Monday, March 3, 2014

{ARC Review} Moon at Nine: Deborah Ellis

Rating:Series: Standalone Genre: Historical Fiction, LGBT, Young Adult Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Pajama Press Page Count: 240 Format: Digital ARC from Netgalley
Goodreads Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Farrin has many secrets. Although she goes to a school for gifted girls in Tehran, as the daughter of an aristocratic mother and wealthy father, Farrin must keep a low profile. It is 1988; ever since the Shah was overthrown, the deeply conservative and religious government controls every facet of life in Iran. If the Revolutionary Guard finds out about her mother’s Bring Back the Shah activities, her family could be thrown in jail, or worse.

The day she meets Sadira, Farrin’s life changes forever. Sadira is funny, wise, and outgoing; the two girls become inseparable. But as their friendship deepens into romance, the relationship takes a dangerous turn. It is against the law to be gay in Iran; the punishment is death. Despite their efforts to keep their love secret, the girls are discovered and arrested. Separated from Sadira, Farrin can only pray as she awaits execution. Will her family find a way to save them both?

Based on real-life events, multi-award winning author Deborah Ellis’s new book is a tense and riveting story about a world where homosexuality is considered so abhorrent that it is punishable by death.

*It is perfectly fine if you have your own personal beliefs, thoughts, or comments about the LGBTQ community, but I would appreciate it very much if you didn't state them if they're negative, and if this offends you in any way, I invite you to exit this review* 
*I received this book as a digital ARC which does not in the slightest affect my honest review of this book*
*All opinions are my own, and I am not trying to criticize the Middle East, their culture, their religion, or the LGBTQ community. These are my personal thoughts. I truly hope I do not offend anyone with any statements in this review* 

In the 'End of the Year Book Survey' for 2014, Moon at Nine will be the book I am most conflicted about (if there's such a category). I swear I don't  know if I should give this book two stars or five. There was so much involved and going on with this book. 

On one hand it was one of the most thought-provoking I have ever read. 

At the same time, it didn't feel like I, as the reader, was truly in Iran, like I should have been, and that the romance was to cliché and ordinary. 

I have this belief that there are four books an author wants to read. (discussion post coming soon) The first, is one that everyone wants to read, the second, is one no one wants to read, the third, is one that people are scared to read, and the last is one that creates controversy. 

Deborah Ellis walks a precarious line with her passion writing books centered in the Middle East. I still remember reading The Breadwinner for the first time in 2009. I've read a lot of books since then (that's a given statement), but not many have resonated and stayed in my memory like The Breadwinner has. I believe that was the book that everyone wants to read.

Moon at Nine is the book that was written for controversy.
There are two pretty obvious elements that drive the story:
The first is the setting, 1988 in Iran.  
The second is the romance, Moon at Nine is LGBTQ fiction.

What I loved about this story is that those two plot elements aren't the story. They are the launching pad, they are the base of the pyramid, but they are not the core. If someone said this was purely a historical fiction novel set in the Middle East about two lesbian girls. I would probably smack them because that is not what this story is about.

Even though those elements aren't the soul of the story, they are what attracted me to it. I believe that people should be able to love who they love (Katy Perry/John Mayer reference!) regardless of any factors like race, gender, age, etc. There isn't that much LGBTQ young adult fiction, or much at all in the book community about it because just five years ago, this was a taboo subject. I find reading about this is very interesting, eye-opening, and teaches people how anyone that is queer isn't any different. In history, people have been divided. Whether it's because of skin color, race, religion, social status, and a wide manner of other subjects. As Americans, for the most part, we have overcome those barriers and lines. I believe this subject is just another one that people have to accept, and jump over this particular hurdle. I believe that sexual orientation and identity should not be the defining factor for prosecuting or excluding anyone. In the book, Farrin and Sadira are normal girls -- their love doesn't make them much different than any other human.

On top of that, I had recently read The Tyrant's Daughter, and wanted a chance to learn more about the Middle East. 

What I loved about Moon at Nine was how it described the setting, as well as all of the wonderful quotes that I can't post because this is an ARC review. I had the cliche "it felt just like I was there, experiencing everything along with the characters" thoughts on the setting, especially the 'world building' although this isn't something Ellis made up. The quotes in this book were so thought-provoking, mind blowing, and it's killing me that I can't post any of them. 

What I disliked about Moon at Nine was how the romance seemed so love-at-first-sight, and a little cliche. Which either proves how little difference there is between having a female and female love each other versus a male and a female. The afternoon Farrin met Sadira for the first time, she was already thinking about her. She hadn't even had the choice to know who Sadira was as a person before she was longing for Sadira to be by her side. My only thought in defense is that Farrin had never felt or thought about a girl like that (I sound like a fourth grader right?) before, which is why it was so sudden. At the same time, I think it was way too sudden and fast.

I was also very questioning (my ELA teacher would call it 'reading suspiciously') of Farrin's narration. It's not as if I was expecting her to sound nothing like a modern American teenager, but I was expecting some distinct difference. Of course no one can actually know what it was like in her head (unless you're reading Peaceful Genocide), so Ellis wouldn't know for sure, but I think there should have been some distinction between Farrin's voice and an ordinary teenager like Mia from If I Stay.

There weren't any characters that stood out to me and blew my mind. That is one area Moon at Nine didn't reach my expectations. It might be that I didn't right this review right after I finished the book (shameful, I know), but I don't remember feeling like they blew me away. I didn't have the best connection with Farrin, like I felt I should have, except in one aspect. Farrin was a writer, and even though she was timid, and afraid of having her voice heard, she still had the ability to express herself through writing. She may not have been able to openly express her opinions and thoughts, but when she wrote paragraphs, volumes were spoken. This is where I wish I could quote this so badly because of how wonderful the language was. My ELA teacher would call it figurative, I would call if perfectly crafted.
The ending was something that crushed me. There were some aspects of the ending that were cliche. I didn't expect an OMG moment, and I got one, even though it wasn't needed. It is a tearjerker, and while it is somewhat cliche, and almost the easy way out, it definitely one that will stay with you. 

Conclusion: This could be one of the best, most confusing, and most controversial young adult books of 2014, that could pave the way for something new.

This is the rating I settled on, but when I go through and update reviews, this might change.
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