Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis is based on a true story. The tale of a girl in Iran who falls in love with her female classmate is heartbreaking and perhaps eye-opening to many readers. Farrin and Sadira are sweet innocent girls who experience persecution for their sexual preference.
I found it interesting that Farrin didn’t care much about the politics that surrounded her until she was directly affected. Her parents supported the opposite regime than the one her school supports. She is is bombarded by two views of how the country should be run but doesn’t really take a side. Neither side is tolerant of her creativity, curiosity or romantic interests.
Reading about the troubles the girls face should make Canadian youth grateful that we don’t have regular bombings, executions for minor crimes, and extreme sexual discrimination. The school the girls attended was progressive in many ways, valuing intelligence in women- but it makes me sad that the best they could hope for was to be paired with a powerful man.
Ellis explores many social issues from class divide, to racism. The novel is powerful in terms of subject matter, but I have several concerns about the execution of the writing:
- The dialogue is overly formal- even when it’s letters or whispers between the girls. This may be a reflection of their culture but I think Canadian teens will see it as forced and artificial. It doesn’t have a natural flow that some authors master.
- For a story of forbidden love there was a serious lack of heat. To go against the laws of their country and family to be together I would expect more chemistry between them. They acted more like best friends than lovers for the most part.
- The adults are all despicable. This is often the case in YA where the teens are the heroes and the parents are villainized. I think their flaws should be explored but there should be a couple of adults who are well rounded people, not just caricatures. In this novel there were many adults barely mentioned and those that had an emphasis were defined entirely by their flaws.
- The shallow, vain, nostalgic guests at the tea parties lead by Farrin’s superficial and selfish mother
- Farrin’s exploitative, greedy, prejudice father
- Sadira’s mentally absent father
The only exception is the principal who shows some kindness in the end but given what she has done, and the circumstances I don’t think this came close to redeeming her as a figure of good.
Farrin liked to think that the demons in her stories were just demons but she learned that they were a reflection of the negativity she saw in the people around her, and the leaders of all the countries- for the book doesn’t take sides, she criticizes all parties.