April 26, 2012

Under the Moon

by Deborah Kerbel
Dancing Cat Books (Cormorant Books)
194 pp.
Ages 12-15

Contemplating under the moon seems an appropriate activity on a dark night when you are burdened with the worries of daily life.  Even if you're not looking for answers, the darkness seems to absorb the uncertainties while the moonshine offers a glimmer of hope.  But what if that contemplation is not a singular event but a nightly ritual because the burden is the night, a time of sleeplessness?

Teen Lily MacArthur has never been a great sleeper, managing barely a few hours a night.  But, when her dear Aunt Su, an eccentric romance novelist and Lily's nighttime interlocutor, dies unexpectedly, Lily's minimal sleep becomes nonexistent.

Under similar circumstances, most people would seek out the support of friends or family.  With no friends, which Lily attributes to her introversion, and with her parents divorced and incapable of providing support during her wakefulness, Lily finds some relief in sneaking out at night, often chatting with the moon as if a friend.  On one such foray, she walks through the drive-thru at McCool's Fries and makes the acquaintance of the boy she calls Rude Dude who she later learns is Ben Matthews, a new classmate.  While Lily is attracted to Ben, their occasional encounters, whether at school or at night when she's awake and he's working, are perplexing - occasionally honest and companionable,  often undermining and ambiguous.

Coupled with her puzzling relationship with Ben, Lily is shaken by a post-funeral revelation from her aunt, and she begins to tally her sleepless nights believing they will lead to her death.  As she tries to respond to shifting circumstances, with Ben, a new friend Emma, a classmate Todd, and others, Lily begins to delve into the veracity of her own perceptions, and becomes worthy of the magnanimity Aunt Su suggests she has.

Though Under the Moon's title and cover suggest a more innocuous story, Deborah Kerbel's potent writing maintains the shadows of the night and the tangled thinking of the sleepless.  Lily's desperation to stymie her sleeplessness while yielding to new feelings contrasts with Ben's need to balance his unexpected attraction to her while avoiding pity.  In Under the Moon, Deborah Kerbel effectively portrays the turmoil of the teen heart and mind: apprehensive of the unknown, like the obscurity of the dark night, while still hopeful for possibilities that glimmer in the moon.


  1. This looks good. I've never seen a Dancing Cat book I didn't want to buy!

  2. I didn't realize that Dancing Cat publishes for older readers (I loved Giraffe and Cat!), but I'll have to check out their offerings more closely; thanks for the recommendation!