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Book Review: Moojag and the Auticode Secret by N.E. McMorran

My dear bookish friends!

Today I have a very special book to present to you, namely Moojag and the Auticode Secret by N.E. McMorran. I was kindly approached by the author and given an e-arc of this book in exchange of my honest review, and I’m so happy she approached me. This was a thought-provoking and very special book that I urge you to read too. The expected publication is November 9th 2020 by Spondylux Press, and you should mark that date in your calendars! Now without further ado, here’s what this book is about!

The Synopsis

If Nema can’t uncover a lost boy’s true identity in time they may never escape the sticky world he designed…

When Nema and her friends discover a hidden sugar-hooked society holding lost kids, they find their perfect world in danger. The strange, sticky place hides the truth about Nema’s missing brother, and a plot to destroy the free life she knows. But only they can reverse a code to prevent a rock candy robot invasion and rescue the captives. Fail and they might never make it back home.

Fans of The Giver, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the London Eye Mystery will love MOOJAG.

MOOJAG and the Auticode Secret is a quirky, Alice-esque cli-fi adventure written by an autistic author, featuring diverse autistic characters, for readers 10 years and up. Set in the utopian ‘Real World’ of post-catastrophe ‘Surrey Isles’, Britain 2054, where neurodivergents live in harmony with nature and technology.
A story about identity and finding the strength to be yourself.

My Review

This book reminded me a bit of a dark but hopeful blend of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s strange and weird – in a very fun way, while equally touching upon very important topics that find a place in fiction not nearly often enough. The unique and outstanding humour as well as the serious undertone show how skilled the author is.

In the beginning of the book, we are introduced to a futuristic world that, for once, doesn’t feel like imminent danger is looming over the caracters. However, we soon learn that that feeling can be deceptive, and sometimes the true dangers are hidden underground. I had to get used to the world first, but it didn’t take long. In the ‘Real World’ (where the main characters live), everyone is wearing a super-cool, futuristic jumpsuit that is basically like an assistant for everyday life. However, despite their advanced technology, the world’s inhabitants still live a life that’s very close to nature, they grow their food themselves and spend a lot of time outside. Then, one day, the three friends Nema, Adam, and Izzy meet a very strange character, Moojag, and discover an underground world that’s filled with sweets and coats upon coats of sugar. It’s a world that couldn’t be more different to the world the three friends live in.

This underworld, so to speak, is ruled by an evil group of ‘Conqips,’ who keep disabled children prisoner. This is where the three friends come into play: only they can rescue them! The villains make their prisoners believe that they are – due to their ‘disablities’ – not good enough, while simultaneously using their intelligence to destroy the peaceful Real World above. But can Nema and Co. reverse the Auticode in time and free the children held prisoner underground, without becoming trapped in the too sweet, too sticky Wonka-esque underground world themselves?

I loved that I, as a non-autistic reader, got the chance to get an insight into what life is like for neurodivergent children. I didn’t feel as if I was reading an educational book, while still feeling like I learned a lot. I can imagine that both neurodivergent children as well as adults will be able to love and cherish this wonderfully colourful and different read. It was great to see that by using common prejudices, this book was able to show us that the children’s ‘difference’ (though, what is ‘normal,’ anyway?), is celebrated instead of condemned. Given that most of the characters are on the autistic spectrum, it was nice to see how they learn to embrace their own identity, and feel powerful and self-sufficient by being given agency by the author.

The characters are all multifaceted and different, you will find it easy to keep them apart (even though I had minor problems with some of the special names at first). While the ‘good’ charactera all have defining traits that make it easy to keep them apart, the villains become a blend of just BAD. Was that coincidental? I don’t think so. As much as this book was wonderfully easy to read, none of it felt coincidental, every line was deliberate and said what it was meant to say. I was surprised at first to find the villains to be so brutal. Given that they are actually evil though, that makes sense, and their presence and actions mirror the unjust way in which they are treating the neurodivergent characters.

It was refreshingly fun to see sugar as a source of evil here. While it is usually depicted as something colourful, tasty and nice, reminding us of pure and happy fairytale worlds, it is the opposite here, while natural, unprocessed, and home-grown foods are valued highly. This also makes the novel important in terms of ecology and nature.

This futuristic own-voice novel deals with many important issues that don’t get dealt with in fiction enough, and it underlines the importance of compassion, friendship, equality, and love. I highly recommend it to neurodivergent children and adults, as well as their families. It’s a very important, thought-provoking read that I enjoyed highly. By creating such a vivid and imaginative futuristic world with a wonderful spectrum of diverse characters, heroes and villains (that sometimes can come in the form of candy), the author shows her writing skills as well as her creativity. I am lucky to have discovered this wonderful novel and I can see this book becoming a hit with adult readers as much as with children – even if the latter may be the target audience at first glance.

5 stars from me (and at least a day of no sweets a week!).

About the Author

N.E. McMorran is a British-Cypriot autistic writer, designer and teacher who previously worked at the BBC, as researcher and photographer, taught in London schools, and later founded and directed the Cyprus magazine publishing company AccessArts Publications Ltd. She currently volunteers with the National Autistic Society and recently established the London based Spondylux Press run by autistic professionals to publish inclusive, neuorodiverse books. She loves fixing and upcycling stuff and is learning to make her own clothes.
The author’s debut novel MOOJAG, reflects her experiences growing up and the journey to her late autism diagnosis.

About the Book

A neurodivergent team produced this book, and a full cast of autistic and ND professionals voiced the audio, recorded in London and Cyprus, July 2020.

Thank you all so much for reading!


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