Pajama Press

Starred Review for Moon at Nine from Ken Setterington for Quill & Quire

Posted on March 21st, 2014 by pajamapress

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“With her multiple award-winning works of fiction and non-fiction, Deborah Ellis has introduced readers to the harsh realities of life for youth around the world. Her latest novel, based on a true story, is another powerful, realistic tale that will capture the attention of teen readers.

In Moon at Nine, Ellis expertly weaves the politics, religion, and culture of 1988 Iran into the story of Farrin, a 15-year-old girl who obediently tries not to draw attention to herself. Her family’s wealth and support for the Shah put her at odds with the other girls at her Tehran school. When a new girl named Sadira arrives at the school, Farrin finds it impossible to maintain her low profile.

Sadira is irreverent, studious, and challenging. Most of her family was killed in a bombing and she now lives with her father in a small apartment. This austere existence contrasts with the lavish lifestyle maintained by Farrin’s family. Still, the girls become fast friends, and find their feelings developing slowly and realistically into love.

Homosexuality is illegal in Iran, and Ellis carefully handles the cultural taboos and legal restrictions of lesbian relationships. When the nature of Farrin and Sadira’s involvement comes into question, the girls’ lives change drastically. Farrin’s grandmother suggests a hasty engagement and marriage. Classmates are charged with policing the girls’ conduct, and when a secret kiss is observed at school, all contact between them is prohibited. The title comes from a pact made by the girls before they are separated—and eventually imprisoned—to look at the moon every night at nine o’clock, knowing the other is doing the same.

Moon at Nine is a riveting tale of young girls being true to themselves and their love, set against a political and cultural backdrop few readers will have first-hand knowledge of. Ellis once again proves she is a master storyteller. Readers will remember Farrin and Sadira long after the final page has been read.”

—Ken Setterington, author of Stonewall Honor Book Branded by the Pink Triangle