Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis
(Available April 4 2014)
Fifteen-year-old Farrin has many secrets. Although she goes to a school for gifted girls in Tehran, as the daughter of an aristocratic mother and wealthy father, Farrin must keep a low profile. It is 1988; ever since the Shah was overthrown, the deeply conservative and religious government controls every facet of life in Iran. If the Revolutionary Guard finds out about her mother’s Bring Back the Shah activities, her family could be thrown in jail, or worse.
The day she meets Sadira, Farrin’s life changes forever. Sadira is funny, wise, and outgoing; the two girls become inseparable. But as their friendship deepens into romance, the relationship takes a dangerous turn. It is against the law to be gay in Iran; the punishment is death. Despite their efforts to keep their love secret, the girls are discovered and arrested. Separated from Sadira, Farrin can only pray as she awaits execution. Will her family find a way to save them both?
The fact that this story is based on real events sends shivers down my spine. While my own country is by no means completely open to LGBTQ people, a world where being gay is a crime, and one punishable by death, is foreign to me. I was afraid Moon at Nine would rely on stereotypes in depicting Iran and its people, but it offered a well-researched view of Iranian culture, and the majority of its characters were multi-faceted and interesting.
The storyline moves fairly quickly and doesn't drag, but at times it moves a little too fast and some of the detail is lost. It seemed more like a sequence of events instead of a story, especially after Farrin and Sadira are arrested. The detail that was there was very good, but that part of the plot could have been elaborated on much further.
The occasional lack of detail didn't affect the story's message at all, though. Ellis' writing was pretty average, but the story itself has a lasting impact and an important lesson behind it. The love story is well done (if occasionally a bit cheesy) and bittersweet, and the ending of the story is realistic, if agonizingly ambiguous.
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