Goodreads: Over the Moon
Publication Date: March 2019
In Coal Top, boys leave for the mines when they are twelve and girls become servants for the rich. Time was when they used to fly on winged horses to weave starlight into clothes. Now, the Dust obscures the sky and the people look only down. Then, Mallie learns of an opportunity for wiry young fellows to make their families rich. She thinks this her chance to save her family. But what if she could do even more? What if she could bring the stars back to Coal Top?
I have loved Natalie Lloyd’s work since A Snicker of Magic. Although I am not convinced she ever quite captured that same breathtaking beauty in her subsequent works, she still writes moving stories about finding the magic in the everyday. Over the Moon differs a bit from her previous work in that it is not magical realism, but rather a straight-up fantasy. Still, its message is trademark Lloyd: seek the stars, find your bravery, and discover the magic all around.
Over the Moon starts, like many a middle-grade or YA novel in the past year, with the premise that girls and boys are treated differently in Coal Top; boys work in the mines and girls clean the houses of the rich. Even so, when Mallie learns that boys have been invited to participate in a dangerous mission, earning large sums of money in the process, she disguises herself and goes to seek her fortune. This ends up feeling like a mere nod to the trend of pointing out the patriarchy, however, as Mallie is quickly discovered and quickly admitted–really, no one cares if she’s a girl or not. Sexism quickly fades into the background as the real focus of the book is revealed: those in power are using nefarious means to control the town and keep their social status.
The action moves pretty quickly once Mallie joins the boys in running missions for the ruling class. She discovers early on that they are evil, ponders whether she should fight them, takes a detour into trying to rescue her brother, and then, ultimately, confronts the town leadership. It all happens so quickly, in fact, that I was surprised; I thought at one point that there must be a sequel because the end of the book was approaching and Mallie had not yet taken any action that would lead to the dramatic confrontation. I could hardly believe that Lloyd really meant for Mallie to save the town in the space of a few pages–yet she did, and Mallie does.
The rushed conclusion ultimately takes away some power from the book, making Mallie’s win seem far too easy; it also raises questions about why no one else tried to find the truth before (other than the explanation that people just tend to believe and do what they are told to believe and do). Young readers, however, are likely to overlook these questions, instead reveling in a book that has magic and flying horses–a sure win for a certain crowd.