Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
Our students were divided on this one. Some didn’t understand or appreciate the sparseness of style, the glimpses into a strange-yet-familiar world that never quite seemed to make sense. Others enjoyed the exceptionally readable fluidity and were intrigued by the conspiracy.
I appreciated the style. Being thrown into a tangled world that was both familiar and unsettling meant that we were plunged into Standish Treadwell’s experience of life throughout. Standish, living in an eerily dystopian epoch, is an unlikely hero: he’s dyslexic, but not stupid; his eyes don’t match; he’s just a boy who doesn’t really understand much of the world around him…
It’s these characteristics that make Standish so compelling. His innocence and faith in a brighter future mean that he never stops believing in the good things that are just beyond his reach – in the Land of Croca-Colas and ice-cream coloured Cadillacs. He compares himself to David in his encounter with Goliath and embodies the hope of the lowly.
I particularly loved his idiosyncratic idioms, the way that his dyslexic mind would twist a turn of phrase into something new and pure.
His childlike innocence of vocabulary and sparseness of description meant that the reader could focus on the storyline, internal dialogue and emotional responses rather than be voyeuristically transported into the dystopian world of hard and heartless brutality. The world was there, but by encountering it through the eyes of Standish we were looking through a frosted window that didn’t allow us to see too much. Standish stands as protector of our sensitivity, as well as of the innocent people of the world of Maggot Moon.
Against a backdrop of contemporary culture where so many books, games, films aimed at a teenage audience are pitted with gore and violence, this was a refreshing stylistic change.
Though sparse and filled with conspiracy, the book’s main themes were friendship, courage, sacrifice, belief, innocence, strength and faith.
All five of the books on the SSBA short-list have been pointing me to the conclusion of just how precariously we are perched on this mortal coil. Life has its tender and its violent moments, but the one common factor is its temporality. Temporary-ness. For me, the only way to make sense of this is with the certainty of salvation and the promise of the Eternal Life surrounding this one – a life lived in the love of God. Forever.