An Arrow to the Moon
By Mary Eisenhart,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Chinese myth and star-crossed lovers mix in magical fantasy.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
An Arrow to the Moon echoes the tale from Chinese mythology about the moon goddess Chang'E; her companion, a jade rabbit; skilled archer Hou Yi; and an elixir of immortality -- a story with many versions and variations, with many heroic, world-saving deeds, but not one that ends happily. Also important to the story is the excavation in 1974 of the now-famous terra-cotta warriors in China (and the flurry of smuggling that ensued). As this version is set in a college town in the U.S. of the '90s, there's period detail (like academic papers being typed on a typewriter), and examination of the fact that some people consider themselves Taiwanese, while others, often among family and friends, insist that Taiwan is just part of China and there is no Taiwanese culture or identity -- an issue that endures today.
It can be a struggle to realize your true destiny amid overwhelming forces, restore the balance of the universe -- or just do right by your loved ones. And often a terrible price to be paid.
Positive Role Models
Raised in a dysfunctional family with dark secrets and poverty, Hunter is loving, tender, and protective of his younger brother, Cody -- the only reason he hasn't left home a long time ago. Luna's family seems a lot more perfect; she and her parents love one another, but despite being a straight-A student and dutiful daughter, she's starting to question the future laid out for her. Cody loves Hunter and his pet rabbit, and develops his own connection with magic. It's gradually revealed that all the adult characters are deeply flawed. One man's impulsive theft has dragged his family into a lifetime on the lam, while in another family, secret infidelity threatens to unravel a "perfect" marriage. One character is a murderous gangster.
All the characters are ethnically Chinese and come from Taiwan, but it soon becomes clear that some of them see Taiwan as a nation and themselves as Taiwanese, while others insist that Taiwan's just a rogue province of China and everyone there is Chinese. Many Taiwanese words and phrases come up in the story, usually without translations. Characters discuss the racial prejudice they experience as Asians, such as being told to "go back to China" when they were born in San Francisco.
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Violence & Scariness
A gangster character is seen terrifying a captive with a knife and threatening him with torture; he later kidnaps teen characters and threaten to kill them. Archery, in mythology and in modern times, is important to the plot. In the past, a young man is forced into gangster life in payment for his father's debt, and now can't wait to seize a teen whose dad stole from him. There are a lot of perils in the story, some of mysterious origin, like the growing networks of cracks in the earth's surface, one of which costs a character his life. In mythology, an archer shoots nine suns out of the sky when they threaten to burn the earth; in the '90s, a teen archer's skilled shot saves a child's life. From the tale of moon goddess Chang'E and archer Hou Yi to the underlying family hatreds evoking Romeo and Juliet, there's a strong sense of characters being swept along by forces beyond their control to unhappy fates.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A teen couple meets during a party game of Seven Minutes in Heaven, though nothing other than emotional connection -- and possibly magic -- happens in those seven minutes. Strong attraction and hot, prolonged kissing (real and imagined) between two teen characters happen later. A couple of intense sex scenes between teens -- with condoms stolen from the girl's mom. A teen character unintentionally walks in on her naked mom having oral sex with a naked guy who's not her dad -- the beginning of a long unraveling of everything she thinks is true in her life. Seen through characters' eyes, the scenes are not graphically described but there's enough detail to leave no doubt what's going on. Menstrual cramps cause a lot of misery.
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Multiple "s--t," "f--k," "ass," "pissed."
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Products & Purchases
Discussion of Disney magic, and how the world seems not to work that way. Occasional scene-setting product mentions, such as Walkman.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Smell of tobacco and possibly pot smoke in the air at a teen party, sticking to the clothes of those who sneak off to attend.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Emily X.R. Pan's An Arrow to the Moon takes its title from the tale of Chang'E, moon goddess of Chinese myth; her lover, the skilled archer Hou Yi; and the forces that separate them for all eternity. In the late 20th century, myth and magic overlap and intertwine with the love story of two Taiwanese American teens from families who hate each other, for reasons involving a mysterious object, an ill-advised theft from a tong, cutthroat competition for academic jobs, and Chinese politics. The veil between the cosmic and '90s college-town life parts in unexpected ways as Luna and Hunter try to find their way and save their love in an out-of-control world that makes little sense. Along the way there's some intense kissing, hot teen sex, and a teen walking in on her mom having oral sex with a strange man -- not graphic, but there's no doubt what's happening. Occasional strong language ("s--t," "f--k," "ass," "piss"). Also some discussion of Taiwanese national identity.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
AN ARROW TO THE MOON combines magical realism and Chinese mythology with the romance of two Taiwanese American teens living their own version of Romeo and Juliet. When it comes to deep, vicious hatred, the Montagues and the Capulets have nothing on the Yees and the Changs, two college-town clans whose dads are bitter academic rivals, and that's just the beginning of the conniving, backstabbing, thievery, and family dysfunction. Luna Chang (straight-A student) and Hunter Yee (repeat troublemaker recently expelled from prep school), are now high school seniors. They live in the same town but have never met -- until an unlikely magic-tinged moment in a Seven Minutes in Heaven session brings them together and their lives change forever. All over town, cracks in the earth suddenly emerge, and as the teens' love grows, so does the upheaval -- cosmic and domestic. Archeology, a mysterious rock, a pet rabbit with unsuspected powers, a gangster with evil intentions, and the Chinese myth of star-crossed lovers Chang'E, who became the moon goddess, and the archer Hou Yi, all play a role as magic and modern life collide.
Is It Any Good?
Myth, magic, and adults behaving badly come together in Emily X.R Pan's evocative tale of star-crossed teen love amid disturbances in the universe. An Arrow to the Moon finds high-school seniors falling hard for each other, grappling with forces they don't control, and worrying about the future -- all of which seems somehow tied up with an ill-fated love story involving a Chinese moon goddess and an elixir of eternal life. Readers may find themselves as confused and overwhelmed as the protagonists here and there, but amid the gangsters and cosmic upheaval, there are lots of thrills, and also relatable moments, as here, as Luna feels a sense of disconnect from the "perfect" future her loving parents have all worked out for her:
"She worked hard at everything she did, of course. She was 'meticulous and high achieving,' as her teachers wrote in the comments section of her report card beneath the column of As.
"Really, she wanted ... something different. She wanted to be the type of person who took charge of her own life and went off on epic journeys. Someone who did daring, unexpected things. Why couldn't some mage appear, like in the fantasy stories -- a sorcerer summoning her to become her true self?"
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about stories that adapt ancient myths and other magical tales to characters and settings in our world, like An Arrow to the Moon, Why do you think this premise is so popular -- and what stories do you think handle it really well? Do you think seeing contemporary people and their issues through the lens of ancient lore gives you a different insight into their lives?
In the story, when a character can't resist the urge to steal an intriguing object, it brings a lifetime of misery and fear to his family. What other stories do you know where a sudden impulsive decision -- good or bad -- makes a life-changing difference? Has this ever happened in your own life?
Luna and Hunter, both U.S.-born, talk about the racism they've experienced, like being told to "go back to China." Do you see this kind of thing happening among the people you know? How do you feel, and do you think there's a good way to respond to this?
- Author: Emily X. R. Pan
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, High School
- Character Strengths: Courage, Curiosity, Empathy
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little Brown and Company
- Publication date: April 12, 2022
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 1, 2022
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Where to Read
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