I'm going to start this review with a confession. Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon has been sat in my TBR (To be Read Pile) since it was published. The reason I hadn't read it was fear. Yes FEAR. Why? Well I knew that Standish the protagonist is dyslexic, and I knew that the author Sally Gardner is also dyslexic. Can’t see the problem? Well, I’m also dyslexic, and like many dyslexic’s I've been told repeatedly through my life that I'm not dyslexic I'm thick, and having this drilled into you make you question whether you are actually dyslexic. So the fear was this; what if I read Maggot Moon and Standish’s dyslexia isn't like mine, that Sally Gardner’s dyslexia isn't like mine? Well that could be proof that I'm not dyslexic, that actually I'm just THICK.
I needn't have worried. To my immense relief, Sally’s portrayal of Standish’s dyslexia was so close to mine, it seemed like she’d been watching me as a child. I actually laughed out loud at the scene with Standish’s school tie, being knotted over a year because he can’t tie it, so he pulls it on and off – I did the exact same thing (and buttoned up my school shirts inside out and out of line). Standish also collects words, and as a person, who at Standish age could hardly read, write or spell (still can’t spell), I could not put this better…
‘…a word to describe that wall would be impenetrable. See. I might not be able to spell but I have a huge vocabulary. I collect words – they are sweets in the mouth of sound.’
Sally has captured dyslexia perfectly, the problems, the stigma, and isolation and in very believable and sympathetic manor. But this book isn't about dyslexia; no it’s far deeper and darker. As soon as you begin to read the voice grips you and doesn't let you go, it’s gritty, brave and cunning yet maintains the naivety of youth. At first you think it’s a straight forward dystopian thriller, but the seeping in of disturbingly real historical symbols and phrases like, motherland, zeppelins , and the man in a black leather jacket with eye-socket-fitting sunglasses, makes you realise this isn't an imagined bleak future but an historical novel of an alternative history. This is when the peril cranks up, as by now you know that Standish is not the idea of perfection, with his troubles reading and his miss-matched eyes (one blue and one brown).
In Maggot Moon’s version of history it’s the 1950’s and the Motherland has launched a rocket set for the moon, a way to ensure that the land of Croka-Cola and Cadillac’s stop their advances. Standish and his best friend Hector, discover a conspiracy about the mission that brings them the wrong kind of attention, and when Hector and his family disappear Standish goes to throw a stone, to bring down the giant motherland and save his friend. The atmosphere is immensely real, the 1950’s setting, war, suppression and the fear. The moon landing seems strangely familiar only with a flag that red and black instead of red, white and blue. This is a tale of friendship, love and the fight for survival, which keeps you reading with baited breath that delivers a perfect but bitter-sweet conclusion.
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