I really enjoyed Ms Gardner's earlier novels for teenagers, a captivating mixture of historical detail and magical fantasy, but her latest books prove that she cannot be pigeon-holed and her imagination is limitless.
This stunning story takes us to `Zone Seven', a thoroughly unpleasant part of `The Motherland' where Standish Treadwell and his grandfather live in a street of derelict houses. The population is controlled by a brutal regime. This is a place where a boy can be beaten to death by a teacher, just because he laughed; a place where people, like Standish's parents, his friend Hector and his family, just disappear; a place where "the sky fell in long ago". `The Motherland' intends to send a manned rocket to the moon to impress the world, and its own unfortunate inhabitants, with its power and technological superiority. Standish Treadwell, the dimwit who sits at the back of the class daydreaming and is bullied by his teacher as well as the other pupils, is not impressed by this. He may be seen as stupid by everyone else in the school, but he has good reason to know that the moon project is not what it seems.
This chilling, but totally engaging, tale is narrated by Standish himself, a boy who copes with the harshness of his daily life by planning his escape to planet `Juniper' with his friend Hector in the papier-māché space craft he is building at home or the life he and Hector plan to live in the land of Technicolor, Croca-Cola and ice-cream coloured Cadillacs. Not many people would have imagined that Standish would turn out to be the bravest of them all. Make sure you follow the sequence of illustrations (the flies and the rat) that threads its way through the book as a kind of Memento Mori. This is a book you will remember for a long time.