Maggot Moon is an intense what-if dystopian nightmare. Although it’s never explicitly said, 15-year old Standish Treadwell seems to be living in post-WWII if the Nazis had won the war. Standish lives in Zone 7 where the un-pure are forced to live, barely. Starving Zone 7 residents occasionally disappear after which the government refuses to acknowledge that they ever existed. Standish’s parents disappeared after moving to Zone 7. He knows they existed even if the government won’t admit it.
“Standish Treadwell. Can’t read, can’t write. Standish Treadwell isn’t bright.”
Standish is dyslexic (as is the author, Sally Gardner), and his eyes are two different colors: one blue, one brown. Although these two features alone make him an undesirable, he lives in Zone 7 for reasons that precede him. Another family comes to live with Standish and his grandfather, and they have a son, Hector, in the same grade as Standish. They go to school together where the strong minded Hector protects Standish from cruel beatings. Until Hector and his family vanish one day with no explanation.
Now Standish has no one to protect him at school at gets regular beatings from students and his teacher. One day when he’s being beaten by his teacher, Standish decides he’s had enough and punches Mr. Gunnell right in the jaw and off his feet. One small young boy who laughs too hard at the teacher’s misfortune gets the full force of Mr. Gunnell’s wrath as he beats the small boy to death in front of the rest of the class.
Standish knows he’s done for so he comes up with a crazy plan that just might allow him, his grandfather, and the tongue less moon man hiding in their cellar to escape Zone 7. His risky master plan involves finding Hector, a fake moon landing and mass graves.
Maggot Moon has 100 incredibly short chapters and is infused with illustrations of rats, maggots and flies in an almost flipbook fashion. The story isn’t told chronologically – the past, present and future are all mixed together. Even though some of the beatings are sickeningly intense, this book is poetic and haunting and highly recommended.
Reviewed by Annica-West End