Author: Sally Gardner
Published: 6 September 2012 by Hot Key Books
Length: 288 pages
Warnings: extreme violence, said violence aimed at child, generally not for younger people
Other info: This has been longlisted for the Carnegie award and shortlisted for the Costa award. Sally has written other things such as The Double Shadow and The Red Necklace.
Summary : What if the football hadn’t gone over the wall. 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. But Standish Treadwell — who has different-colored eyes, who can’t read, can’t write, Standish Treadwell isn’t bright — sees things differently than the rest of the "train-track thinkers." So when Standish and his only friend and neighbor, Hector, make their way to the other side of the wall, they see what the Motherland has been hiding. And it’s big...
Review: Standish Treadwell is a fifteen year old dyslexic boy who lives in the Motherland, an oppressive country where anyone who doesn’t fit in (such as Standish’s parents) gets disappeared. Also disappeared one day is Standish’s best friend, Hector. As Standish tries to find him, he also uncovers more of the Motherland’s secrets. For example, those regarding the moon landing.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this to start with. Then I saw what Andrew and Viv had to say and thought “why not?” And I’m very glad I did read it.
The first thing I really got into was the world setting. It’s not really England, it’s not really America. There’s hints of Nazi Germany with the hands out salute and the disappearing, but it’s also somewhere else. Zone seven, where Standish lives, is especially depressing, and the atmosphere of despair is really strong, with Standish’s and Hector’s imaginations being the only good things there for them. there’s some really shocking moments in here, not just in terms of plot twists. Just what happens, and what people can get away with.
The big picture backdrop is the moon landing and its conspiracy theories (both the real world’s one and the Motherland’s). It’s very intriguing, with a lot of plausibility. I won’t give too much away, but it really gets going in the second half of the book.
The biggest thing is Standish himself, the rest of the characters and their relationships. Standish is abrave, determined character who you just have to love. His close friendship with Hector and their adventures and their rocket that they’re building and their plans to go to the planet Juniper and such just makes me want to go “aww” and give them both a hug. Standish’s Gramps is epic: at first, a kindly old man, when things get going, a complete BAMF.
It may be because I was told that he was dyslexic, but I found my self paying more attention to the writing style more than I would normally. Gardener uses simple language with slight errors that still gets the message across perfectly and keeps you engaged.
The themes of rebellion and conspiracy and courage are strong in this, but the theme of friendship is the main one. Emotional and touching, this is for everyone wanting a book about a quietly brilliant book.
Actually, this is for everyone (apart from younger readers).
Overall: Strength 5 tea to a quietly brilliant book.