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Book Review: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Publisher’s description

serious moonlightAfter 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, ApproximatelyMystery-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 most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Look, the two main characters, Birdie and Daniel, are adorable, flawed creatures who solve mysteries, eat pie, and fall for each other (with many bumps along that road). I feel like you can booktalk this to your students/patrons/customers with just that summary and watch it fly off the shelves.

 

Birdie spent her childhood being raised by her mother (who got pregnant at 17) and her mother’s best friend, Mona. But when her mother died, when Birdie was ten, she went to be raised and homeschooled by her grandparents. Now her grandmother has recently passed away and, left with her more lenient grandfather, Birdie is finally enjoying a little freedom. Freedom for Birdie means getting her first job (overnights at a historic hotel in downtown Seattle), being left home alone, swearing, and, oh yeah, meeting and sleeping with a cute boy and then immediately fleeing in mortification. That’s the “awkward first encounter” the publisher’s summary refers to! Birdie writes it off as a mistake, a very unlike her thing to do, and hopes to never see him again. Besides, he’s probably forgotten all about her, right? Well, surprise! She does see him, he hasn’t forgotten her, and now they’re coworkers!

 

The universe is funny like that.

 

Birdie loves mysteries and Daniel loves magic tricks. Both are keen observers. Daniel thinks fate brought them back together and Birdie chalks it up to random chance. While they try to figure out how to act around each other, or if they can even be friends, they decide to team up to try to solve a mystery in their very hotel. They also go on cute dates like live action Clue, reveal parts of their pasts to one another, hook up, and have lots of misunderstandings/hesitations to work through. Their relationship feels so honest and real and lovely. When Daniel eventually reveals a secret about his past, he worries it will drive Birdie away, and for her part, Birdie wonders if she’s strong enough to support him or if he’s just another person she’s bound to lose.

 

Birdie grows a lot over the course of the story. Both Birdie and Daniel are surrounded by loving, supportive characters—grandparents, Daniel’s mother, Birdie’s godmother Mona—who help them navigate not just life in general but specifically their relationship together. They learn a lot of new things together, about their relationship, yes, but also things like Birdie’s narcolepsy diagnosis and the reveal of one of Daniel’s secrets. They’re sweet, supportive, and encouraging of one another. They make mistakes, are awkward, and are insecure.

 

I enjoyed this book so much. Trust me, you won’t have to work hard to move this book off your shelves. That cover! A quick summary! Happy ending! Romance! Mystery! Pie! Recommend this one widely.

 

And now I want pie. 

 

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781534445284
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 04/16/2019

 

Book Review: Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature by Sashi Kaufman

Publisher’s description

wiredmanBen Wireman is partially deaf and completely insecure. The only two things that make him feel normal are being a soccer goalie and hanging out with his best friend, Tyler Nuson. Tyler is the golden boy, worshiped by girls and guys alike, and he no longer seems interested in Ben. Without Tyler, Ben isn’t sure who he is anymore, or if Tyler is really as “normal” as Ben thought he was. Maybe hanging out with freaks like Ilona Pierce, who has tattoos, blue hair, and almost no friends, is what he needs.

This captivating novel explores the shifting dynamics of friendships and complex art of growing up.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Ben and Tyler have been best friends since elementary school. Filipino Tyler is a super popular soccer play who’s increasingly acting like a jerky bro—hooking up with girls, drinking at parties, being obnoxious—and seems to be distancing himself from Ben. Or maybe from everyone. Partially deaf Ben is the goalie on the soccer team and pretty insecure about his hearing aids. He wears his hair long to try to hide them and is skilled in the “perfect art of projected normalcy.” Never mind that there’s obviously no such thing as “normal.” He doesn’t have a lot of friends. He’s close with his family and comfortable at home, and he’s not exactly excited to get cracking on those college applications. College means leaving home behind—and would it be super pathetic if he just followed Tyler to BU? Throughout the school year, Tyler’s behavior continues to change and worry Ben. He’s moody, seems secretive, is failing classes, and just isn’t himself. At one point, Ben witnesses Tyler having a total crying meltdown… but Tyler didn’t see him and Ben doesn’t want to push him to talk about something he obviously is keeping secret.

 

Besides, Ben has some other things going on. He hooks up a few times with a sophomore, Darcy. Then he gets paired  for a project with Ilona, a part-Japanese blue-haired weirdo who happily lets her freak flag fly and believes everyone else should do the same. Initially Ben is rather offended by her references to him as a “freak” until he starts to understand that being a freak, and being honest about what makes you a freak, is something Ilona values. They start to spend more time together and Ben grows to appreciate her “honest and peculiar take on things.” During this time, Tyler continues to fall apart, eventually broaching a conversation with Ben about sexuality and incidents from their past. He doesn’t tell Ben what really has him so bent out of shape, but eventually Ben puts the pieces together and encourages him to get some help.

 

There was so much that I enjoyed about this book that I can overlook the few things I felt were flaws (like Darcy just ghosting out of the story, or Ilona treading a little too close to being a total MPDG, or many small pieces of the plot feeling abandoned or unresolved). The writing is fantastic, the characters, for the most part, are really engaging and dynamic, and the dialogue is exactly how I best like it—abundant and with a biting edge. I like that not only is this a book that revolves around a close male friendship, but the characters really examine what that means—on its own, in comparison to their other relationships, and in light of what appears to be going on with Tyler. I wanted them to explore some of these issues deeper—maybe be more honest with each other, or something. While I enjoyed following the ways Ben changed and the uncertainties that come with senior year for him, I do also wish the story had been as equally weighted toward Tyler. Seeing only bits of his story through Ben’s eyes was, at times, frustrating, because we know there was so much more going on. Minor quibbles aside, I really dug this book and flew through it, partially because I truly had no idea where parts of the story would go. I’ve seen a few professional reviews compare this to books by Ron Koertge and Carrie Mesrobian—two of my favorites. Those are apt comparisons and should prepare readers for what they will get in this story: a complex look at teen characters who behave and sound like many actual teens. A smart and thoughtful look at friendship, insecurity, and uncertainty. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781467785631

Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group

Publication date: 09/01/2016