By Sally Gardner
Published by Hot Key Books
ISBN 978 1 4714 0004 9
Any good author is always hiding the power to surprise up their sleeve. Just when you thought you knew what they were was capable of, out of nowhere comes a book that totally catches the reader off guard.
Sally Gardner, the author of many classy historical novels for young readers, has penned a startlingly original and sophisticated story for young adults in Maggot Moon. Even the title is intriguing.
Your first reaction might be, "Not another dystopian novel! Readers deserve something more original!" But Gardner's tale is just that.
Fifteen-year-old Standish Treadwell lives in a totalitarian state called the Motherland, where the brutal government makes the laws, and sees that they are carried out.
Standish lives with his grandfather, who tries to hide what the Motherland government really stands for from his impressionable grandson.
But Standish can't be protected from the truth all the time. He wants to know why his parents have been taken away and what happened to his best friend, Hector, who vanished off the face of the Earth.
One day, Standish witnesses a pupil being beaten to death by a teacher in the school playground. This makes for hard reading as Gardner doesn't shy away from depicting violence.
Standish is the narrator of his own story, and Gardner does a wonderful job of bringing this unusual boy to life. And he is very unusual: he has different coloured eyes, he can't read or write, and he thinks differently to those who strictly follow the Motherland's laws.
The Motherland government is planning to be the first nation to put a man on the Moon. This will provide perfect propaganda to strengthen the government's position. But Standish has discovered something that no one should know, and he is determined to sabotage the man on the Moon plan at all costs.
This is Standish's chance to show everyone he isn't the stupid wimp that everyone assumes. Things move quickly. Standish is fearless, but he doesn't see all the dangers of what he intends to do.
Gardner's dystopian novel is like no other out there on young adult bookshelves.
Extremely moving, thrilling and original Maggot Moon is a stand-out work of youth storytelling and was rightly a winner of the 2013 Carnegie Medal.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com