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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

ARC Review: Munmun by Jesse Andrews

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36310515-munmun?ac=1&from_search=true
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence my opinions of this review.

Synoposis (From Goodreads):
In an alternate reality a lot like our world, every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth. The poorest of the poor are the size of rats, and billionaires are the size of skyscrapers.

Warner and his sister Prayer are destitute—and tiny. Their size is not just demeaning, but dangerous: day and night they face mortal dangers that bigger richer people don’t ever have to think about, from being mauled by cats to their house getting stepped on. There are no cars or phones built small enough for them, or schools or hospitals, for that matter—there’s no point, when no one that little has any purchasing power, and when salaried doctors and teachers would never fit in buildings so small. Warner and Prayer know their only hope is to scale up, but how can two littlepoors survive in a world built against them?

A brilliant, warm, funny trip, unlike anything else out there, and a social novel for our time in the tradition of 1984 or Invisible Man. Inequality is made intensely visceral by an adventure and tragedy both hilarious and heartbreaking.


Review:
I first heard of this book when I attended a book signing for the movie tie-in edition of Everyday, by David Levithan.  Jesse Andrews wrote the screenplay and was at the event as well.  He read from his new book,  Munmun, and I was enchanted.  It was such a strange and wonderful world that he was presenting.

When I got home, I immediately went on NetGalley and requested the ARC of this book.  Gratefully, I was granted a copy, and I devoured it.  The author creates this seriously bizarre universe to discuss poverty in a powerful way.  I loved it.

What I Liked:


Setting:
The world in which this book takes place is much like the real world.  There are people who are rich, people who are middle class, and people who are very poor.  However, in Munmun, a person's wealth determines how tall they, which has many implications for how easy or difficult one's life will be.  If you are middle-class, your height will be about the same as in our real life.  But if you are poor, you will be a small person about the size of a rat (this description is in the book).  The Super-rich are giants.

But the world is built for the average (middle income) population, not the super poor.  So that means there is no access to hospitals or schools.  Food and transportation is difficult to find.  And how can a super little person even earn a living?  They are stuck in their size (and poverty) forever.  

There is also a dream world where everyone is equal.  When people go to sleep, they all enter this zone and people, regardless of Munmuns, can interact.  This was such an imaginative touch, and author Jesse Andrews makes good use of this world to create stunning fantasy scenes.

Characters:
Warner, the main character, is a fourteen year-old kid who is just trying to help his family survive.  He worries about his mother and sister, and will basically do anything for them.  His choices are:  join a gang (in order to not be beaten up), work as a bodyguard, or help his sister find a rich husband.  He also has a hidden talent:  He can create amazing dreams in dreamworld.

Themes:
There are so many real-life topics that are touched upon in this book.  Besides the obvious allusion to poverty, the book also delves into how the legal system treats minorities.  When  group of middle-rich teens go on a rampage and destroy property, they are "just kids" letting off stream.  They are given a slap on the wrist.  When Warner shoots a gun into a party to save his sister, he is given five years in prison.  The assumption that poor people are bad motivates the legal system to such harsh measures.  Kind of like real life?

The dream world also brilliantly alludes to the current opioid epidemic.  When you are suffering in the "lifeanddeathworld", what better way to relieve your stress than hanging out in dreamworld?  This is such a powerful temptation that many poor people take drugs to stay asleep and in dreamworld for as long as possible.

The book also explores how out of touch the super rich are with reality.  In the book, extremely wealthy people are literally giants.  Since the world is made for the middle rich, the giants can't be accommodated.  They are isolated and placed on an island.  Of course, their every need is met (and are even allowed to pollute the oceans with their excrement!  I mean, where else can they relieve themselves?).  But even with all the money in the world, are they happy?

What I Didn't Like:   

Ending:
Ah, the ending.  I do not want to give away what happens.  But I was disappointed that the main character, Warner, made such selfish choices.  He does begin to come to his senses, but the abruptness of the ending left me feeling unfulfilled.  I wish the author would have done an epilogue to explain the aftermath of what happened.  I was very invested in Warner's fate. 
Rating: 


  

Release Date:  April 3rd, 2018

Genre:  YA Magical Realism

Publisher:  Amulet Books

Page Length:  416 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  This was a creative way to discuss difficult subjects.  A strange and exciting book.
 
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