The Moon by Night (Austin Family Series #2)

The Moon by Night  - Madeleine L'Engle Disclaimer: a lot of people I know don’t like the Austin Chronicles. They aren’t as action-packed as the Wrinkle in Time series, and involve fewer supernatural elements. They also have a slower pace. This is the story of the Austin family roadtrip across the United States (and some of Canada). It’s a very simple story, told in almost diary-like snippets by Vicky Austin, the second-oldest sibling. Facing the above complaints, I will admit that Moon By Night has a very slow pace. But the pace doesn’t hamper the story. In fact, Vicky has a very idyllic family life—idyllic to the point of ignorant—and some readers may balk at such a naïve protagonist. But this kind of calm personality is what drives the conflict. For example, it is Vicky’s principles that make Zachary Grey such a confusing and upsetting presence in her life. Zachary is brash and insulting, but is physically weaker than he seems; he talks endlessly about a godless, doom-driven world that clashes with Vicky’s spiritual and familial optimism. While equally attracted and depressed by Zachary, Vicky struggles with her feelings; here L’Engle describes the emotional stickiness that happens when people surround themselves with negativity. But Zachary is a realistic character: he is cruel, but he is the result of negligent parenting and a seemingly “unfair” heart condition that could kill him at any moment, and towards the end of the novel he shows interest in changing. Whether that change takes remains a mystery. As for cons: This takes place right after World War II, so some of the colloquial language is a little odd. Zachary sounds much less badass when the words “gee” and “Vicky-O” work their way into the dialogue. Another problem I had was with the parents: Vicky idolizes her parents. While that worked for her character, her constant praising of their spirituality, their kindness, and their good sense seemed a little too goody-goody. I’m sure that later, her parents will have to make a mistake and learn from it; they are, after all, the only characters who haven’t yet. I like having positive parents—they are a rare breed in children’s and young adult fiction—but they cannot be immaculate. I’m hoping that they will be challenged more in the following books.