Thursday, November 25, 2010

Review: The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante

The Trouble With Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante
Genre: YA Contemporary Urban Fiction
Pages: 192
Publication Date: January 6, 2011
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Source: Star Book Tours
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Book Description (from the author's website):
Thirteen year old Dellie lives with the guilt that her little brother’s death was her fault. Her mother cries all the time and because she wants Dellie to stay safe, she keeps her inside as much as she can. It doesn’t matter that Dellie longs to go outside to be like other girls or that there’s a boy she likes and he likes her too. All that matters to her mother is that she’s safe at home. So, Dellie has no choice but to watch the world of her housing project through her second story window. Things start to change soon after new neighbors move in on the first floor. Trouble like this has never happened in Dellie’s building before.  Now there are men fighting on the stoop, gunshots echoing through the night and Corey, a hungry and abused five year old boy knocking on her door looking for something to eat. Corey reminds Dellie of her brother and even though their friendship is dangerous, she wonders if this time, she’ll be able to do what needs to be done. Will she be able to save Corey?
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
"Just because we cannot see this half of the moon doesn't mean its not there.... We know this without having to actually see it... You have to believe its there. Faith, young one," she says, balling up her fist, "is powerful." (p. 70 from the galley text)
I really didn't expect The Trouble With Half a Moon to grab a hold of my heart so tightly. I don't read a lot of contemporary urban fiction, but this one seemed to call out to me. An urban setting may seem alien to someone like me, who grew up in a rural area, but the topics of grief, loss, and healing are universal. The Trouble with Half a Moon focuses on a 13-year-old girl named Dellie, who blames herself for her brother's death and wrestles with those emotions on a daily basis. Her brother's death is ever-present in both her emotions and in her parents' actions. Her mother's fear of losing another child keeps Dellie inside her apartment much of the time. But Dellie longs to have a more typical teen existence, to spend time with her friends and neighbors. Her best friend is fighting with her, and the boy Dellie likes seems interested in spending time together, but she has to watch the outside world from her window.

Two people enter her isolated life and begin to change things drastically. First, Dellie befriends five-year-old Corey, an abused and neglected little boy from downstairs. She sees her little brother in him, and even though his mother is dangerous, Dellie can't resist giving him food and friendship. Then an elderly Jamaican woman wearing a purple cape moves in across the hall. Miss Shirley has experienced her own losses, and she helps Dellie address her feelings and encourages her to follow her heart.

I was quite moved by this story. Dellie's feelings of hurt are poignant and you could sense that even through her sadness she was straining at the ties binding her to childhood. Her sorrow over her brother makes her protective over Corey and she becomes willing to wade into dangerous situations for him. Where others might have resisted getting involved out of fear, she steps forward to help him. And though some might say that she helped save him, she would say that he saved her and her family.

I wanted to crawl into this book and hug (almost) every character there. Each person depicted has experienced heartbreak and loss, and they each are grappling with that reality in a different way. I didn't totally understand how Miss Shirley's comments on faith (quoted above) were connected to the larger story--it would have been nice to see it better explored and explained--but I still would recommend the book. It was moving and profound, and I read it in one sitting because I couldn't put it down.

Related linkage:
Reading Challenges: POC Challenge


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