I am slightly worried about this book. I run a Book Group for some Year 8 and 9 students at my school, and decided to pick this as next month's book. I wanted to read one of the books shortlised for the Carnegie Medal, and had only read Wonder out of those so far, which I was not overly keen on. However, I am now beginning to wish I'd chosen that!
I had only read half of Maggot Moon when I chose it. The half that, crucially (*SPOILER ALERT*) does not contain the bit where a teacher beats a child to death for laughing (although this happens soon after the half-way mark). It's not the most brutal thing I've ever read, but then I am 34 and I like Game of Thrones. I am not sure that I would have enjoyed it at 13. I am beginning to realise that I just don't know. I am beginning to realise that I have forgotten what it is like to be 13.
Anyway, I am worried because my Book Group like David Walliams. Some of them like other things, but not as much as they like David Walliams. They also like Mr Gum. There is never anyone beaten to death by their teacher in David Walliams or Mr Gum books. In fact, the worse thing that happens is that very old, very poorly people die, or that Jonathan Ripples sits on Martin Launderette.
However, perhaps I am projecting my worry. Perhaps part of the fun of being in a Book Group is reading things that you wouldn't have picked up before, and they may enjoy it. It is a very good book after all.
It took me ages to work out where and when it was set, but I won't say, because that was part of the pleasure of reading it. It's dystopian and has a wonderful central character, which makes it just my cup of tea. The story is fast-paced and interesting, and you grow to really care about the characters, so that you are invested in the ending, which is pretty heart-breaking.
What really interested me, both from a personal and professional point of view, is that Sally Gardner is dyslexic and didn't learn to read or write until she was 14 years old. It's a pretty major achievement for anyone to be on the Carnegie shortlist; but I think Gardner's feat is utterly incredible, and a really positive example for young people struggling with reading. I say young people, as I would not recommend this book for anyone under the age of 13. For one, the subject matter is upsetting, and for another thing the language is decidedly inappropriate for anyone under that age. It sprinkles the f word around more than I do after a few glasses of fizzy pop on a relaxed evening out in a classy establishment. Which is quite a lot. Difficult to believe I know, for one so very eloquent ;)