Ah, it’s so nice to get back to some blogging after a couple of months with no time to think! I’m planning on writing and scheduling a few reviews tonight, so hopefully you’ll see a bit more activity on this blog than there has been in the last few months! First up, we have Moonrise, by Sarah Crossan. I’m a big fan of Sarah’s verse novels, so I was very much looking forward to reading this. It’s not my favourite of her books, but it’s still some of the best writing out there.
‘They think I hurt someone.
But I didn’t. You hear?
Coz people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.’
From one-time winner and two-time Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this poignant, stirring, huge-hearted novel asks big questions. What value do you place on life? What can you forgive? And just how do you say goodbye?
Moonrise is the story of Joe, who moves to Texas to be near his big brother Ed, on Death Row for a crime he says he didn’t commit, in the weeks leading up to his execution date. Joe is the only member of his family who makes the trip from New York – his mum disappeared not long after Ed went to prison, his sister Angela is still trying to scrape the money together to get there, and his aunt believes Ed is guilty and wants nothing to do with him. Joe is 17, alone, and in a strange place with no money and we follow him as he tries to get by, and tries to get to know his brother again, in the worst circumstances possible.
First of all, I want to point out that when I say Moonrise isn’t my favourite Sarah Crossan book, it’s not really the book that’s the problem. My copy from Netgalley wasn’t formatted correctly, and told me it was only 50% through the book when it was actually at the end, so the ending seemed really sudden, and I know that’s coloured my perception of it. I was expecting another couple of hundred pages (although I don’t know what I thought was going to happen in them!), and then it just seemed to stop, which was disappointing. So that is absolutely nothing to do with the book, which is as beautifully written as any of Sarah’s works.
There’s a real sense of longing throughout the book. (Longing’s not quite the right word, but it gives you the gist.) Joe desperately wants Ed off Death Row and out of prison. He desperately wants the rest of his family to join him, so he’s not alone in Texas. He desperately wants to get to know Nell, a girl who lives in the small town he’s found himself in, better. He’s a 17 year old boy on his own with no money, and he hates it, and I thought this came across really well in the book. The present is interspersed with flashbacks to Joe’s childhood with Ed, and through these we also get to know him, and Angela and their Aunt Karen. The characterisation of all these people is wonderful and I really did feel like I knew them all by the end of the book.
Moonrise is not just about this family though. It’s also a condemnation of the death penalty and the circus that surrounds an execution. Sarah Crossan doesn’t pull any punches in examining the process and the effect it has on everyone involved, including the prison staff and the people who live in a town that essentially only exists because of the prison. I found it an interesting point of view to take, and I certainly feel like I have a better understanding of the system in the US.
I definitely recommend Moonrise to everyone. It’s a beautifully written, coming of age verse novel that packs a powerful punch and it’s out tomorrow, 7th September, in the UK.
ARC received from Bloomsbury via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.