"The book is just SO alive and, with every new paragraph, I’m filled with wonder by it’s wacky and utterly unique descriptions. I also love that the book is very much Hansel-And-Gretel-esque, with its Grimm-like narrative, I adore that underneath the adventure and positive neurodiverse representation, there are very pressing messages about climate change and what we are doing to our bodies by binging on the artificial."
JAMES SINCLAIR - Autistic and Unapologetic
"Moojag and the Auticode Secret is a spunky and exuberant celebration of the power of neurodivergent creativity and community, while delivering sobering cautionary messages about our collective future that could not be more timely."
STEVE SILBERMAN - NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
"Moojag is a fun science fiction tale that has a serious message about people who are different. And it has a surprise ending that will really make you think." TEMPLE GRANDIN - Thinking in Pictures, The Autistic Brain
“Quite simply magical. A journey like no other, this story gives the autism community the positive representation they deserve... This book will change lives.” ELIZABETH WRIGHT - Disabilty Review Mag, Conscious Being
CHRIS RASCHKA *****
BEATRIX LIVESEY STEVENS UK SEPT/20 *****
Free copy in exchange for an honest review
MOOJAG and the Auticode Secret is a children’s book, but to me it felt like a children’s book that adults were meant to read. The refreshing setting of a post-apocalyptic world without immediate danger allowed for the representation of autism and neurodivergence in a way I had never seen before. It encourages neurodivergent children to embrace their identity, without ever being patronising. MOOJAG’s setting and context as “climate fiction,” while childlike and fun, is crucial to the plot’s work of framing the message that neurodiversity should be more than simply accommodated – it should be celebrated.
The book’s narrative of what it’s like to live as a neurodivergent child is accessible, but deeply profound. Much of this is because the story is so plot-driven. Instead of trying to educate the reader, it gives unparalleled insight into neurodivergent joy and struggle. This is a book for autistic children and adults alike to see themselves in and feel powerful. MOOJAG discusses sensitive topics such as the ableism and discrimination that neurodivergent people face, but this is never underplayed or overly hardhitting. I was really happy to see that neurotypes other than autism, such as ADHD, were considered, since they are often side-lined in media.
The characters have real agency that is never in spite of their neurodivergence, rather it is undoubtedly shaped by it, and is integral to the characters’ way of being. Every character recognises this and empowers their peers through it, even if those peers might struggle more. They are united in their quest to navigate an ableist world that wants them to feel broken. While autism and neurodivergence were absolutely the centre of the book, the characters were developed far beyond mainstream stereotypes of autism. Mainstream autistic fiction is oversaturated with older male savants, but in MOOJAG, the portrayal of a young autistic female main character is perfect. I don’t think representation this good could ever be seen outside of an own-voice perspective like Nema’s, and I’m confident that MOOJAG will pave the way for the neurodivergent representation we need and deserve.
SARAH BAUER USA AUG/20 *****
I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Book Theme Song: I Am The Walrus by The Beatles
A wonderfully weird and whimsical story, but one with a grounded message that will resonate with neurodivergent readers.
The reader is first introduced to the Real World, where everyone wears a technologically-advanced jumpsuit that assists them with everyday life. Despite this, they live close to nature, spending lots of time outside and eating food they grow themselves.
However, this idyllic life is quickly thrown off kilter by the arrival of a stranger called Moojag. The three protagonists, Nema, Izzy, and Adam, discover the existence of a candy-coated underground world ruled by the villainous Conquips. Neurodivergent and disabled people are kept prisoner in this underworld and only Nema, Izzy, and Adam can free them and save their home.
I love that candy is such a sinister force in this story. It's a stark contrast to most fairy tales, save for Hansel and Gretel. And it makes sense. When fairy tales were first being written, most people did not have access to highly processed food. Now it's reversed: most people eat a large amount of highly processed food and rarely get the chance to eat anything natural.
Each character has a strong defining trait but is also multifaceted, and all are charming. The exception is the villains who I could not tell apart from one another, but it seems like the system is the villain moreso than the individuals, so it makes sense that they would blend together.
The villains are actually way more brutal than I expected. I appreciated this because that kind of bullying is something many autistic people will have experienced and will relate to, but it can also be upsetting for that reason. However, there's another aspect of the story that helps keep things from getting too dark. The main characters don't think twice about accommodating each other and the people they meet. Rarely is anyone short-tempered or frustrated. If someone is distracted they're gently nudged in the right direction. If someone is overwhelmed they're given time to calm down before being asked to speak. People meet each other halfway and try to speak in a way that everyone can understand. These aren't just one-off moments. They happen consistently. This should happen more often outside of fiction, and this book sets a great example.
