This summer I’ve read two books about totalitarian regimes: Sekret by Lindsey Smith and Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner. Although not pure historical fiction, Sekret is set in Soviet Russia during the moon race; its deviation from the historical record comes from the story’s focus on a fictional group of psychic children that the KGB uses in espionage activities against the Americans. Maggot Moon also focuses on the race to the moon, although it’s setting is more vague; while the book clearly evokes the USSR, we know-nothing explicit about the setting except that the characters live in “the Motherland.”
The two protagonists, Standish Treadwell (Maggot Moon) and Yulia Andreevna Chernina (Sekret), are drawn in stark contrasts: Yulia has a powerful psychic mind and Standish can’t even read and write. But both face the deadly trials of living in a totalitarian society with impressive courage, and the descriptions of the oppressive society in which they live and its puppet masters in both books is frighteningly compelling. I found booth book to be page-turners and highly recommend them. While Maggot Moon might seem to be for middle readers (its shorter and its protagonist is younger), its darker content is more suited for older readers; once you’ve read the ending (which I found more satisfying than that of Sekret), you’ll see what I mean.