Fortunately for Ashleigh, she meets mentally-disabled Joyous Bowen with his wonderful philosophy of ‘working things around a little’. Ashleigh thinks she is helping Joyous a part of a community service plan, but she is about to discover that she is the one who needs help as Joyous teaches her what family is really about.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this short middle fiction/young adult novel and I confess that the first chapter, written in Joyous’ awkward speech pattern with mixed tenses and oddly muddled words, had me wondering whether I would be reading far beyond the first few chapters.
I’m so glad that I did, as this book has something wonderful to offer thoughtful readers with a touching story of an unlikely friendship. Chapters are narrated by Joyous and Ashleigh, whom Joyous has renamed ‘Moonbeam’, with occasional chapters featuring letters from Joyous’ mother, Margaret, written to her son.
There is lovely message within the story about appreciating life as it is and seeing the beauty and positive things in every situation. The message is prevented from becoming too sweet by the gradually revealed back story for each character, a tragic series of circumstances for Joyous and challenging family discord for Ashleigh/Moonbeam.
Joyous & Moonbeam is a beautiful story of friendship, family and the ability to see that ‘all life is joyous’. There will be a niche group of thoughtful readers, those who are willing to adapt and look for the beauty in the awkward speech of Joyous, who will find this book appealing and thought provoking. I think it would be ideal as a high school classroom text, inviting discussions about topics such as identity, mental illness, personal perspective, family and community. There are teachers’ notes available.
I will definitely be looking for other titles by this author.
Title: Joyous & Moonbeam
Author: Richard Yaxley
Publisher: Omnibus Books, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: April 2013
For ages: 12+
Type: Middle Fiction, Young Adult Fiction