Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Moon Over Manifest is a story I think I would have enjoyed more as a child; I could feel my younger self identifying with the tomboyish protagonist, the people of the town as they're described in the story, and the history, as it related to what I was learning in Social Studies. As an adult, I can see some weaknesses in the story, which when combined make it feel a bit contrived, but yes: me as a kid would have read the heck out of this.
The book cleverly combines 1936 Depression-era Kansas with flashbacks to 1918, introducing World War I (a topic I never learned much about in Social Studies, which usually ended with the Civil War and then the entire 20th century crammed into a week or so), and the influenza pandemic during that time period (also barely touched on in class). While some characters cross over, others don't, which adds a layer of mystery to the other puzzles in the book and packs a bit of a hard punch when you find out what happened.
It ends with a nice little chapter with some background information on the location and other aspects of the story, which I liked a lot. I was often intrigued by offhand remarks in stories as a kid, but rarely did any further research.
A few things felt strange; the central spy mystery of the novel wasn't really well-done and actually ended up being a little confusing in parts, the 1918 "ending" is very pat, and the connections between 1918 Manifest and 1936 Manifest are sometimes pretty frail. The book is a little laggy in the middle, and the "storytelling" aspect is pretty much lost, because the voice the stories are told in doesn't really carry through.
However, overall, I enjoyed this. It's certainly better than a dry Social Studies textbook.
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