Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review of "Beneath a Meth Moon" [33]

Beneath a Meth Moon: An Elegy by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books, ISBN 978-0399252501
February 2, 2012, 192 pages

"Kaylee says, Write an elegy to the past...and move on. She says it's all about moving on. I've read about it Laurel. You write all the time. You can do this.
So I'll begin it this way-It's almost winter again..."
Yes, she is just 15 years old, an age that seems too young for all that Laurel Daneau has undergone. The first years of her life, along the Mississippi Gulf coast seem almost perfect, her dad a fisherman, her mom working in a dollar store where Laurel was allowed the occasional 'shopping spree', then home to her friends, her baby brother and her beloved grandmother, M'lady. But all that came to an end with Hurricane Katrina, killing her mother and grandmother, washing away their home and their life as they knew it. But now, after two year living with her aunt, her father has found work and they are starting a new life in a small Iowa town.

Things look good on the surface. Laurel has a new BFF, is on the cheerleading team and has a new boyfriend, T-Boom, the co-captain of the basketball team. But things are not what they seem. Laurel is haunted by her memories, by the loss of her mother and grandmother and ripe for escape, the escape T-Boom offers her when he introduces her to the 'moon'...meth. And before anyone has any idea what is going on, things spiral out of control. Stealing money from her friend, taking the grocery money for drugs, running away, homeless, begging on the street, starving herself because every penny must go to the moon...Can Laurel possibly find her way back, or will she end up dead, like so many, immortalized in a portrait painted on the side of a building by a young artist named Moses, just another lost child.

It all sounds a little bleak, and in lesser hands, it might be. But as with every tough subject that Woodson tackles in her books, while this book is often disturbing, it is not bleak and ultimately offers us some hope for the future. But if ever there might be a hopeless topic, meth addiction might be it.
"Seems that's what I was always doing now- chasing the moon- trying to catch the high, trying to hold on to it. Trying to step deep into it. And disappear."
Most of us probably have no idea what addiction is like, what the attraction of something like meth is, but I think after reading this book you will have a better idea. And an idea of how hard the fight back will be. It is a frightening vision. These are people we know, ordinary, middle America, small town people. Not some 'losers' but the popular kids at the local high school, our neighbors. And that makes it all the more powerful.

It is a fairly short book, with short chapters, some in the present, some looking back at the memories that Laurel can never forget, but as with all of Woodson's book, not a word is wasted. Yes, I am a fan, and I think this is one of her best. Her prose is clean and sharp and while you will not want to put the book down once you start, don't be tempted to read it too fast. No, read it slowly, taking in every word. And, as Woodson believes all fiction should be, it is a hopeful book. Because while the world is full of horrible things like meth, it is also full of good people, like Laurel's dad and little brother, her friend Kaylee, and a stranger named Moses.
"While you're living...It's the rocks in your life that will stand by you. Your words, your friends, your family."
You might see this marketed as a YA book, a book for teenagers. But I think this is a book that, without doubt, adults will love as well. I know this adult did, another gem from one of my favorite authors.


  1. Wow, I MUST get my hands on this book. I saw a documentary on meth and it said people can become addicted after using it one time. I can't imagine putting it in my body, knowing what goes into it.

  2. I hate reading about meth, but I know if anyone can make me want to, it's Jacqueline Woodson. You are right - she can say so much in a short book it's just amazing!

    1. I can't say that I would have any interest in reading a book about this subject if it was by another author..let alone loving it.

  3. Woodson is amazing and I will try anything she writes. I am in :)

    1. if you are already a fan, I think you will love it.


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