I do love a verse novel. Strange to say. But I've really, really come to enjoy them over the past few years. They are so quick to read, they're like a literary palate cleanser.
I've read a few Sarah Crossan books before, One (see my review), which I enjoyed but not as much as everyone else it seemed, and The Weight of Water, which I thought was ok, but in my slackness I didn't get around to blogging.
So, I was very intrigued by Moonrise when I discovered the main character, Joe, has a brother on death row. I'm always astonished at the subjects that are contained within literature aimed at a younger audience.
Joe Moon lives in Arlington, New York. I'd never heard of this Arlington, and always kept thinking of Arlington, Virginia. I wondered if this was on purpose because of Arlington National Cemetery, a place to honour America's military dead. Joe's brother Ed has been in jail in Texas for the past ten years, since Joe was seven. Joe doesn't know the man his brother has become, and only has memories of the young boy he was.
Joe's is smart and athletic and doing well in school. But his family are poor, and chaotic. His Mum has left, his father is dead, and Aunt Karen has stepped in to fill the void.
Everything turned to shit
when Ed got put away;
nothing worked any more.
But now Ed has been given an execution date and Joe travels to Texas on his own to visit his brother on death row in the weeks leading up to the scheduled date. The story alternates between current day Texas and Joe and Ed's childhood in New York. It is masterfully done.
See, we aren't the people anyone pities.
Issues of justice, guilt, innocence, inequality, the social costs of drugs, alcohol and poverty are all dealt with, as well as the more personal stories of Joe, Ed, their family and friends.
Cos it all depends on
who you kill
where you kill them
Sarah Crossan's views are fairly easy to see, she wears her heart on her sleeve- she tells us it costs $4 million dollars to go through with an execution, eight time more than the cost of imprisoning someone for life. Yet she suffuses her words with humour too, it's not all overly earnest.
In the Author's Note at the back of the book Sarah Crossan tells how she first came to be interested in the issues about the death penalty when she was required to watch a documentary, Fourteen Days in May, as a fifteen year old schoolgirl. I'll be watching it soon.
You can watch Sarah Crossan recommending some of the books she used in her research for Moonrise.