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BOOK REVIEW: Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

| 25 October 2017 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

September 2017
Paperback, $16.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Young Adult / Poetry/ Contemporary



Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row.

But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and this might be the last summer they have together.

I got my date through.
Guys here telling me it’s nothing to panic about.
Just a date.
But if I’m honest
it makes me rattle like old bones,
cos it means they
made up their minds
and wanna do me in.
And for what?
For nothing.
For something I never did.

In Moonrise, a novel in verse, Sarah Crossan weaves the story of Joe, who was first told what was going on with his brother when he was too young to know what it meant, but felt a mixture of emotions all the same.

‘The cops are charging him with murder,’ she said.
I was seven.
I didn’t know what that meant.
Did he owe someone money?
We hadn’t any cash to pay the electricity bill.
My sneakers were so small
they made the tips of my toes white.
‘Can I call him back?’ I asked.
The tangerine was still in my hand.
I wanted to throw it in Mom’s face and hurt her.

The story is revealed to us in snippets from the current time, as Joe awaits his brother’s execution:

When dogs get put down
parents tell their kids
the mutts got sent to a farm
to live out their last days
with peppy ducks and rabbits.

And it’s as though the state of Texas thinks
we’re all just as stupid as kids,
calling the state penitentiary
‘Wakeling Farm’ –
like inmates lie around on hay bales
and spend their afternoons milking cows.

But just like the dogs,
most guys who go to this farm
don’t ever come home.

And the past, running from before Ed was ever arrested, when they were just two brothers who loved each other and had a lot of fun:

Then Ed got a real lightsaber,
gave it to me grinning.
Join me,’ he said,
Darth Vader croaky.
But the dark side
never really appealed to me,
so I lit up my green sword
and used it to
slice him
to pieces.
He groaned, rolled on the ground,
while the kids in the neighbourhood watched,
jealous for a brother like mine.

And through the events between then and now:

‘He told me he didn’t do it,’ I said.

‘He’s lying,’ she said.

You’re lying,’ I never said.
Instead I decided right then
never to defend Ed again,
let my aunt
believe I didn’t love him any more.


As a newcomer to novels in verse, it can be a little hard to get into the flow (Why was the line broken there? Why not have it just be in short, stream-of-consciousness bursts as in another recent Bloomsbury release All the Dirty Parts?) but after a while you’re bound to find yourself caught up in the story and not so aware of where the line breaks are. It all flows together in your mind once you’re engaged, and before you know it you’ll be turning the final page. 

There are raw insights of the sort one can only get when they know the death of a loved on is approaching, whether that be through illness or death row. But people who have a fatal illness rarely have their face plastered all over the news as people discuss their justified demise. And therein lies a lot of Joe’s hurt. He knows his brother didn’t do this, at least he’s pretty sure, and yet people are so eager to call him a monster.

And underneath that, leading to that, is the broken family Joe was born into. After his father’s death, his mother checked out, and so the three kids had to raise themselves and each other, which is why they never had the money for a good lawyer who would have a better chance at freeing Ed.

This is a confronting story that is both devastating and heartwarming, and you won’t be able to put it down… or forget it any time soon!



Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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