I'd recommend this book to neurodivergent people of any age and their families. It's a fun, thought-provoking read.
DAVID SORIANO AUS NOV/20 *****
I was provided with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Whilst promoted and intended to be a middle-grade/youth text, I implore readers of all ages to delve into this immensely imaginative realm crafted by debut author N.E McMorran. This own-voice text shines through its celebration of neurodivergent children -- particularly children within the spectrum, presenting a message of encouragement for neurodivergent readers and a call for empathy and understanding for neurotypical readers like myself.
With the main complication surrounding an underworld that suppresses and exploits the voices of disabled children, McMorran utilises this narrative to draw attention to a number of innate flaws within our contemporary society. This includes ableism and the lack of accomodation for neurodivergence in everyday spaces; the exponentially rising threat of climate change; the exploitation of individuals by capitalist industries and realms, amongst numerous other extremely relevant topics. The honest representation of these social issues within this book can emerge many meaningful discussions between the reader and those around them, regardless of whether they have read the text as well or not. For example, parents reading this novel with their children can create the opportunity for them to shed light and explore further on how our society marginalises, and, more truthfully, fails a variety of people within our society, such as neurodivergent people, equipping the next generation with early insight on injustice.
As a neurotypical non-autistic reader myself, this text invited me to learn more about what life is like for autistic children explored within such a vivid, futuristic, and captivating setting. The main set of characters have their own unique traits and personalities that draw you to want to learn more about them, cheering for them to thrive, flourish, and overcome adversity as the text progresses. I want to emphasise the strength of how author N.E McMorran utilises her own perspective and experiences of growing up within this novel to empower neurodivergent youth. With this text, the author breaks through stereotypical, one-dimensional stereotypes and notions of people on the spectrum to create a narrative that seeks real representations of real people and real, real, experiences. I hope that this novel creates a spark of more diverse and authentic representation alongside own-voices expression, and, in particular, I hope that this isn't the last we'll see from such a brilliant author.
CATALINA GUTIERREZ UK JUL/20 *****
A strange, fun book that offers a look into a neurodivergent perspective in an absurd yet immersive way. While it is aimed at a younger audience, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it: its weirdness has its own logic to it that makes the world seem surprisingly real, and the characters are fun and - reading as an autistic person - relatable. If you or your child are a fan of out-there stories, then I can't recommend this enough.
NOLY - THE ARTSY READER - BBNYA panellist OCT/20 *****
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!). You can also read my review over on my blog! https://theartsyreader.com/book-revie...
MICHELLE SAULKS SEPT/20 *****
This is by far one of the most unique and imaginative books I've read in a long time, massive Alice in Wonderland vibes with a sprinkling of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I absolutely loved it. It's great to read a book with authentic autistic characters, as opposed the same tired old stereotypes usually found in fiction. The understated humour in this book is fantastic, the author really is so skilled at writing nuanced, diverse characters and the sci-fi element to the story is so vivid and creative. Moojag and the Auticode Secret may well be a children's book, but I can see this story becoming a cult hit with adults.
Set in a post apocalyptic Britain; the Surrey Isles aka the Real World, in the year 2054, where neurodivergents live in harmony with nature. Here we are introduced to the three main characters, Nema, Izzy and Adam, who upon meeting a strange and mysterious character named Moojag, find themselves thrust ("thrust!" - Izzy) into the sinister, sticky-sugary, Wonka-esque underground world ruled by the 'Conquips' - evil villains holding autistic and disabled teens prisoner, conditioning them to believe they're not good enough, that they're less than whilst using them; their intelligence and skills to overthrow and destroy the peaceful and egalitarian Real World. Can Nema and her friends reverse the Auticode to find the truth about her missing brother and free the missing children without becoming trapped forever in the creepy, sticky underworld themselves?
Thank you so much, N.E. McMorran for gifting me a copy of Moojag and the Auticode Secret.
LAURA VAN LOO OCT/20 *****
I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.
And I must say that I don't regret. It's a really fun, fast paced book. And most important: it has the best autism representation that I've ever seen. It's so nice to finally read something where autism is represented well and to read something where autism is seen as something positive is such a relief. The small autistic jokes made me giggle and I could connect with the main characters. There is also info about autism integrated into the story and some difficult words are also explained which made this book not only fun but also educational. The only bad things I can think about is that it was so fast paced that it was sometimes hard for me to follow, but that is more of a personal issue than a problem. And it is written in present tense which I know some people don't like but it didn't bother me at all. I'm very happy that I got to read this book and I think I'll reread it many times. I will recommend it to my friends as well.
