by Jenn Bennett
Serious Moonlight is a romance and a semi-mystery following Birdie, an eighteen year old with narcolepsy who starts working her first job at a hotel only to find her co-worker, Daniel Aoki, is the boy she had a one-night stand with several weeks before. Throw in an investigation into the identity of a man at the hotel who may be a world-renown murder mystery writer, and a really adorable romance, and you’ve got this book!
I’m going to start with the positives. For one, I loved the focus on family. Jenn Bennett always writes such interesting family dynamics, and this one focuses more on single-mothers and loss of a parent, as well as the complicated relationships both Birdie and Daniel have with protective families. I do wish there was more of the granddad, though; it feels more like we’re told Birdie is like her granddad rather than shown, and it feels like he’s sort of conveniently sent away just over halfway through the book so drama can happen rather than it feeling natural.
The romance was certainly cute, but at the same time, I just wasn’t that attached. The chemistry was there, I just couldn’t bring myself to feel anything other than ‘they sure do like each other’. The Clue date was great, and I really like that Bennett tackles difficult topics- content warning will be at the end of the review. I like how genuine the anxiety feels in this relationship, especially concerning each other’s health and the influence they’ll have entering into a relationship. They have a lot of discussions about what a relationship might look like between them, and it always felt grounded in reality.
My biggest issue, other than the cop-out ending for the mystery that I kind of was ‘meh’ about, is the epilogue. It’s the kind of epilogue where everything feels semi-rushed and underdeveloped several months after the previous chapter, wrapped up with a neat little bow. It’s a trope that you actually see a lot in adult romance, you know, where it’s several years down the line and our main character is either heavily pregnant or has several children, and the main man has a great job and everything is just perfect. I honestly kind of hate the way endings like this are written. Really, the only epilogues I ever enjoy are The Diviners-esque ones where it hints at the villain of the next book, and I just… don’t think epilogues should be needed anymore. Leave something to the reader’s imagination, you know?
This was an OK book. It ended and I was like… yeah! That was certainly a book I read! And I feel bad about that, but oh well. I enjoyed myself, and I’ll probably pick up Bennett’s next book.
Content warning: Suicide attempt, depression, recreational drug use, health issues, discussions of miscarriage, loss of a parent
The Unexpected Everything
by Morgan Matson
Me, trying to care about any character besides Toby in this book: oh wow i sure…. do…. know about this person
Yeah. I really didn’t like this. Our main character, Andie, loses her internship after her dad- a politician- is embroiled in a scandal (I can’t even remember what the scandal was) and ends up having to take on a dog walking job.
First, positive: great friendship conflicts. It doesn’t have a happy resolution, and that’s probably the best part of this. I was fist pumping that a certain character refused to forgive others, because honestly? They didn’t deserve it. Every character was a mess, and I’m glad they’ve got out of that friend group.
The romance is mediocre. Sorry. And this should have been at least 100 pages shorter. There was absolutely no need at all to have 500 pages in this book, especially considering nothing really happens at all until 100 pages before the end. All I remember is the last 100 pages. Everything before is a nightmare of stuff I didn’t care about.
There’s this moment where Clark is described as being absolutely ripped (sorry, I’m paraphrasing) despite the fact that he is never said to ever leave the house or exercise. He’s this perfect white nerd boy who’s hot and everyone knows it, and it’s just? You know…. you can write a cute chubby nerd boy…. he doesn’t have to have abs. I wouldn’t mention this if it wasn’t like this in pretty much every Matson book I’ve read, and a lot of the other YA romances I read, too.
I’m sorry if this is overly negative, this just really let me down. It felt so weak, especially considering how fondly I remember her previous books, and I don’t think I’ll read anything else she does now.
The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried
by Shaun David Hutchinson
Dino isn’t on talking terms with his best friend when she dies from a brain aneurysm. He’s still not on good terms with her when she rises from the dead in his parent’s funeral home, and they have to confront why people suddenly can’t die, and why their friendship fell apart.
This is… very good. My thoughts are still very jumbled, but just know that the audiobook is great: it’s a dual narration by two different people, and they capture the voices of the characters so well.
What I love so much about this is how realistically it approaches the conflict. Friendships can break down and fall apart, and it can be down to your own anxieties and self-esteem that it happens. These two characters bring out bad sides of each other, and they have to reconcile with that, and I really like that Hutchinson never tries to make you like them: they just are. I know how unpleasant I get during conflicts, and it exposes that part of yourself you deny exists.
June, especially, made me sad. A lot of Dino’s worries are things that he has time to face: June’s dead, and you feel like time is against her the entire book as she tries to fix things she couldn’t in life. Imagine having to accept that you’re dead, but you also have to fix everything that went wrong in your closest friendship while also not being able to indicate to anyone else you’re alive, especially your family, because it would traumatise them? Yup. That’s June’s deal. You feel June’s loss and the want to live, but knowing she’s not going to be able to.
This also has a great discussion on allyship. June gets ripped to absolute shreds- it’s that scene that prompted me to listen to this book in the first place- and it’s so satisfying. It makes me want to shove this book at everyone who goes ‘I have so and so as a friend and they don’t find what I said offensive’. There’s also a lot on identity and empathy, and I just…. really adore the representation and family in this. It’s so great. It basically yells at you to stop projecting and fix things that matter. TALK TO PEOPLE!
‘So if it’s not important to you, it doesn’t matter?’
This is a very impressive, thought provoking and emotional read, but still has great moments of humour and a wonderful broken friendship at the centre of it all. I highly recommend the audiobook!
Content warning: suicide discussion, death, graphic violence, descriptions of rotting
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