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By George Crowder

One of the examples I give to my fundamentalist Christian friends about the cruelty of the Old Testament God is the story of Job.  For a mere wager, God allowed Satan to abuse the fervent believer with cruelty after cruelty—all for the sake of putting Job’s faith to the test.

Fifteen-year-old Moon Landing isn’t the puppet Job is, mainly because he doesn’t rely on faith to get him through brutalizing circumstances; instead he dares to question whether God isn’t as cruel as Satan.  The familiar, frustrating cry–reaching its peak moment when Nazi concentration camp prisoners practically screamed to sky about “how God could allow this to happen”– is voiced by Moon.

Moon Landing has to contend with the rite of passage that is puberty; suddenly the dread acne dots his face; and his libido goes into the triple digits—which results in a pitched battle between his shyness with girls and at the same his “need” for them.  And there is suddenly a marked hostility toward them from mothers, and especially the fathers of daughters.

Much is made of girls going through puberty, and how they don’t always feel comfortable in their “own skin.”  But it is relatively brief and the transformation is such that freshman girls get asked out on dates by high school seniors. Meanwhile, 15-year-olds like Moon, too young to drive, get all the pitfalls of being a male teenager, with none of the so-called “benefits.”

Added to this sexual frustration is that Moon has to deal with his parents’ crumbling marriage.  No matter how hard parents try, the arguments can’t be hidden from the children; and the “security” of living in a two-parent household disappears.  Moon, with no driver’s license, can’t leave the toxic house whenever he feels like it but has to hole up in his room.

Moon, like many teenagers, with or without their parents’ inevitable divorce, goes inward; but it isn’t the usual route of slapping on the headphones and blasting music into their ears to block out their parents’ fights. Instead, Moon goes on a Holden Caufield/Woody Allen-like quest, trying to make sense of why a supposedly loving God is so brutal toward his creations.

Crowder has a poetic gift of being both lyrical (his descriptions of California almost rival Raymond Chandler’s) and making every word count.  He is equally good on machine gun-like dialogue. The book is well worth the read.