Title: Moon Over Manifest
Author: Claire Vanderpool
Years ago, when The Blair Witch Project came out, I remember all the buzz surrounding the movie. It was phenomenal-- like nothing that had ever been done before. So one summer afternoon, I took off from work early and met Eddie at the little arthouse theater north of the Wash U campus. When the lights came back up at the end of the movie and people started filing out, we looked at each other and were like "that's it?" Since then, I've often talked about things that suffered from the "Blair Witch Phenomenon" when a book or movie or tv show (often independent or low budget) was so hyped that it invariably failed to meet expectations.
After that long introduction, you probably think that I hated Moon Over Manifest. I didn't hate it at all. In fact, I quite liked the book (other than the fact that it was pretty slow, and the mystery didn't turn out to be much of a mystery after all). But I think that Moon Over Manifest suffers a bit from the Blair Witch buzz. On the day it won the Newbery Award, I got on Amazon and saw that it had only a couple of online reviews. Then the buzz exploded. I heard people talking about the book everywhere. When I broke down and ordered it, it took several weeks to arrive (with my beloved Amazon Prime shipping) because the publishers had a hard time keeping up with increased demand (at least I presume that's the reason).
Anyway, Moon Over Manifest is the story of a Depression-era girl whose father decides she's too old for tramping and sends her to Manifest, the Kansas town where he spent time as a teenager. Abilene is embraced by most of the town, and she decides that while she's in Manifest for the summer she'll try to find out more about her father and the town's past. She has a little bit of a Pollyanna experience, revitalizing the town and learning a lot about her own past in the process. The book is definitely well-written, but it didn't suck me in the way a lot of the books I've read this summer have. It the kind of book that my 5th and 6th graders would probably put down after a few chapters and call it boring. But eventually I got caught up in the story. I just think the story didn't live up to the hype. But unhyped, it's a really sweet little story.