Serious Moonlight // A Brilliant Book Which Reminded Why I Love YA

29 April 2019

Serious Moonlight – Jenn Bennett
Published: 16th May 2019 (UK paperback)
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
My Rating:
From award-winning Jenn Bennett comes a swoon-worthy story with a compelling mystery at its heart

Raised in isolation and home-schooled by her strict grandparents, the only experience Birdie has had of the outside world is through her favourite crime books. But everything changes when she takes a summer job working the night shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

There she meets Daniel Aoki, the hotel’s charismatic driver, and together they stumble upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—is secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell, and in doing so, realize that the most confounding mystery of all may just be her growing feelings for Daniel.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I’ve dithered over this review for several days, maybe even a week. I just couldn’t figure out how to explain my love for it whilst balancing out with… not complaints, but maybe niggling moments that bothered me only after I was looking back on what I’d read. They didn’t mean there was anything wrong with the book, I loved it, but they are things to think on I suppose.

The most important thing to know is I honestly really loved it. Serious Moonlight is a rare read for me, I don’t read as many YA books anymore and this was a reminder why YA books of any genre are not to be overlooked. It reminded me why I love books in this category so very much even though many are not for me anymore. Jenn Bennett is an author who could convince me to read anything she wrote, though, so as soon as I saw this on Netgalley I knew I had to request it and I was jumping in joy when the approval came in.

This book has some strong characters within its pages and I was seriously impressed at how she made me like all of them. Birdie is a teenage girl who has not had much chance to just be a teenager. She grew up with her mother in Seattle until she, unfortunately, died far too soon and left Birdie with some serious abandonment issues. She then lived with her grandparents on a small island and was home-schooled by her grandmother who had some very strict rules for Birdie. She was sheltered and she had few friends beyond her mother’s best friend, Mona. Birdie and Mona were Daring Dames together and I really loved their friendship and how Mona acted as both as parent and friend for Birdie yet never treated her like a child. Mona treated Birdie as a grown up and although I think she sometimes forgot how young Birdie was, she always treated her with respect and it meant Birdie was open with her about everything that happens from speaking about sex to talking about Mona’s own boyfriend and that was awesome to see.

And there is Daniel, our love interest and such a charmer. He isn’t some cocky ladies man or even a really popular guy, he is just a good-looking guy who couldn’t believe his luck when Birdie showed some interest in him after he showed her a magic trick in a diner… until she ran away because she didn’t know how to act around a boy she liked. Daniel Aoki is into magic and gaming and things like D&D. He is geeky and sweet and was such a nice guy. I adored him, even if I wanted to have a few strong words with him towards the end. He was a genuinely good guy so I couldn’t stay mad with him for long.

Jenn Bennett doesn’t just do awesome characters I easily like, though. She also writes about many issues well. She writes sex positive books, which I adore, and has her characters talk about sex and I respect that. I want YA books to approach sex, not as a negative and there should certainly be no shame about it either, but I like when characters talk about sex before it happens and approach it sensibly. And we have that here, there is mention of using protection (because it still really pisses me off when protection is not talked about in any book with sex, including romance). And when Birdie was talking to Mona about it she was always so positive just asking the ever important question of if she was safe. I want sex to be talked about honestly, about being safe and about being comfortable when it happens. The honesty that it isn’t always good but it’s also about being comfortable with the one you’re with to make it better.

This book also dealt with some heavy issues within its pages beyond not shaming anyone for the choices they make with their body and it handled them well. Birdie is still reeling from losing her grandmother recently (even if their relationship was not all sunshine and rainbows but more a bit antagonistic) and she hasn’t fully recovered from losing her mother as a child. She had some serious abandonment issues which are heavily explored throughout the book and I respected that. And I really loved how well grief is shown not be a short process you get over but instead an experience you go through again and again. You never get over losing someone you love but instead come to terms with it and the fact that they’re absent and reflect on what that means. But it’s not just grief, there was also suicide and a very sensible and mature approach to mental health which came as a surprise in the storyline but meant some impressive character development.

I liked that Birdie was in denial about her narcolepsy as well. She had a method of avoidance about many an issue in her life (which I understand but was very unhealthy) and her health was one part of it. I liked that eventually she was forced to address her health and that getting medical help (and not relying upon google answers to health) was the best way and she was slowly getting a grasp on her well being by the end. And therapy was promoted as a healthy choice for mental health and having a strong family support system that still allowed independence.

I do wish Birdie had a larger circle of friends beyond her family. Her support system was so small and that was partially due to circumstance but also because she closed herself off. I got that a lot of this book was about learning to let people in and make friends, but so much of the book was centred on her and Daniel and although her aunt Mona was there I did wish she had someone her own age to speak with who wasn’t a romantic interest. Same goes for Daniel, we don’t see things from his perspective, but I felt like they were a little isolated and would have liked to see more side characters,

Anyway, I really loved this book, even if I wanted more of a friends and family presence in the book, that was a minor grumble about a truly amazing book. I was smiling and hugging this book close by the end. I loved the slowly developing friendship and romance between Birdie and Daniel and the mystery element was brilliant, although I guessed it by the end. I seem to be a fan of mystery within my romantic reads and this was pretty good. I definitely recommend.

Have you read this, what did you think?
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