Marilyn Hilton’s Full Cicada Moon draws comparison to Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming and we are the wiser and fulfilled for having more to enjoy.
In 1969 Vermont, Mimi Oliver trudges through her coming of age, tackling self-identity, her love for astronomy, and first crush. Her father works for a local college, and as a black man, he deals with stares and hushes wherever he goes. Her mother, a homemaker, handles those same stares and hushes wherever she ventures because, as a Japanese woman, the country’s far from removed from WW2 and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With the oncoming historic moon landing, Mimi struggles with sexist (“Girls take home ec and boys take shop”/A counselor’s surprise upon noticing Mimi’s high test scores) and racist (shoplifting accusations/whispers/stares/ignorant questions) as the “new girl” at her middle school.
Will she let them define her? Or, will she grasp her self-identity by her own criteria?
Mimi Oliver’s, your standard thirteen-year old, naive yet aware and smart yet foolish. You root for her because, at some point, you experienced her joys and pains. She’s thirteen without a doubt. She’s not ultra hip. For example, she still believes kissing boys is gross and what a breath of fresh air when reading stories where teenagers and pre-teens are written to be years ahead of their actual peers. She presents a good role model for readers, seeking one.
As for the other characters, her parents are loving and patient. Neither of them raise their voices, but you feel the sting of leaving in their skin at such a time. Mimi’s family illustrate a strength banner for her to seek when troubled.
Rounding the story out, two accepting friends who are white, a neighbor working through his own issues, and a myriad of those figuring their stances on acceptance in America’s changing times.
All of the characters create room for discussion with fairness and honesty. While highlight clear cliches (the bubble-headed Karen and Kim), their arcs satisfy without feeling as though you’re watching an after-school special.
Told in verse, her story echoes poetry, beautiful and heart-filled. You connect with Mimi, without issue, as the verses resembles a young girl’s diary, not unlike Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, whose influence speckles each page. Sweet and to the point, her story resonates to every reader: feeling like an outsider while finding one’s self and growing smarter and stronger for the experience.
Furthermore, Hilton writes clear and concise for her middle-grade audience. She refrains from insults or using “Buffy Speak”. Winks to hipness sit on the wayside. This story presents a clean story for those seeking such a tale.
Since the story’s told in verse, readers could finish this story in two days flat. Quick and even, Full Cicada Moon never falls prey to gross detailing, bogging the journey Mimi invites her readers to follow.
With a believable plot, quick verse, and full-fledged characterization, Full Cicada Moon’s a story worth a read and place within our libraries as a lesson in self-identity, love, familial bond, and acceptance in our differences.
Verdict: 4/5 Trips to the moon.