Friday, September 6, 2013

Beneath the Maggot Moon

Sometimes a story has more layers than an onion, with more and more meaning to peel away and peel away. Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner is just such a story. But you might not like what you find under each layer. 

Standish Treadwell isn't bright. At least, it is safer for Standish if you think that. In the alternative Britain he lives in, there isn't much of anything that could be considered "bright". No color, no fun, no happiness. But for a boy who can't read and write, this cruel world is particularly cruel. That is, until Hector comes along. As the only boy Standish has every called a friend, Hector is the most important person in his life besides Standish's grandfather. 

The world doesn't take kindly to friends. With the Greenflies buzzing around and teachers who are willing to beat a little boy to death for laughing, the world is a cold hard place. But when Hector disappears, Standish refuses to stand by and let it happen. He watched his own parents disappear after his mother was taken and returned disfigured, and he isn't going to let the same thing happen to Hector. Standish is the only one who can help. He is the only one who can help because he is the one who is underestimated the most.

Have you read Animal Farm? If you have, you know there are two (or more) layers to that story. You have the weird story about the talking animals taking over the farm, and then you have the deeper allegory into the world's political figures. Maggot Moon is the same kind of story. Honestly? This is NOT a book for young kids or even most young adults. It is deep, complex, violent, bizarre, confusing, and I am not even sure I really liked it, but it had my mind spinning all day. The author is severely dyslexic and she speaks of her learning disability quite candidly. Not only did she make a world with a dyslexic hero, but she also created this dyslexic world inside a dystopia. If you let yourself run with the way the book is written, it feels different, confusing at times. I love the statement this makes about the dyslexic mind... layers and layers of meaning hidden behind simplistic language and a confusing story.

That being said, I actually didn't enjoy this book in the way I enjoy other stories. It was difficult and painful at times, but you shouldn't let that to scare you away. It is the kind of book that will make your head spin if you let it, but you can't fight the odd story and characters. Like Animal Farm there is something deeper here that you have to find yourself. What does this story mean to you? Are you a Standish Treadwell? Is your brother or sister? Student? 

The dystopia angle of this story is very odd and won't appeal to many kids who likes the popular dystopias out there (Hunger Games, Maze Runner, etc.). It really shouldn't be classified as a dystopia, and in fact, I think this book defies most categories. But it's strange and interesting, and I still can't stop thinking about it!

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