REVIEW: The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer

“The Shade of the Moon” by Susan Beth Pfeffer


It’s been more than two years since Jon Evans and his family left Pennsylvania, hoping to find a safe place to live, yet Jon remains haunted by the deaths of those he loved.  His prowess on a soccer field has guaranteed him a home in a well-protected enclave.  But Jon is painfully aware that a missed goal, a careless word, even falling in love, can put his life and the lives of his mother, his sister Miranda, and her husband, Alex, in jeopardy.  Can Jon risk doing what is right in a world gone so terribly wrong?


“No.  Jon.  No.”

Jon Evans sat upright in his bed.  It was Gabe, he told himself.  Gabe must have  had a bad dream.  He listened for Carrie, Gabe’s nanny, to calm the little boy.  He waited to hear Lisa run down the hallway to soothe her own son.

But Carrie was quiet.  Lisa was quiet.  The house was quiet.

It wasn’t Gabe he’d heard.  It was Julie.

How long had he known her?  A month, six weeks.  But he’d been haunted by her for two and a half years.

—ARC paperback edition


In the fourth installment of this bleak, harrowing series—written in a strangely distant third person this outing—little brother Jon Evans assumes the role of narrator.  The first half of the book crawls as Jon—now sixteen— alternates between courting new girl Sarah and wallowing in self-pity over first love Julie’s distant death.  His spoiled, selfish attitude does little to ingratiate him as he discusses the belief that the clavers deserve better treatment than the worker grubs.  But with his mother, his sister Miranda, and brother-in-law Alex living in the nearby grubtown, Jon slowly opens to Sarah’s starry-eyed humanitarian rants—though he keeps in mind that even she still enjoys the luxuries that a life in the enclave affords her.

The action heats up once the tension between the clavers and grubs boils over.  Several deaths rock Jon’s world, culminating in a strange mix of weary hardness and sympathetic growth in small ways: Jon can no longer wave away the obvious problems within the system that protects him.

The Evans family suffers many losses this time around, though Miranda plays the obvious author favorite.  She experiences a few tragedies, but only briefly and always gets what she wants, leaving the men folk in her life to take the brunt of it.

Despite melodramatic and stilted dialogue worthy of an old timey soap opera (readers may grow weary of all the sighing “Oh, Jon/Sarah”s as the teens’ relationship moves at lightning speed) and a rushed ending, the action is believable enough for the What If scenario in which the series plays.  The hints of revolution and uprising from the mistreated lower class workers could have enjoyed a stronger spotlight and further exploration; today’s audience doesn’t need a meteor to crash into our moon to reflect on the unfortunate classism, dehumanization, and sense of entitlement that surrounds us.

Strangely timely, readers may benefit from discussions on how Sexton idolizes their high school soccer players—including their almost expected use and abuse of alcohol and lower class girls—and how this fictional future mirrors the bad behavior of such young athletes today.

Appropriate for ages 13+.  Strong language, intense situations, alcohol use by minors, graphic violence, casual misogyny, and sexual situations and discussions.


If you…

  • Enjoy the action and drama of dystopian fiction
  • Are comfortable with a main character you hate
  • Ever wondered what happened next
  • Have been following the Evans family for years
  • Know that there is good in humanity even in the darkest hours


YA contemporary suspense

Hardcover & Ebook, 304 pages

Publishing October 1st, 2013 by Harcourt (ISBN 0547813370)

(Review copy provided by and cover illustration courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.)

Review by Olivia Hennis, originally published on in October 2013.–4).html


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