Moongarden (Plotting the Stars 1)

Moongarden (Plotting the Stars 1)
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Release Date
November 01, 2022
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Centuries ago, Earth’s plants turned toxic, rendering life on the planet impossible, and humanity took to space to cultivate new homes. Myra Hodger is in her first year at an elite school on the Moon to train and develop her Creer in math as a Number Whisper—like her famous Number Whisperer parents. But she’s crumbling under the pressure, she doesn’t fit in, and worst of all, the tattoos that signal her Creer growing aren’t developing. In her heart, she knows she doesn’t have a Creer, and soon, everyone else will, too.

Wandering the school while cutting class one day, she discovers a secret lab hidden behind one of the unused classrooms, and beyond that, a secret garden overflowing with plants. Dangerous toxic plants. 

But as Myra learns the garden isn’t a threat, she begins to wonder if she does have a Creer—one that died out when the Earth did. If she wants to learn the truth about the garden and herself, she’ll have to hurry. There are those who'll do anything to take these secrets to the grave.

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Myra strives to fulfill her forbidden destiny.
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What worked:
Myra struggles to fit in at an elite school on the moon called S.L.A.M. and it’s assumed she’ll become a great Number Whisperer like her parents. This ability combines math with magic but Myra’s not showing any interest or signs of inheriting the power. Discovering a secret garden hidden behind an abandoned classroom’s walls changes her life. She feels a connection in this room but knows it’s dangerous to let anyone else at school become aware of its existence. She seems to have a talent with plants but how much longer can she hide her lack of ability as a Number Whisperer? The strange markings appearing on her arms tell a different tale, one that could spell life-threatening problems if they’re discovered.
Myra finds help from an unlikely group of characters. She first finds a chirping, whistling little robot in the abandoned classroom that may remind readers of R2D2 in Star Wars. It understands what Myra says but it’s only understandable replies come as beeps meaning yes or no. She’s then joined by an older human clone assigned to do janitorial work around the school. This character provides useful information regarding the origins of the moongarden and the Botan who developed it. Later, Myra’s surprised to receive help from an older student with ties to the plot’s antagonist and from a roommate Myra’s never gotten along with. The older boy has a talent for technology and Myra’s roommate is developing into a Healer. They’re both invaluable as secrets surrounding the moongarden unfold.
Dystopian novels are always intriguing as readers discover an author’s ideas about the look of human lives in the future. In this case, no one lives on Earth due to toxic plants and they now live on the moon and other planets. The book doesn’t go into any detail as to how this is accomplished so interested readers will need to fill in the gaps themselves. Humans have developed a connection between magic and useful skills that will guide their future Creers and those without Creers are often seen as lesser citizens. Tattoo-like Inscriptions appear on humans’ arms that reflect their growing abilities and potential Creers. Food has been cloned in the past but problems with the process create the backdrop for the entire conflict.
What didn’t work as well:
The idea of plants as the main topic won’t naturally grab the attention of most young readers. However, the problems with cloning food are a fresh idea and the underlying conspiracies and Myra’s adventures with her friends are as engaging as any other middle-grade novel.
The Final Verdict:
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book but it’s creative with many story elements young readers will love. Myra’s character is appealing and identifiable as she struggles to find her place in the world and uncovers a scheme that will affect humans across the solar system. I recommend you give it a shot.
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