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I wasnít swept away by MOON OVER MANIFEST the way I want books, especially Newbery Prize-winning ones, to do to me. In some ways, this is an odd book: the 1936 plotline mingles with the 1917-1918 plotline thatís told through stories, and for some reason or another I found the 1918 plotline so much more interesting than the 1936 plotline. I actually have to shake my head a little at how itís possible for the 1936 plotline to be so dull. But there you have it: what could have been a charming plotline about Abilene Tucker arriving at Manifest, getting to know the townís quirky residents, and digging into its secrets turned into a snoozefest in which Abilene runs around town with all the productivity of one of those annoying little dogs that always have so much energy and yet are so stupid, has placeholder conversations with the townspeople and eats their food, and purportedly has adventures with her two friends (whom I couldnít pick out of a three-person lineup if I tried, they were so uncharacterized) without actually doing anything that was actually worth writing 350+ pages about.
That was a bit harsh of me. I like clever books that surprise and outsmart me, and the revelation at MOON OVER MANIFESTís ending did that, and even brought out some tears in me. However, under no circumstances can I wholeheartedly recommend a book just for its good ending if I felt the rest of it was just average. And, yeah, I felt MOON OVER MANIFEST was just average. Itís clever, the way the two storylines finally connected, but thatís not enough to overcome average characters and a slow plot. If I was inclined to put it down several times in the middle, how do you think a middle-grade audience would feel?