Munmun

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Munmun Book Poster Image
Wealth equals size in unique, laugh-out-loud satire.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Munmun uses a fantastical premise to make a point about modern-day capitalism. It satirizes common conceptions of race, class, and power and offers opportunities for discussion of economics.

Positive Messages

No one's worth as a human being should be measured by their wealth or their physical stature. Compassion and empathy are worth more than maintaining a high social status.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Warner cares deeply about what is left of his family, especially his sister, Prayer. Although he is often beaten in prison, he retains a measure of kindness. He works hard to educate himself, even though he meets with giant setbacks. He changes for the better over the course of the novel. 

Violence

Munmun has scenes of violence, but most are understated until the climax, when a character goes on a rampage and likely kills a person. To protect his sister from sexual assault, Warner shoots a gun at an apartment window. He's sent to prison, where he's often beaten.

Sex

Warner and his peers refer to sex as "banging," and have some modest experience with it, but no sexual acts are described. Warner has a crush on a local girl.

Language

Infrequent swearing (mostly "hell" and "damn," with one or two instances of "tits" and "dick") until the climax, where there are a half-dozen instances of "s--t" and "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Warner gets drunk with some friends one evening. Later, he becomes dependent on performance-enhancing drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Munmun is an edgy satire set in a world where how big you are is determined by how much money you have. Written by Jesse Andrews (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) it examines themes of race, wealth, and power. Main character Warner is "littlepoor," which means he's the size of a rat. Violence plays a role in the story -- Warner is beaten badly in prison and later goes on a rampage that likely kills at least one person. There's occasional talk of "banging," but no depiction of sexual activity. Strong language is not too frequent until the climax, and includes "hell," "damn," "s--t," and "f--k." Late in the novel, Warner becomes dependent on performance-enhancing drugs.

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What's the story?

As MUNMUN opens, young Warner is desperate to have his fragile family "scale up" and stop being the size of rats. After attempting to rescue his sister, Prayer, from a sexual assault, Warner spends a harsh year in jail, before being rescued by a family of philanthropists. They give him the opportunity to pursue an education, but Warner never seems to manage moving ahead. Able to enter other people's dreams, he develops a plan to overturn the system that keeps him and those he loves small, frightened, and powerless.

Is it any good?

Once in a while a book comes along that attempts something truly unique, and this funny, heartbreaking, and complex fantasy/sci-fi novel ably accomplishes the unexpected. With hints of Charles Dickens and Jonathan Swift, Munmun satirizes late-stage capitalism, finding a perfect metaphor for how money and politics shape the world. Author Jesse Andrews employs a slangy, run-on prose style that takes some getting used to, but once they have a handle on it, most readers will find the dialect enhances the tale. Smart, risk-taking, and hilarious, Munmun will appeal to readers who enjoy Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, or who are outraged by the current political climate.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Munmun uses satire to make its point. How can humor illuminate a topic that might otherwise be thought of as serious, complicated, or academic?

  • Munmun is written in a non-standard version of English. What effect does that choice have on the story? What are the challenges of using dialect?

  • How is violence used in Munmun? How does it affect those characters who cause or confront it? What other strategies might the characters employ to change things?

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