Author: Zetta Elliott & Lyn Miller Lachmann
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction/Books in Verse
Number of Pages: 224
Moonwalking tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Pie, a gifted Afro-Latinx graffiti artist and JJ, a boy with undiagnosed autism obsessed with punk rock music and The Clash. JJ moves into a predominately non-white community after his dad (a union organizer who’s been blacklisted and left without any job opportunities) can’t keep up the payment on their home anymore.
The book is set in the 1980’s and racism and disenfranchisement run rampant in the lives of the two boys. I had high hopes for this book because of the ASD representation and how great Rogue by Lyn Miller-Bachmann was. Kiara was an amazing character in that book but both the protagonists in Moonwalking left me cold.
I know it’s a MG book, but the depiction of racism was SO heavy-handed that there wasn’t any room for subtlety whatsoever. Instead of there being subtext to the racism of almost all of the white characters everything was spelled out. I also didn’t like how the book normalized behavior like calling cops ‘pigs.’ I think middle grade fiction should set a better example for the kids who read it.
JJ’s autistic behavior seemed underutilized, and it almost felt like an afterthought, which is weird because Lyn Miller Lachmann is on the spectrum herself. It felt like a symptom was thrown in here and there, but I never got a strong sense of what his challenges were. The whole subplot with JJ finding out his sister is a lesbian is very underwritten too.
He sees her kissing another girl in a shed and then the whole thing is pretty much dropped. It felt like the authors felt like they had to force a queer character into the story but failed to do anything interesting with her. My recommendation: skip this and read Rogue instead. It’s a lot more emotionally involving, and the characters are more fleshed out.