Reviewer: Fiona Ingram, a South African writer who loves books, travel, animals, antiques, and adventures of all kinds! Read Fiona’s author site and find out about her recently published children’s adventure novel
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Moth Wing Press (November 6, 2011)
Moths, mystery, and growing up are the focus of Stranger Moon. Twelve-year-old Gaia (and she hates her name!) is not your typical tweenager. Anyone who can recite screeds of information about moths, and in particular the elusive Luna moth, just has to be labeled ‘nerd.’ Gaia finds refuge in her love of unusual insects and her little gang of equally geeky friends. Her dad is glued to his computer, her mom died when she was little, and she is bullied by the ghastly duo, ‘The Emmas,’ at school. Could life get any worse? The night she and her friends go on a moth hunt, they find a bug-eating, scary wild woman living in the woods, in an abandoned ice cream van. They spend the summer spying on her, as they investigate her history, as well as defending their tree house from invasion by the Emmas. They discover the identity of the crazy lady, and must decide if they should use the information to exact revenge on Gaia’s worst enemy.
This book is so much more than a story about kids growing up. Gaia and her friends display typical tweenager idiosyncrasies as the author taps right into what makes a tween tick. Each character is well drawn and believable. As the story unfolds, the gang find themselves tested on several levels. They need to learn friendship, compassion, and
basic kindness: to boring Leonard with his yo-yo and his crippled hand, and to the mad woman herself. The ultimate challenge comes with how they deal with the vital information about the woman’s identity. Gaia’s strained relationship with her emotionally distant father also changes, bringing some interesting revelations. I loved the tone of thinking that author Heather Zydeck instils in Gaia’s inner narrative. As in most tween lives, everything is Dramatic and Tragic, with some Big Words to enhance the seriousness of it all. I laughed aloud at various points.
The fragile and sometimes uncertain life cycle of the Luna moth resembles the rite-of-passage that Gaia and some of the other characters experience. The completion of the cycle offers redemption, understanding, and acceptance as they move onto a happier level. There are moments of great sensitivity as Gaia tries to understand life and people, and wrestles with conflicting emotions and ideas. A sensitive and humorous look at the angst and conflicts of tweenagers and their issues. The author impressed me with her perception and insight. I found the resolution and tying up of loose threads a little rushed at the end. However, a great book for tweens, and for parents to learn how tweens think. Highly recommended.