Review: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

I’m not really sure what drew me to this book, whether it was the cover itself or the synopsis, or how a lot of people seemed to enjoy it and how it was a Goodreads Award finalist. It could’ve been all of those things together. But I needed a quick contemporary read to fill some kind of void I had and it did its job pretty well. The story itself wasn’t really anything out of the ordinary in my opinion but there were some surprises here and there. I liked some things, I disliked other things, but at the very least this book is absolutely readable and I think with so many unreadable books I’ve come across in the past couple years, that’s a pretty big victory.

The thing that bothered me the most about this book is probably the writing. I’ve never read anything by Jenn Bennett before but have seen her name floating around here and there, but there’s this quality to her writing that doesn’t really make me want to read more of her, especially if this is her latest release because then that means her earlier works are of the same writing style, if not slightly lesser. One thing that used to bother me about reading contemporary was how little the authors cared about creating their prose or how they had to get from one scene to another so quickly to jam their whole story into a 350 page book. That was what this book felt like to me. There was so much time lost because we went from one scene or thought to another in merely a sentence and it felt like we couldn’t really get a flushed out story. This kind of writing is probably most prominent whenever there was dialogue, where it would just be quote after quote with some “he said” or “she said” here and there, or even the sex scenes for Birdie and Daniel where again it was prominently dialogue and nothing to describe what was really happening or who was where doing what. I know, I know, this is YA so most of the time sex scenes are in fade to black fashion, but this felt more like an Upper YA book, especially given how Birdie and Daniel started, and Bennett didn’t take her time all that much really think about how to write the scenes. It was just so odd to see scenes like that written so quickly and thoughtlessly, almost as if Bennett wanted her characters to have sex but didn’t want to be the one to write it. Her writing was deep and thoughtful at certain times and then quick and mindless at other times, and it prevented you from not only enjoying the whole story but really getting a feel for the whole story, I guess. Again, it was fine writing for contemporary but it’s one of my least favourite kind of writing.

I enjoyed that there was a message in this book of both accepting who you are and not letting various factors and elements define who you are or who you should be. For Birdie that was, I guess, not letting her mother’s past mistakes impact who she should be, whether it was by her own decisions or that of her grandmother’s, and for Daniel it wasn’t letting his hearing loss or suicide attempt being the one thing he’s known for. These were things that these two characters needed to grow from and become the person they most want to be. I thought it was good to explore a character like Daniel that suffered from depression and how he appeared to be the happiest person ever yet still had his demons, and how that’s a pretty accurate depiction of anyone suffering. I thought the way he handled telling Birdie about it and giving her the choice of whether or not she can handle being with someone like him, deciding whether she was strong enough to be strong for him as well, was very well done. It was a good angle for this relationship and his character and I thought it was a good choice. I didn’t quite understand why Birdie was given narcolepsy, mostly because I thought it wasn’t real whenever I’d hear about it in other media, but apparently it is and it was a relatively odd medical condition to give a character in a YA book, but I think it worked with the story. I still don’t understand it, but I guess it was given a good spotlight here?

The romance was fine, I suppose, and I felt like Birdie and Daniel had a good dynamic, but these two fell in love far too fast for my own liking but I think part of feeling like that is because Bennett literally had no concrete timeline here because she jumped around so fast. I also think that Daniel could be too pushy with Birdie sometimes, and Birdie was too withholding other times, and it was one of those things where if they just talked to one another things would be fine. But I liked how easily they picked up on what the other liked and how they felt, and thought it was sweet that Daniel took her on a Clue-type date. They worked well together, but still had their issues, so it wasn’t perfect.

I think a lot of this book could’ve been done in a better way if there was more thought and effort put to the writing because if certain plot parts were more flushed out then the characters would also be more flushed out, and scenes would make more sense, and the story would turn out more fulfilling. I think this is still a good YA contemporary, but if you’re gonna write an Upper YA you need to have the writing to match. The tone and style was too young for the story that was trying to be told. This is a book with its goods and bads, but it’s not absolutely terrible. It also emphasizes the importance of a found family, so that alone can make this book worth it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
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Hardcover, 426 pages
Published April 16th 2019 by Simon Pulse

Book Synopsis

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

Goodreads | Indigo | Amazon

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