Can’t read, can’t write.
Standish Treadwell isn’t bright.
So sing the school bullies as they give Standish yet another beating. The beatings that make him believe school is invented:
…just so the bullies, with brains the size of dried-up dog turds, could beat the shit out of kids like me.
Standish Treadwell is the protagonist and hero of Maggot Moon. His old teacher, Miss Connolly and his best friend, Hector recognise him as ‘an original’:
There are train-track thinkers, then there’s you, Standish, a breeze in the park of imagination.
and even the leather-coat man who comes from the Motherland tells Standish:
I don’t think for one moment you are as stupid as you would like us to believe.
He’s not. Standish knows that:
If you are clever, know more than you should, you stand out like a green sky above a blue field, and, as we all know, the President of the Motherland believes that artists who do those sorts of paintings should be sterilised.
It is 1956 but not the 1956 we know for this is the dystopia that could’ve existed had Germany won World War II. This is never openly stated but there are enough clues – the Motherland, the salute, the children with ‘impurities’ who are ‘sent away’.
Standish lives with his granddad because his own parents have been taken by the Greenflies. He makes friends with Hector when Hector and his family are sent to live in Zone Seven and end up in Standish’s family’s old house. They’ve been banished from Zone One after Hector’s father has refused to do something for the government, something he keeps secret to protect Standish and his grandfather. But when Hector and Standish’s red football goes over the back wall, they all end up involved in something they shouldn’t.
This is a tightly plotted novel with a brilliant narrator. It has a beautiful friendship at the heart of it and a dyslexic boy who proves that finding reading and writing difficult doesn’t mean you’re stupid or afraid to stand up for what you believe in. It’s also beautifully written – I kept stopping to quote lines to my partner.
Maggot Moon deserves every ounce of praise that’s been heaped upon it. It’s perfect for teenagers (and slightly younger if you don’t mind the swearing and occasional violence) and adults alike. A superb book.
Thanks to readingzone.com and Hot Key Press for the review copy.