Author: Sarah Crossan
Rating: 4 Stars
Dates read: 27 Jan 18 – 28 Jan 18
Publication date: 07 Sep 17
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Genre(s): Young Adult; Verse
They think I hurt someone.
But I didn’t. You hear?
Cos people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.
Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row.
But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think …
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?
This is a largely spoiler free review
I had precisely idea no idea what to expect from this book. I had never heard of the book, or the author for that matter, when Jenn sent this to me in my TBTB Santa Box. I had never ever seen a book written in verse, never mind owned or read one, so I was both excited and terrified at the prospect of reading it. But, I read a few Sarah Crossan reviews, and excitedly opened the signed ARC.
The characters in this book are, on the whole, dislikeable. It’s refreshing in a ‘Children’s’ book to have parents that are detestable and did bad by their children producing children that went on to do bad things. Yes, Joe is a nice kid seeking the best in people, but he steals and quits the only thing going for him (his athletics) to move across the country. His sister works a dead end job, and even though she is doing the right thing in working, her aspirations are as low as her circumstances. And then there is Ed. The brother locked away for murder, whose last days on death row power the plot.
The side characters in the story very much reflect the story’s feel and the towns we see. The guards are as pleasant as their position allows, and the warden (while acting in a serious and authoritative role) does what he can to help even if what he can do is not very much. The love interest/friend is equally as floored as the protagonist, and if anything she solidifies Joe’s failing prospects and the wholly sad undertone to the narrative. She lives by her own rules, they don’t object to recreational drug use, and they embark on an unusual relationship dynamic that is probably damaging for them both.
The reason I mention all of this, well, it’s because this book is sad. Not sad in a weepy crying way, but in a lost opportunity, broken family, and hurt way. There is nothing uplifting, or remotely happy about the book and that’s OK. In fact, I liked that fact. The story is a sad one, and instead of shying away from that, Crossan has used that to weave a really wonderful story. Yes, there aspects of hope, and strong family ties, but there are also difficult situations and relationships that are approached in a truly brilliant way.
Why isn’t this a 5 Star review then? Well, it’s the verse. I don’t think I understand the point of verse in this context. I understand that verse can add a multitude of complexities to a story, but for me this story wasn’t enhanced by the verse in anyway. In fact, it got to the point where i was wondering whether it was a gimmick, a unique selling point for the author rather than something the story required. Verse leaves lots of blank space, lots of white patches that wouldn’t be there if verse wasn’t used to present the story. I felt like it was done to take a good short story and make it a full length book. Maybe I’m cynical, but that’s how I felt.
It also took me a while to realise the relevance of the title Moonrise. I spotted the link around halfway through the book, but if I am honest, I didn’t think it was actually that relevant to the plot. Yes there is a very small tie-in at the end that felt a little forced. I *think* I get the title, but I’m sure there could have been a more appropriate title, or cover for that matter.
In reality though, this book was pretty sensational. I didn’t have many expectations going in, and I think that was a good thing, and the few expectations I did have were completely surpassed. It hasn’t sold me on the necessity of verse, but it also hasn’t put me off reading similar novels, or Crossan works. If you get the chance, it is definitely worth a go!