The Trouble With Half A Moon by Danette Vigilante 2011 (ARC)
IQ "I guess I'm more of an actress than I thought or the therapist wasn't too smart. If she was, she would've figured out that I sometimes break into a panic so thick it's hard to breathe. Like there's water almost up to my nose and I'm about to drown. She would've asked me about the bad dreams I have about Louis or at least known the accident was all my fault." pgs. 14-15
Delilah (Dellie)'s little brother, Louis died several months ago but Dellie's family is still bogged down with grief. Her mother is constantly dusting Louis' picture and crying, and her father internalizes everything, as does Dellie. Her parents don't know that Dellie blames herself for Louis' death and that she consistently has nightmares about him. Dellie's mother wants to hold on to her now-only child and so Dellie is forbidden to go outside unless she's with her parents (her father walks her to school). Dellie can only hang out inside her apartment building and that's how she meets five-year-old Corey. Corey is underfed and often left home alone. Dellie begins to feed him and hang out with him, but she doesn't want to get too attached and lose him like she lost Louis.
On paper this book sounds heartbreaking, the actual delivery was not so heartbreaking. Yes Corey is adorable and his story is upsetting, but there were so many little things that bugged me about this story I couldn't really get into it emotionally. My main problem was with Miss Shirley. Let's put it this way: Miss Shirley is magical and she makes everything all better. I wasn't expecting the magical elements and I didn't like them either. I understand putting in a wise elder figure, but making her have special powers was just too much. It took away from Dellie learning about herself on her own which is part of the appeal of novels about young people (gah that expression makes me sound ridiculously old, haha). I didn't like the fact that Dellie's guilt for her brother Louis is never discussed with her parents, I would have thought that was a crucial part of her healing process. Furthermore *SPOILER: highlight to read* the sudden change in Corey's mom was so abrupt and completely and utterly unbelievable. So Corey's mom beats her son so badly, his arm ends up in a sling. That was awful and emotional. Then she's taken in for parent classes and ONE WEEK later she's the perfect mother, cooking mac and cheese and crying about how she really does love Corey. I think that deep down Corey's mother does care about him so that part was somewhat believable but cleaning up her apartment? Cooking him meals? And then her abusive boyfriend just disappears? I wasn't buying it. I'm not 100& positive, but I don't think abusive parents become perfect one week later and sadly, I think abusive boyfriends have a hard time letting go.*End of Spoiler. To top it all off, Dellie's best friend Kayla is quick to throw away their friendship. I don't want to put anymore spoilers in this review but it was very surprising. Kayla seemed like a good friend and that's all I'll say about it.
Like I said, above Corey is darling. Whose heart would not be torn when reading about a five-year old being abused? I also liked that Dellie was a well developed main character. She hates math (I can deeply relate to that) and she's in like with a guy named Michael. Michael isn't some tough guy with something to prove, he's gentle and good at math and it's a nice example of young (8th grade) love. I know I just got through saying that Kayla isn't the best of best friends but she has her own crush to deal with and that is portrayed nicely. I liked that there were two examples of relationships, both of them were subtle but it's clear which relationship is healthy and which is not. Through each member of Dellie's family, readers are introduced to the different ways we grieve. Dellie and her father internalize, Dellie's father throws himself into taking care of her mother. Dellie's mother cries and becomes overprotective. Dellie blames herself. These are all different ways we grieve and it's good to see how each character copes and comes to realize that the way they are handling the situation may not be the best way.
The Trouble With Half a Moon has a high emotional impact potential but the unsatisfactory (to me) way it was executed, kept me from really getting into the story. The 'mysterious sage' Miss Shirley, the lack of emotional closure that I felt Dellie received, and the sudden ending and other abrupt changes in character behavior kept the story from really reaching its potential. The friendship between Dellie and Kayla started off strong, but it had such a random low point that I had a hard time fathoming the change. I did like the crush details and the way grief was handled. The best part is in reading about Corey and Dellie's blossoming friendship. I also liked that Dellie wasn't this hardened character. Yes she kept everything to herself about how she felt, but she wasn't completely closed off just yet. Corey needs her but Dellie needs Corey as well.
Disclosure: Received from the author for review. Thank you!
PS Check out my interview with the author and learn about her inspiration for the story and love of archaeology.