Thursday, August 2, 2018

Review: Munmun by Jesse Andrews

Munmun by Jesse Andrews
Harry N. Abrams, 2018
Hardcover. 416 pages.

About the book:
"In an alternate reality a lot like our world, every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth. The poorest of the poor are the size of rats, and billionaires are the size of skyscrapers. 

Warner and his sister Prayer are destitute—and tiny. Their size is not just demeaning, but dangerous: day and night they face mortal dangers that bigger richer people don’t ever have to think about, from being mauled by cats to their house getting stepped on. There are no cars or phones built small enough for them, or schools or hospitals, for that matter—there’s no point, when no one that little has any purchasing power, and when salaried doctors and teachers would never fit in buildings so small. Warner and Prayer know their only hope is to scale up, but how can two littlepoors survive in a world built against them?"

This is a strange story. It's hard for me to write a review for this book simply because of how odd it is and how unable I feel to really do it the justice it deserves, but I'm going to do my best. 

Munmun is a ridiculously inventive novel that is at times confusing, but still always impossible to put down. The story is told by the protagonist Warner himself, which makes the writing style a bit odd at times since he grew up as a littlepoor and therefore did not have excess to good education, thus resulting in a lack of strong writing skills compared to those with more privilege. Certain words or phrases in the narration are smashed together (such as 'ofcourse' or 'notsogood') and the wording of things is a bit confusing, but it's easy to catch on and get immersed in that unique style.

In regards to characters, there is quite an eclectic and diverse group. As mentioned, Warner is our main protagonist and his main goal in life is to scale up, be successful, and make sure his sister and mother are also both able to scale up and live better lives. Unfortunately, since he was born a littlepoor--the lowest of all statuses--he doesn't have many great opportunities. Warner is such a determined person who has a lot of strength and willpower to keep going. He goes through some extremely difficult and dark times that come really close to breaking him at times, but he tends to usually find something to pick himself back up one way or another--even if it's not the best choice. Prayer, Warner's sister, is depicted as someone that doesn't have an overly distinct personality, but she is definitely a people-pleaser and works hard no matter what. There are a variety of other characters that we meet from so many different walks of life and so many different personalities, from bullies to ignorant privileged people to regular kids just having fun, and so many more. It was really fun to explore all the different characters in this book.

I was particularly impressed by how well Andrews conveyed the struggles of class issues and the economic issues that occur as a result of those systems. For instance, at one point Warner is placed in a 'middlerich' school, but he is so far behind because he never had good access to education that he practically fails out and can't keep up. As a result, he transfers to a 'middlepoor' school, which has much more limited opportunities and is not as 'good' as the middlerich school, thus placing him at an immediate disadvantage no matter how successful he is there. There are so many issues similar to this one that Andrews portrays so well and captures in ways that make it obvious just how unjust certain privilege and class systems really are.

This book also got a lot darker than I expected. I assumed that this was going to be a somewhat fun book that would have its share of struggles and adventures, but I had no idea that it would get as real and depressing as it did. This really just made the book feel even more compelling and I started to enter that feeling where I truly had no idea what was going to happen or if this book would even end up with a good ending or not. I don't love books just because they are dark, but when they are crafted in a way that creates a terrifyingly authentic and viable spiral of ups and downs in life, I can't help but be engaged and impressed by the story. The themes explored are so relevant and interesting. I felt that Warner's growing frustrating with the entire system was the most relatable and important theme to stick with, and I think this particular quote from the book sums up a large part of it very well: "The world is sick, the world is sad. If I don't smash some bigs, then no one will." 

Overall, I've given Munmun four stars. I'm sort of teetering on giving it four-and-a-half stars, but I'm just leaving it there for now and may go back and change it later. If you like weird stories with a variety of unexpected twists and turns, then definitely go give Munmun a shot!

Content warning: There is a brief portion that deals with a form of sexual assault, but it's not overly explicit and isn't a huge portion of the book.


  1. Wow, thanks for the review! I love books that are insanely creative like this. And this sounds like a great read.

  2. This is the first review I've read of this book, and I'm intrigued! I do love books that use language in different ways, so I'm sure I'd love that aspect.

  3. This sounds like a really unique book! It sounds like the author really did some great world-building!