Reviews for Maggot Moon
Booklist Reviews 2013 January #1
*Starred Review* The year is 1956. In an unnamed country of obvious allegorical weight, the totalitarian government of "the Motherland" keeps the "impure" in ghettos where they live off scraps and hope not to be dragged away to camps. Standish, 15, lives in Zone 7, a nasty place from which school is no respite--there cruel teachers beat students and, on this particular day, kill one. Standish is expelled in the aftermath, and the next step for him may be the camps. Standish, however, knows a secret. The Motherland is hyping a moon landing that will prove to the world that they reign supreme with interstellar weaponry. But it's a fake: just across the park, accessible via a hidden tunnel, is a building that houses an artificial moon set. And one of the so-called astronauts has shown up in Standish's cellar missing his tongue. Gardner snatches elements from across history to create something uniquely her own: a bleak, violent landscape of oppression, as well as the seeds of hope that sprout there, revealed in Standish's tenacious, idiosyncratic voice over 100 short chapters. Crouch's frequent sketches of flies, rats, and maggots seem unrelated at first, but they emerge as further metaphor for the taking. This is alt-history second; first, it is an eerie, commanding drama. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
BookPage Reviews 2013 March
Never underestimate a unique mind
The young adult genre can be as repetitive as it is inventive, so the popularity of the dystopian YA subgenre guarantees some familiar storylines. It seems unfair, then, to classify Sally Gardner’s new novel, Maggot Moon, as dystopian YA, as it defies comparison to all of its shelfmates. Rather than looking ahead to a bleak future, Gardner imagines what the 1950s would have been like if the Allies had lost World War II. In the Motherland, “impurities” are “rubbed out,” citizens snitch or starve, and sheep have the best chance for survival.
Fifteen-year-old Standish Treadwell is no sheep. He is dyslexic (like the author)—“Can’t read, can’t write, Standish Treadwell isn’t bright”—and therefore an impurity, an easy target both at school and in the Motherland. His dyslexia, however, is more a power than a hindrance. It keeps his eyes up and his ears open, and through his wry, incisive and original voice, he creates a narrative that is not quite linear, resembling instead the colorful mind of a daydreamer.
Standish escapes his circumstances by retreating into his one remaining vestige of independence, his imagination. He and his best friend Hector dream of the free world, “Croca-Colas” and Cadillacs. They build a rocket ship to take them to Juniper, an imagined utopian planet with a name that feels within the realm of possibility, yet is obviously unobtainable. They are not alone in their dreams of reaching the stars, as the Motherland takes strides each day to be the first nation to land a man on the moon.
When Hector and his family are taken away just before the moon launch, Standish finds himself uniquely positioned to risk all and unveil the Motherland’s elaborate ruse to its citizens and the rest of the world. He is the wolf among the sheep.
In Maggot Moon, hope lies in truth. This is a small victory, but an achievable one, especially for a clear-eyed boy driven by friendship. Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Gardner here imagines an alternate, dystopic UK: a repressive 1950s regime that calls itself the Motherland and consigns undesirables to the derelict housing of Zone Seven. When his friend Hector disappears, Standish sets out to rescue and avenge him and uncovers a grotesque government hoax. Standish's tale has the energetic tension of poetry, rolling out with irony, tenderness, horror, or love, but always vividly.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #2
Gardner (I, Coriander, rev. 8/05) here imagines an alternate, dystopic UK: a repressive 1950s regime that calls itself the Motherland, abhors "impurities," is led by a man with a bad haircut, and consigns undesirables to the derelict housing of Zone Seven. That's where fifteen-year-old Standish Treadwell and his Gramps survive, thanks to Gramps's ingenuity at reusing and bartering. Out of this life of hard-won subsistence and oppressive schooling, Standish tells the story of his friendship with "supernova bright" Hector next door -- Hector, who realizes that dyslexic Standish may not have a train-track mind, but has imagination "in bucketloads." When Hector and his parents disappear, taken by the authorities, Standish sets out to rescue and avenge him, and uncovers a grotesque government hoax. Standish's tale has the terse, energetic tension of poetry; his phrases and sentences roll out with irony, tenderness, horror, or love, but always vividly. "The place smelled of over-boiled cabbage, cigarettes, and corruption," he notes of his school; or, "What he was doing there I hadn't a snowflake of an idea." Even the chronology of Standish's story depends on a rearrangement of order, where present, past, and future stand side by side. Most appealing of all, however, is Standish Treadwell himself: tender, incisive, brave, and determined, he takes a stand and treads well. Frequent pencil illustrations that function almost as a flipbook underscore the story's subtext of the unending cycle of violence and death. deirdre f. baker
Kirkus Reviews 2012 December #2
Standish Treadwell, 15, has lost parents, neighbors, best friend: All disappeared from Zone Seven, a post-war occupied territory, into the hellish clutches of the Motherland. Now a new horror approaches. Though it's unnamed, the Motherland's distinguishing features scream "Nazi Germany." Life in Zone Seven is a dreary round of familiar miseries. Standish and Hector spin fantasies about the far-off tantalizing consumer culture they glimpsed on television (now banned), but they lack a vision of the future beyond vague dreams of rescue. Food is scarce; surveillance constant. Loved ones vanish; teachers beat children to death while classmates look on. Abetting the powerful, residents inform on their neighbors for food. Kindness revealed is punished; solutions are final. Call it Auschwitz lite. Why the brutal state bothers to educate those, like Standish, labeled "impure" (his eyes are of different colors and he's dyslexic), is unclear. Despite short chapters and simple vocabulary and syntax, the detailed, sadistic violence makes this is a poor choice for younger readers, while oversimplified characters, a feeble setting and inauthentic science make it a tough sell for older ones. In this nuance- and complexity-free world, scarcity rules. Standish dreams of "ice-cream-colored Cadillacs" and drinking "Croca-Colas." Wealth-disparity, climate change and childhood obesity don't exist. Despite intentions, this tale never connects past to present, resulting in a book with a message but no resonance. (Speculative fiction. 13 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2013 October
