Hello, friends! It’s my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan and I’m excited to share my review and journal spread with you today!
Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
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Goodreads: An Arrow to the Moon
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 12 April 2022
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Magical Realism
Romeo and Juliet meets Chinese mythology in this magical novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After
Hunter Yee has perfect aim with a bow and arrow, but all else in his life veers wrong. He’s sick of being haunted by his family’s past mistakes. The only things keeping him from running away are his little brother, a supernatural wind, and the bewitching girl at his new high school.
Luna Chang dreads the future. Graduation looms ahead, and her parents’ expectations are stifling. When she begins to break the rules, she finds her life upended by the strange new boy in her class, the arrival of unearthly fireflies, and an ominous crack spreading across the town of Fairbridge.
As Hunter and Luna navigate their families’ enmity and secrets, everything around them begins to fall apart. All they can depend on is their love…but time is running out, and fate will have its way.
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Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: This was a beautifully written bittersweet story about family, love, and making your own way. There’s magical realism and so much mythology! I loved Luna and Hunter and their romance which was achingly sweet and slightly tragic, and I loved the sibling relationship between Hunter and Cody. While it didn’t serve as hard as I thought it would, I still really enjoyed this very quick read!
CW/TW: childhood illness, asthma (incident happens on page), infidelity, abuse
I’ve been looking forward to reading this book ever since I first heard about it earlier this year. A Romeo and Juliet Chinese mythology-inspired retelling? Yes, please! Plus, I read Pan’s debut several years ago and it quickly became one of my favourite YA contemporaries full of heart and so much deep emotion, so I had high expectations for her sophomore novel; ultimately though, they were perhaps a bit too high. That’s not to say that this was a bad book. Not at all! There was a lot that I loved about this story and the things these characters experience but at the same time, I wanted MORE—more emotion, connection, and depth which would’ve catapulted this into the 5-star territory I was expecting from it.
Pan’s prose is exceptional. It’s a little poetic, a little flowery but just enough to stir your imagination and bring the images she paints to life. Although I wasn’t overly familiar with the story of the Moon Goddess, Gang’e, and her paramour, the Archer, Hou Yin, I absolutely loved recognising the parallels to the lore. I really enjoyed Pan’s take on it and the way she also wove in the Romeo and Juliet forbidden star-crossed lovers aspect as it really amped up the angst and yearning. This story had strong themes of familial love and filial piety and as an Asian, the expectations that were set by both families for their children to follow without question were very familiar to me and made the story more realistic and relatable.
I was a little surprised by how many POVs we get in this book and combined with the short chapters, the story moved at a very quick pace. I could’ve read this in one sitting had I not had things to do. I liked getting such a well-rounded view of what each family was going through and an insight into all the secrets that were revealed, and the many views helped spark a little bit of empathy for the characters I struggled to like because parents aren’t perfect no matter how much we expect them to be. This is still very much Luna and Hunter’s story though and they were so easy to root for! As the story progresses, their family lives start to unravel more and the only peace and comfort they can find is with each other. Their romance was achingly sweet and filled with many tender and awkwardly funny moments as they both discover first love and what it means to be someone’s person. As the tension increased, it was soothing to know that they had each other to figure things out. I was particularly heartbroken for Hunter and it was difficult at times to read about his situation and relationship with his parents, especially because he had his little brother Cody to think of and much of what he did and endured was for him. The wonderful sibling relationship between Hunter and Cody was one of my favourite aspects of this story—they have such a strong bond and it was incredibly heartwarming to see how gentle and caring Hunter was with his little brother. And Cody really was the most precious little boy. My heart! 🥺
That said, as much as I liked the many POVs and short chapters, I also had issues with it because with so many shifting views, it made it difficult for me to connect to the characters. Yes, I did grow to care about them after a while but it still felt very surface level and I didn’t get the depth I wanted from them. If I’m being honest, it was a bit disappointing because the emotional connection was what I expected the most from this story! There were also elements of magical realism, which I didn’t have an issue with but a lot of what happens in town was not very clear to me. It felt like very high stakes with the ever-growing cracks throughout the town and the increasing feelings of wrongness that seeped from the darkness, but in the end, I’m not sure what it meant to symbolise or what it really meant because of how quickly the story wraps up, it was there one minute and the next it’s gone. I’d even go so far as to say it felt a little anticlimactic and again, I just wanted that bit more!
Emily X.R. Pan is the New York Times and National Indie bestselling author of THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, which won the APALA Honor Award and the Walter Honor Award, and received six starred reviews. It was also an L.A. Times Book Prize finalist, longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Best YA Books of All Time. Emily co-created the FORESHADOW anthology and teaches creative writing at New York University and other institutions. She lives on Lenape land (in Brooklyn, New York), but was originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She received her MFA in fiction from the NYU Creative Writing Program, where she was a Goldwater Fellow as well as the editor-in-chief of Washington Square Review. She was the founding editor-in-chief of Bodega Magazine and has been awarded residencies at Djerassi (2017) and Caldera (2019). She spends her free time playing the mandolin, making art, and training her furry dog-beast to balance on strange objects. Her next novel, AN ARROW TO THE MOON, will be published by Little, Brown in April 2022.
Have you read An Arrow to the Moon or is it on your TBR?