How the Deer Moon Hungers

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It only takes one moment for a life to change irrevocably. MacKenzie Fraser learns this when, as a teen, she sees her little sister Tessa killed by a drunk driver. Charged with neglecting her sister to get high and slammed with a charge of selling drugs to a minor, she’s sent to juvenile detention, doomed to be shut away from her home and family for a year and a half.

The book isn’t just a straightforward tale of crime and punishment, however. It captures the mood not only of Mac but also of the community, beginning with multiple points of view and jumping about in time before narrowing on Mac alone and proceeding in a more linear fashion. The confusion and sharp transitions create a powerful atmosphere, capturing Mac’s shock and grief. As the story goes on and grows darker, it narrows, closing in around Mac like the walls of her cell.

That said, there are moments where the story suddenly bursts out in strange, dreamlike chapters that provide a sharp insight into Mac’s mind. Most of the time, these are marked by a note in the chapter title, letting the reader know that what they’re getting into isn’t a sharp break from reality so much as magical realism. The sudden insertion of a different genre is a bold choice, and I would love to see more teen novels taking chances like this.

The bold choice fits in with a similarly bold story. While YA books have always dealt with heavy subject matter, they don’t always deal with so much all at once. Death, guilt, and grief, on top of incarceration and sexual assault, provide for a novel that starts out strong and doesn’t let up. The author deals with these subjects in a straightforward but respectful way, never making light of them but also never going so far as to use them for cheap drama or shock. Every painful episode was earned and felt necessary to the story. My one wish is that the magical realism chapters had uniformly felt as necessary. While most fit in beautifully and one outright blew me away, others fell flat, and at least one I found myself thinking was simply pointless.

On the whole, though, this book is well worth reading. It shook me to my core, and while some readers will want to proceed with caution, I would strongly recommend this book to people in their late teens and upward.

Reviewed By:

Author Susan Wingate
Star Count /5
Format eBook
Page Count 360 pages
Publisher Roberts Press
Publish Date 2020-07-15
ISBN 9798629230182 Buy this Book
Issue May 2020
Category Modern Literature


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