This is the fourth book that I've read on the ABA shortlist, where the winner will be announced in June. I can see exactly why this book was chosen. It's masterful! Every time I read a Sarah Crossan book, I'm even more in awe of her writing talent.
I'd put off reading the end of this book for so long, because I knew it would break my heart. And it DID! Sarah Crossan's previous standalone novel, One, practically broke me and I wasn't quite prepared to finish Moonrise straight away. I had an inkling of how it would end and knowing how beautifully Sarah writes, I needed to be in a positive frame of mind and alone to finish it.
I don't know whether it's because Sarah writes in verse, but her writing really slices through to your heart. You can't finish one of her books, forget it and walk away. You find yourself constantly thinking about the story long after you've left the last page. You also get through a lot of hankies!
The story revolves around Joe Moon, a young teenager, who hasn't had the easiest of upbringings. His mother left early on and his brother is on death row for murder. He's spent many years being brought up his aunt Karen, who desperately wants to be seen as doing the right thing. She doesn't want people judging her family, because of some of their misdoings. Joe is determined to support Ed in the lead up to his execution date, doing everything he can to get the decision reversed. He has moments where his belief wavers which shows he is only human.
The way the story unfolds, you discover a clever balance because you never really know whether Jo's brother, Ed actually killed the policeman. There is little evidence to support the case, so you find yourself leaning towards believing in Ed's innocence, which makes the final quarter of the book even harder to swallow. It reminded me a lot of Green Mile by Stephen King, only much more contemporary and aimed at the Young Adult market.
The way in which Sarah Crossan writes, makes it impossible for you to view Ed as a criminal, even though he is living on death row, surrounded by other criminals. You see through this facade and see the Ed that Joe remembers. The Ed that took him to school, made sure he had food and clothes and kept him entertained when his mum was losing it. That's the Ed you see and that's the Ed you are rooting for.
The counting down of days to the execution, is extremely powerful. You can almost hear the clock ticking and it fills you with anxiety about time running out.
This book leads you through a rainbow of emotions. You feel love for the growing friendship between Jo and Nell. You feel empathy for Joe's upbringing and you are fuelled by anger at the injustice of how Ed is treated. By the end you feel numb inside.
I found this book cemented my own beliefs, that life is too short to hold grudges, too short to keep arguments fuelling your anger. Family and love are all that really matter. Forgive and let go.
I would highly recommend this book and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it does really well in the Amazing Book Awards later this year.