Outside Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events, I would say that Daughters of the Moon was most definitely one of my favorite series as a child. Lady Geek Girl introduced me to it back in middle school, and once I started the first one, I didn’t look back. I blew through every book that had been released in a matter of days. It had everything I wanted—multiple female protagonists from different backgrounds, a narrative steeped in Greek mythology and magic, and there were a large number of books to keep me interested. So of course I loved it. And one of the things that I enjoyed most about the story was the price that came from having magical abilities and what growing older meant for the characters. However, the writing itself fell flat more than once, and that detracted from what was potentially a really great message.
Daughters of the Moon, written by Lynne Ewing, follows five girls as they navigate high school and find out that they are mortal goddesses, born to fight against an evil force called the Atrox and all its followers. Vanessa has the ability to separate the molecules in her body and become an invisible cloud that can fly, Catty can time travel, Serena reads minds, Jimena sees the future, and Tianna is telekinetic. Unfortunately, having magical abilities is not all fun and games—not only are their lives constantly in danger, they’ve all got a ticking clock hanging over their heads.
Once a goddess turns seventeen, she has to face a choice. She can either continue living out her life on Earth with neither her powers nor memories of having powers, or she can ascend and become something else, but no one really knows what. When I was twelve, seventeen seemed like a long ways off, but looking back, that’s really quite young, and it’s an awful decision. It’s a heavy weight hanging over all their heads and the source of a lot of apprehension, since none of them really know what it is they’re going to pick. Should they choose as a team and pick the same thing? Or should they go their separate ways and make their own decisions?
Daughters of the Moon is not a perfect series. As a child I could see numerous flaws in the writing, and looking back, I can see even more. I can only imagine how many problems I would have with these books if I revisited them as an adult. I would say that a big problem, though, comes from the worldbuilding itself. It’s not all that bad—I really enjoyed the worldbuilding throughout the series, but certain things could have had better explanations, and the decision all the girls have to make is one of them. The cutoff at seventeen is an interesting limit on its magic, but we don’t really know why it exists at all. There is nothing about the age of seventeen in either Ancient Greek culture or Greek mythology that this rule is drawn from—it’s simply something that the author added in. I’m not unhappy about its addition, since it adds so much to the story and the characters’ conflicts, but when the mechanics of how something works is an absolute mystery to literally every character, as an audience, we do kind of want an explanation at some point. Sadly, the explanation never comes.
Why do goddesses face this decision at all? Why at seventeen? What happens if they don’t make a choice? Indecision is something the books briefly touch on, but I don’t remember the explanation being anything more than “bad”. Catty, who lives with her adoptive mother, eventually meets her birth mother. And though her real mom is older than seventeen and still lives on Earth, we learn that she used to be a goddess as well, but she still has her memories. This is briefly explained by her joining the Atrox and becoming a dark goddess. But again, that just brings up so many more questions, and none of them are ever really answered (we also never learn if any of the other characters’ mothers used to be goddesses as well). This is all a shame, because looking back, this is a great limit to have the story put on its magic and a way to talk about the inevitability of growing older.
The choice the girls are faced with is an impossible decision—it’s completely life-altering in such a way that no one could possibly have an easy time making it. At one point in the series, Vanessa gets on Catty’s case for not keeping her grades up, which she needs for college, and Catty points out that neither or them know if they’ll ever be in college, and that they had planned to talk about their choices together. Knowing their options is actually painful, but while they all think that they have at least one year to figure out what they want, the first girl to turn seventeen, Jimena, doesn’t.
Jimena is our Latina character, and she is an undocumented immigrant. Her parents sent her over the border when she was an infant. However, had she been one year younger, she would have been born in the United States and granted citizenship—so her parents lied about her age. What Jimena thinks is her sixteenth birthday is actually her seventeenth, and she only finds out literally days, if not the day, beforehand. She doesn’t have time to sit down and think about what she wants, or even to tell her friends that this is happening now. The decision is thrust upon her without warning and she has to make her choice immediately. In the end, Jimena chooses to have her memories erased so she can continue living out her life and make a future for herself on Earth. The final chapters of that book are her celebrating her birthday while being normal—we see then that it’s not the end of the world to live without abilities, and she’s perfectly capable of being happy, since none of her goddess friends abandon her. They in turn, are both happy that she chose to stay, but also sad that the decision had to happen at all.
Sadly, although the others have longer to make their choices, things don’t quite work out the way they wanted them to. Tianna dies before her seventeenth birthday and never gets the chance to make a choice either way, and by the time Vanessa’s has rolled around, she’d been so busy fighting the Atrox that the date had managed to sneak up on her and she finds herself in the same position as Jimena.
Despite all the series’s problems, I really enjoyed the time limit it gave the characters. The decision is heavy, but not depressingly so. Turning seventeen irrevocably changes all their lives, and pre-decision, it’s very easy to see that the characters struggle with what’s going to happen and that to them it can sometimes feel like death. After all, their lives will never be the same. But it’s really just a new chapter for all of them—it’s part of growing up. If you have never read Daughters of the Moon, I would recommend it, but I would also be prepared to be disappointed or annoyed by the books multiple times, since they really could have been better. The books’ saving grace is an interesting cast bound by a unique set of rules. The decision the characters have to make when they turn seventeen was just one of many things that kept me going with the books—it was interesting, different, and I thought it was awesome to see the characters all struggle with something so important and inevitable.