Amber wants friends who value her – and her hero, Oscar Wilde – more than her difficult dads and the bullies at school. Rose needs to find the courage to tell her mum she doesn’t want to follow in her footsteps and become a model – she wants to run a patisserie instead – but her boyfriend is interested in something else altogether, and Rose will have to accept the help of her new friends before she can break free. Sky doesn’t want to move out of her cosy houseboat and in with her dad’s poxy new girlfriend, but maybe doing so will drive her out of the shell she’s built around herself after her mum died five years ago, and give her the nerve to compete in her first poetry slam. And Maali mostly just wants to learn how to talk to boys. But all four girls will learn much more than that once they become the Moonlight Dreamers, and pledge to help their fellow members achieve their dreams.
The girls are unsure of themselves, and each other, when they first come together, and it’s such a joy to watch them battle against parental expectation and social pressure in order to start actively working towards their goals. I loved the emphasis that the rules of the Moonlight Dreamers placed on supporting each other. The girls are strangers when they begin, and in the colourful, flavourful, realistically diverse and richly drawn Brick Lane, London, they really grow together – though not without mistakes!
The relationships between the girls are at the centre of this novel, and their family lives create a complex background as they try to pin down exactly what it is they want from their lives – and how to achieve it. This is an inspiring novel, in a similar vein to Sarra Manning’s London Belongs To Us, set over a short period of time and focusing on a diverse group of young people. The Moonlight Dreamers is perhaps younger than Manning’s novel, but it is no less beautifully drawn and vividly told.
The Moonlight Dreamers is a story of female friendship and staying true to your dreams, perfect for younger YA readers. It’s a light, easy read, but it also deals with powerful and relevant issues to today’s young people – self-image, social media and celebrity – and cake!
Maali is Indian and Hindu – from my outsider’s perspective, her religious beliefs are treated with respect, and she grows in confidence when it comes to discussing them with the Moonlight Dreamers throughout the novel. Amber has to deal with her automatic assumptions about Maali’s religion and lifestyle, and she does so through questioning her own reactions, rather than asking Maali to correct them for her, which I loved. It seemed to me a very mature response to difference.
Amber has two dads, and a lot of her share of the novel is dedicated to her relationships with them. Though she is bullied at school for having two dads, the Moonlight Dreamers react positively. I wasn’t a big fan of the way that Gerald’s paunch was described in such a way as to indicate that it was another reason to dislike him, but it wasn’t used heavily so once it happened I ignored it.
Personally, I thought there was definitely something romantic developing between two of the girls, but it wasn’t explicitly confirmed.