YA / Paranormal
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars
The prologue of this YA paranormal story grabs readers and pulls them back in time to a small town in the Philippines, 1881. Thieves have been caught and are shown no mercy and put to death in a torturous way. One young village boy tries to save them, and in doing so, saves himself but not his town from the curse of the langbuan. Starting that very night and every Ghost Moon Night after, the evil winged spirits of the dead rise and kill the villagers by clinging to them until the langbuan have drawn all the warmth from the victims' bodies. SUPER creepy. I am not surprised that Jewel Allen, the author, won a first chapter contest with this story.
From there, the story jumps forward to the same village in 1956, still cursed but accepting the monthly Ghost Moon Night as the norm. They have a new parish priest, Father Sebastien, who wasn't told about the town's curse ahead of time, and is quite shocked to hear about the langbuan from Antonio Pulido, the seventeen-year-old main character of the story. Father Sebastien decides it's his mission to get the villagers to stop putting their faith in pagan rituals, but instead in God, and to figure out how to break the curse. He befriends and confides in Antonio, who has great respect for the priest.
Ghost Moon Night is definitely a coming of age story for Antonio, though he deals with a great deal more than does your average teen -- and that's without factoring in his encounters with the langbuan, which are intense! Antonio is a complex character who really grows by making mistakes and learning from them. His relationship with his father is particularly complicated and often painful, even more so as Antonio discovers his father's many secrets. What is most revealing about Antonio's character is his love for his grandfather and what he's willing to do for him.
Allen's writing is beautiful and descriptive, and her passages really bring the setting of a small village in the Philippines to life. She uses a lot of Tagalog words, which mostly can be defined by context, but also there is a glossary at the end of the book that lists all the words (which I didn't find until I finished -- would be great to have a heads-up at the beginning). There were a few scenes that were confusing to me and which I didn't feel moved the story forward (ex. nuno sa punso, cleaning the morgue). They seemed out of place or in need of more explanation as to how they were connected. Also, the action slowed down significantly through the middle of the story and got a bit bogged down with some unnecessary details; however, the last third of the book had some great, unexpected twists as well as some pretty intense and scary langbuan encounters, which forgave the parts that dragged.
Ghost Moon Night will leave readers thinking about more than just its flying zombies -- there are many deeper messages. There is no profanity or sexual situations, but there are death and grief, references to domestic abuse and alcoholism, and violence, though it is not overly graphic. As such, I would recommend this book for upper middle grade or young adult readers.
This book was provided to me by eBooks for Review in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.