Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis
Every now and then publishers appear to decide on a ‘theme’ for YA readers. During these times every second book published is about – vampires, teenage pregnancy, or terminally ill teens, etc. Twenty years ago the ‘theme’ was homosexuality in teen boys. This year is the girl’s turn. I think I have read 5 books so far this year with a lesbian relationship at the core, and I have heard of many more recently published, or soon to be released. However many are out there, you can be sure this is one of the best.
Set in Iran during the late 80s, Farrin is attending an exclusive school for the academically gifted. She is lonely and friendless, and very aware of her parents’ political incorrectness. Farrin retreats to an imaginary world of stories where women can be powerful and strong. Then one day Sadira arrives at the school and Farrin’s world is turned upside down. For the first time she has a friend! But in a world where a hug is viewed with suspicion and a kiss is a hanging offence, their friendship quickly becomes the target of criticism. And when the Revolutionary Guard gets involved everything spirals out of control.
As always, Ellis’ research is impeccable. Her writing is authoritative and real, but remains accessible to young readers. The story she tells is confronting, and may be emotionally difficult for some readers. However, just like Parvana, it is a story that needs to be told.
Be warned, the final chapters cover a range of difficult topics – capital punishment, arranged marriages, torture. These are all part of the powerful writing, but discretion is advised for very young readers.