Title: Maggot Moon
Author: Sally Gardner
Genre: YA Sci-fi/Dystopian
Number of Pages: 288
Holy shit, this book was dark. I was surprised by how dark and violent it was, it’s an amazing novel but definitely on appropriate for mature teens. Technically it’s a very easy read but it will probably give kids nightmares, there were some scenes that were downright difficult to read. Maggot Moon is set in a dystopian hellscape with obvious similarities to Hitler’s Germany, but with the government mandating fake moon landings for propaganda purposes.
In this society, Dyslexic outcast Standish Treadwell is the lowest of the low. He lives with his kind-hearted grandfather in a shack in the boonies of the city, and he’s beaten and terrorized not only by his classmates but also by the teachers. The only thing that allows him a measure of safety is his best friend Hector, who protects him whenever he can and is almost like a brother to him. Then Hector mysteriously disappears and Standish Treadwell becomes a unlikely thorn in the fascist government’s side, even though he knows his eventual death is almost certain.
Since Standish has Dyslexia and has extremely low academic abilities, the book is written in a simple and straightforward manner with language a young child might use. He’s not stupid, and he plays the fool to his advantage when he’s up against people who see him as a piece of subhuman garbage. Even though a lot of the dystopian elements have been done before I appreciated how the author still managed to do something new with them.
There’s no sugarcoating the brutality of the antagonists, in one memorable scene a small child is beaten to death on the playground by an administrator until he’s left a bloody pulp; the corpse is then haphazardly covered with a sheet and left until a later time when it can be conveniently disposed of. There isn’t a whole lot of moral ambiguity either for the most part, but Standish is among the most unique and endearing narrators I’ve encountered in a long time. It didn’t take long at all for me to become utterly invested in the outcome of his situation. It was hard for me to put this book down and the brief chapters make it even more tempting to binge-read, the unsettling illustrations in the margins add to the powerful emotional effect it wields over the reader.