Anne Chaconas's Reviews > Moa

Moa by Tricia Stewart Shiu
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's review
Jun 26, 2012

it was ok
Read from June 26 to 29, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: 1

When it comes to young adult books, I've almost given up on finding anything current that doesn't involve a werewolf, a vampire, or some sort of zombie. When I read the description for MOA, I was a little skeptical--there was nary a mention of a vampire, zombie, or werewolf in sight. Could it really be true? There was mention of witchcraft, but also spiritual gifts. I was intrigued.

Overall, MOA is a book with a very interesting take on the common YA concept of saving the world (or, in this case, Hawaii). In this tale, the superpowers aren't physical or destructive; rather, they are metaphysical and focus largely on healing, cleansing, and growing your spiritual well-being.

The characters are interesting and, for the most part, three-dimensional. Hillary, our heroine, is presented as the quintessential unpopular teen, member of a group of high school nerdy misfits with a series of unfortunate run-ins with the popular girls and guys. She has a unique perspective on life, and that gets her into teenage hot water more than she'd like. She also, however, has a very mature take on situations, and approaches things from a calm, zen-like state, which is refreshing; there are no histrionics with Hillary. The other two members of Hillary's family that we get to know throughout the book--her sister, Molly, and Molly's daughter, Heidi--were nicely developed. Molly radiated her perspective as the exasperated--yet willing to learn--older sister quite well, and Heidi was adorable: A brave, collected little girl who was open to spiritual journeys and possessed that remarkable childhood ability to accept that which appears to them without question. She was easily my favorite character in the book. Moa, our titular character and primary narrator, was also interesting. I won't divulge too much about her lest I give away any important plot details (obviously, the book is about her, to a degree), but I will say that her character's ultimate transformation, while predictable, fit in well with the story.

It was easy to see that the author places quite a bit of importance on spirituality, healing, chakras, and sources of inner light and peace. MOA is heavily imbued with these elements, and discussion of meditation, essential oils, rituals, cleansing, energy, incantations, and incense abound. It was an interesting take for a young adult story; however, more pragmatic readers will probably get a little tired of all the OMing and chakra talk after a while.

I had a few problems with the story, which I feel detracted from the overall tale: narrative perspective, plot development and presentation, and editing.

The book seems to hop around between first person omniscient (Moa), and third person omniscient/limited--which would be fine were the parameters of narration clearly defined and the reader able to tell which perspective from which we were being told the story. However, it often wasn't clearly defined, and this led to confusion. I ended up just always assuming that we were seeing things from Moa's omniscient perspective, but there was always a nagging little voice in my head that was asking, "But are you really? Are you really? What if you're missing something by assuming that?" It would have been better, in my opinion, had the author chosen to match up narration switches with new chapters. The linearity of the tale may have been preserved. As it ended up, I found myself having to go back and re-read passages to make sure I was getting the right impression out of them.

One thing that MOA fails to do, much to my chagrin, is build suspense. This isn't because the premise of the book is faulty--on the other hand, it is tried-and-true and has a fresh new spin--but rather because the book seems to skim over build-ups and just hop right on over passages that I think would have built up tension and suspense. Much of time I found myself at the resolution of a problem without quite knowing how I got there. A lot of this, I believe, is due to the back-and-forth in narrative perspectives. It is clear to me that the author had a very definite plot line in mind--and a solid one at that--but it just wasn't presented very well or very clearly. The antagonist--without a concrete explanation--switches a number of times in the story, and it made it hard to determine whether the primary issue the characters were tackling had been resolved. I found myself almost at the end of the book, wondering, "Wait, did I miss something? Did things get resolved? It sounds like they did, but...well, I'm not sure." And that's never a good thing. Your readers should always know where the story stands. By the actual end of the book I was sure, but only because I was at the end, and it was made crystal clear.

My final problem--and, in my mind, my biggest one--with MOA was the editing. There were simply too many errors in grammar and punctuation. It didn't allow me to read at the pace I wanted, and it stalled plot and character development. It was probably a large reason for why I felt the plot lacked suspense and build-up, and why it was confusing at times to determine exactly what was going on.

MOA was a interesting story. I wanted to love it--I really did. I think that an expansion of the story with greater detail (after all, the whole book is only 144 pages--it could handle being expanded) to really draw the reader into the plot, and a very thorough professional edit would turn this into a very enjoyable, unique tale.

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Reading Progress

06/27/2012 page 62

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