This book tackles the dystopian genre in a truly unique manner. Standish Treadwell, a young boy, tries to survive under an oppressive, authoritative system. The arrival of a new friend, Hector, transforms mere survival into life. However, the Moon Man and the Motherland's secret will challenge Standish to change the world. The novel is both thrilling and heart-wrenching. The story moves at a gripping pace, drawing the reader in. Gardner brings this world to life through detailed descriptions. The margins contain simple pen and ink drawings that cleverly hint at the path of the story. Readers will feel the horrors of the world through the perspective of its unique narrator. This title would make a distinctive addition to a young adult collection. Matthew Harvey, High School Library Media Specialist, Gananda Central School District, Walworth, New York [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.] RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 December #3
Just when it seems that there's nothing new under the dystopian sun, Gardner (The Red Necklace) produces an original and unforgettable novel about a boy in a totalitarian society who risks everything in the name of friendship. Standish Treadwell narrates in short, fast-paced chapters, illustrated by theatrical designer/director Crouch with flipbook-style images of rats, flies, and maggots: creatures that represent the oppressive forces at work in the Motherland, a brutish government intent on being first to the moon, at whatever cost to its citizens. Fifteen-year-old Standish is dyslexic (as is the author), making him a target of bullies, which is the least of his problems. He lives with his resourceful grandfather in Zone Seven, but the Motherland has taken away his parents, as well as his best friend, Hector. The loss of his parents has created a hole Standish cannot fill; the disappearance of Hector leaves Standish unprotected at school and bereft of a friend who saw past Standish's disability to recognize his intelligence. "I believe the best thing we have is our imagination," Standish recalls Hector telling him, "and you have that in bucketloads." Though Standish's grandfather keeps the boy purposefully in the dark about many things, Standish figures out one of the government's big secrets on his own, and he concocts a brave and personally risky plan to reveal it. Parts of the story are very hard to read--early on, a classmate is beaten to death by a teacher in the schoolyard--but the violence asks readers to consider what the world would be like if certain events in history had turned out differently. Gardner does a masterful job of portraying Standish's dyslexia through the linguistic swerves of his narration, and although the ending is pure heartbreak, she leaves readers with a hopeful message about the power of one boy to stand up to evil. Ages 12-up. Agent: Catherine Clarke, Felicity Bryan Associates. (Feb.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2013 March
Gr 9 Up--In a grimly surreal alternate 1950s, 15-year-old Standish Treadwell leads a bleak life under a totalitarian government reminiscent of World War II Germany and Cold War Soviet Union. Struggling with an unspecified learning disability, he doesn't fit in-he dreams of a land of Croca-Colas and plans an imaginary mission to planet Juniper with his best friend, Hector-until Hector and his family are abruptly taken away because they know too much about the government's machinations. Standish's quirky first-person voice and fragmented storytelling gradually reveal that the government is intent on winning a propaganda-filled space race and will go to any length, including a massive hoax, to appear victorious. The story borders on allegory, and the setting is deliberately vague. It is implied that the details that led to this dystopian society are not important; the crucial point is that Standish becomes determined that he, an individual, can take action against a cruel and powerful regime. With brief chapters and short sentences, the prose appears deceptively simple, but the challenging subject matter makes for a highly cerebral reading experience. Stomach-churning illustrations of flies, rats, and maggots accompany the text, creating a parallel graphical narrative that emphasizes key moments in the plot. Though its harsh setting and brutal violence may not appeal to those seeking a happy ending, the story's Orwellian overtones will fuel much speculation and discussion among readers.--Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA [Page 158]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
VOYA Reviews 2013 February
"Standish Treadwell can't read, can't write, Standish Treadwell isn't bright." Standish Treadwell lives, thinks, and acts in a world where thinking with your own mind could get you killed. Teachers are bullies, the television tells lies, and a wall literally keeps you from escaping the world where Standish lives. Fifteen-year-old Standish lives his life quietly, with his grandpa, going to and from school, avoiding the bullies (both grown up and young). When Hector and his parents come to live with Standish, however, Standish begins to think there is more to his world than he knows. What exactly happened to his parents? Why does Mr. Gunnell get away with beating kids at school? What exactly is on the other side of that wall? When his only friend, Hector, goes to retrieve a lost football over the wall and never returns, Standish begins to question what exactly is going on. Standish is a wholly original character, at times relatable, and at others, different from anyone readers may know. Through amazing and sometimes horrible events, Standish matures into a hero for those who resist the control of others. In one hundred chapters, Gardner explores a world where creativity is denied and uniformity is celebrated. The story is only enhanced by Julian Crouch's black-and-white illustrations that grace every page, running like a flipbook. Standish's story is a dark, haunting tale of secrets, lies, and those who fight for the truth. While this book is recommended for all young adult collections, this reviewer found one particular beating a bit disturbing. With some promotion, Standish's story will find a home with mature young adult readers.--Sarah Sogigian 4Q 2P S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.