Warning, you will need tissues for Sarah Crossan’s next book! Moonrise‘s sparse yet beautiful free verse tells the story of Joe whose brother is on death row. It follows Ed’s final weeks as well as flashbacks to their childhood, which builds up your compassion for the family.

I didn’t know that to be accused of murder in the wrong state was fatal.

Like many awaiting execution at the hands of the state, Ed is going through the appeal process. Initially he couldn’t get a good lawyer but now that his execution date has been set, he has pro bono help. Joe travels to Texas to spend what time he can with his older brother. He’s not sure if he is innocent, he’s never asked, but he knows he doesn’t want to lose him.

This book will make you angry about the US justice system. Coming from a country without the death penalty, death row seems incredibly cruel, not just for the convicted but for their families. Told from the brother’s point of view you see the impact, not only the grief but the perception of the relatives. Joe feels like the state is murdering his brother. I strongly believe that prison should be about rehabilitation, not just punishment.

When news broke in New York that Ed was a suspected murderer, kids in my class were warned by their petrified parents to keep away from me, the bad boy, sad boy, God-only-knows-what-boy. Ed came from our house – a place they suddenly assumed was brewing evil like chicken soup.

What kind of system lets a vulnerable teenager be interrogated without legal representation, by people who are emotionally connected to the victim? I didn’t care if he was guilty, I just felt rage at those cops. Ed might technically be an adult at eighteen but most parents would see him as a child still, and his background should say he needs more help, not less. Should we not give people second chances?

It would be easy to hate Aunt Karen too, but I think she is doing the best she can to protect her sister’s children. With their father dead and their mother a mostly absent alcoholic, Karen is the closest thing they’ve got to a parent. She cuts Joe and Angela off from Ed to save them pain. She is sure he is guilty and there’s nothing that can be done for him, but she can help the rest of the family.

You can’t save anyone’s life but your own.

Don’t let the free verse put you off, you can read Sarah’s books as if they were prose. They are stunning and so very effective at stabbing you in the heart.

Moonrise is published by Bloomsbury and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 7th September 2017. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.