lives, which was much easier for the clavers who lived in relative comfort with an endless supply of domestic servants than it was outside the clave in White Birch with the grubs who were their domestics. This clash and clear caste system was so intriguing that it brought the series to a whole new level. I loved the turn it took the series, and that the story centered around Jon, who we didn't see much of int he other stories. While Jon should be happy as a claver, he is haunted by his life before he reached the Enclave as well as living a life where everyone he knows relishes in reminding him that he is no more than an unwanted guest inside the community. Even his family in White Birch are shocked by his lack of empathy for the grubs like themselves, but it is Jon's transformation that really makes this story brilliant. He becomes the man everyone hoped he would, even though it took him a while to find that man. 

This is a series that is not only great for young adults, but it is clean enough to be suitable for stronger middle readers. Some of the content is mature, so choose your reader wisely, but the story itself is clean and accessible enough for some middle readers. The characters are the heart of the story, and it is amazing to see all your familiar faces back again, but in a new capacity. Alex and Miranda are now supporting characters, which keeps the story from burning out or dragging on for too long. And Jon is a complex character, full of demons and haunted by his past, which makes him even more spectacular of a redemption. I really loved this whole series, but this story in particular. I am keeping my fingers crossed that in a few years, Pfeffer will announce a fifth book and will keep me in the Moon world. It might not be the best world to live in, but it is full of family, and love and hope, despite all the obstacles standing in the way. 

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