Sally’s Rating: 3.5/5
Clare Vanderpool’s Moon Over Manifest explores the past when Abilene Tucker moves to the town of Manifest for the summer and inadvertently comes across some odd clues about her father’s mysterious past.
Abilene is a fun protagonist to follow on her journey of self-discovery. As a curious, adventurous and mildly optimistic girl, it’s easy to get wrapped up in what she is doing because she feels like such a normal person who is having some interesting adventures during her summer vacation during the Great Depression. Her reluctant friendships with Ruthanne and Lettie lead to a fun adventure wherein the trio of girls tries to solve the mystery of an unknown spy – the Rattler. They also get into some hijinks with Miss Sadie, the mysterious fortune teller, and Hattie Mae, the local news reporter.
The book alternates between the mystery in the present and the town’s past history – halting any forward momentum in the story. Abilene’s adventures of spy hunting with her two best friends are entertaining to read about, but the stories about her father’s friends felt shoehorned in and were hard to care about because many of the characters were no longer in the current narrative. The part of the story that takes place in the past takes place during World War I, covering events such as the influenza outbreak, enlisting in the army, and bootlegging during the Prohibition. Overall, this book could have used a good edit in some places to help propel the reader through the boring parts.
As far as historical fiction goes, Moon Over Manifest provides an interesting viewpoint into this particular point in the past with some fun characters and adventures. Despite some decent writing, it was a bit of a slog to get through and might be challenging for reluctant readers to get involved in the somewhat mundane mystery.