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Cybils Mini Reviews: Unremembered and Maggot Moon (two books that have little in common outside the fact that they are both speculative fiction))

Unremembered by Jessica Brody
Tagline: The only thing worse than forgetting her past . . . is remembering it.

A girl wakes up in the ocean, surrounded by the wreckage of a plane crash.  She is the sole survivor.  Soon she is released into the care of a foster family and the search to find out who she is and what happened is on.  She is given the name Violet; and she seems stronger than typical, and surprisingly good at math.  Is she genetically modified?  An alien?  Part of the allure of Unremembered is trying to figure out what is happening.

Mysterious figures seem to be tracking her down, putting everyone at risk.  They can find her with a surprising swiftness that suggests there are paranormal elements at work.  A boy keeps appearing and there is a slip of paper in her pocket telling her to “trust him”, he claims that they are in love.  There is a slow revealing of facts as we learn the truth of what is happening along with our main character.  The romance can be overly sappy at times for me, but I know a large number of my teen readers that will eat this up.  The pacing is swift, the mystery intriguingg – for those looking for an entertaining read, Unremembered won’t disappoint. Put this in the hands of your readers who loved Hourglass by Myra McEntire and yes, even Twilight fans.

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

This book. Oh my goodness people – this book!  The setting is somewhat ambiguous, but we are in a time (1956) and a place this is frighteningly reminiscent of Hitler’s world.  People live in poverty and fear in a very regimented society.  Everyone is forced to praise the Motherland, and even if you do not want to you do it in public for fear of the repercussions.  There are searches and seizures and secrets.  The setting of this book is terrifying.

Standish Treadwell is considered deficient; he is slower than most kids and doesn’t talk a lot.  His goal is to stay under the radar so he can survive.  Soon, another family moves in to the hovel next door and they become friends with Standish and his grandfather (who is raising him after his parents have disappeared).  One day, a football goes over the mysterious wall behind the house and that is the day that everything changes: “On the other side of the wall there is a dark secret. And the devil. And the moon man.  And the Motherland doesn’t want anyone to know.”

This is a haunting and mesmerizing book.  A challenging read, to be sure, but incredibly fascinating.  The truth that is revealed about the Motherland and their quest to gain superiority by landing a mission on the moon is jaw dropping.  I can not even begin to explain to you all the rich layers and subtleties in this book.  The prose is melancholy, the story if often brutal (a boy is beaten to death by a teacher in front of the class) and it raises a vast array of important discussions.  In the end, it is a heartbreaking story of how one boy discovered the truth and what he risks to reveal it and change the fate of everyone.  This is a book that will be discussed in classrooms for a long time and challenges us all to think of what the world may be like if things in the past had turned out differently.  

Standish is a powerful character, a character with disabilities (maybe Dyslexia?) that he is challenged by but he is smarter than everyone around him thinks.  His mood shifts frequently throughout the book and it is his mesmerizing storytelling that keeps you invested.  Maggot Moon has received a ton of starred reviews, justifiably so.