ANNA BADOPOULOU UK NOV/20 *****
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Moojag and the Auticode Secret is a lovely book, whimsical, gentle fantasy full of humour, kindness and hope. For myself, I loved the diversity and especially how sensitively and accurately autistic characters were portrayed. The author is also neurodiverse, and it shows, as the characters are so well-fleshed they practically jump out of the page! My (autistic) son also loved the book, and especially enjoyed the quirky humour and wordplay running through it. But don’t be mistaken, even though the story is funny, and hopeful, and really uplifting, there are some quite dark undertones there - Moojag and the Auticode reminded me of Ronald Dahl’s books. I really enjoyed this fast-paced read, and I would happily recommend it.
LANDICE ‘Manic Femme Reviews’ USA NOV/20 *****
Thanks to the author for sending me an ARC all the way from Europe! All opinions my own!
This wonderfully weird middle grade cli-fi (climate fiction) adventure is a celebration of neurodiversity with an ever deeper message tied in. I don't read middle grade usually, but this was so much fun. I'd highly recommend it for both autistic & neurotypical kids, to learn more about neurodiversity!
CHRIS LAW UK parent SEPT/20 *****
Have a child with Autism (13yr) who loves reading with support. We thoroughly enjoyed reading this excellent book for children and no doubt for adults too! Already my son is re-reading it on his own such was the great story that the book narrates. An absolute unput downable book making you want to know what's going to happen next with amazing characters and with a sound ethical and views to accept everyone in society as how it should really be. My son thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the story. And was engrossed in the search for Nema's brother. Even he understood the meaning of the book of accepting others, and how, even though we may be different. Doesn't mean we can't all live together and share the world together. Fully recommend this book for children and adults too.
“One of the most powerful strengths of this story is how eloquently and accessibly it describes the experience of being neurodivergent. A few times I was stopped in my tracks as I read, and had to go back and just enjoy the lines over again. The author is very, very good at using her characters’ experiences to show what ND life is like, and in a way that’s not only accurate but easy for a neurotypical reader to understand... An important story that will absolutely be worth all the effort to the kids who pick it up.”
SONNET FITZGERALD - Moojag's developmental editor
“Yes, this is a really great book. I have never seen or conceived of a world that would genuinely accommodate and appreciate us, and this book does that. It hints at how it might look, and that hope alone is something I never dared THINK to hope before.”
Monica - autistic writer, beta reader
“I’ve been really struggling to find a way to communicate with my boys... The nice thing is that my older boys are using the 'skin' from your book in their conversation and games a lot! They keep remembering it in situations they don't feel comfortable or feel like being in different place/situation. I noticed that they express their wish to own such a 'skin', not for material reasons but for protecting their emotions and feelings.”
Mother to 3 children, aged 7-12
“I love the concept and would have loved this as a kid.” Laura - autistic writer, sensitivity editor
“I really enjoyed how the story flows with the mystery of the plot along with the world itself (I'm a big techie and appreciate the biologically inspired skins, very evolutionary). A fun adventure.”
Josh - writer, beta reader, tech student
“Unique and clever... Endearing style... Sense of place is strong and the characters are interesting.”
Steven Yudewitz - author, beta reader
“Ohhh man! The scene with the Conqips insulting everyone, and then the Auts owning those words---ughhh, that hurts and feels too real, especially I'm sure, to late diagnosees who probably believed all those same words. Heart-wrenching! Lots of autie facts slipped in, unsuspecting to many who don't know what to look for, but obvious to anyone autistic-who would immediately identify with it. Wow, to have a book like this when I was a kid... I can't imagine reading a book and recognizing people like ME!”
M.Z. - autistic teacher
“This book has a whimsical nature to it - a mix between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the science fiction elements of Ready Player One or a Wrinkle in Time. I really like Moojag, and love Nema's flightiness - she's distracted by simple things, but puts value in the things that draw her attention, innocent... A great story and extensive world building... I love the setting and the fairy tale type feeling... The author puts in comedic pauses, which is great, especially if you're trying to illicit middleschooler smiles ...it takes a special kind of person to entertain youth... excellent story.”
Joseph Howe - author, beta reader.
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