I have some serious love (and some criticisms) for this book.
Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett follows Birdie, an eighteen-year-old girl with narcolepsy and love for mysteries after she takes a night shift job at a hotel. On the job, Birdie runs into Daniel Aoki, a brief fling who she works with to solve the mystery of a reclusive writer who visits the hotel.
I have read one other book by Jenn Bennett, Alex, Approximately, which was an average read for me. I read Alex, Approximately as an ARC. While I enjoyed it, I was surprised to see so much hype surrounding the book upon its release. I wanted to try another book by this author to see if it lived up to the hype since I am a huge fan of contemporary books. While Serious Moonlight started off much stronger for me that Alex, Approximately, it ended up falling into several of the pitfalls that I did not enjoy in the first book that I read by this author.
Let’s start with the characters. Jenn Bennett does an amazing job of inclusivity with her characters. She includes characters from different races and cultures. Her characters struggle with mental illness or disability. But Jenn Bennet does not just include diversity in her books, but she fully fleshes out every character so they come across as people and not a checklist. The main character, Birdie is a shy and sweet main character that I think many readers will enjoy. Daniel, Birdie’s love interest, is also multi-faceted and interested. While I was initially put off by the “he’s perfect, but WAIT there’s a MASSIVE secret,” I think the author really steered clear of the typical formula that trope follows.
That being said, there were a few issues that I had with characterization in her book. My largest issue was with Birdie’s Aunt Mona and her former flame, Leon Snodgrass (yes, you read that correctly). Aunt Mona has a large personality and outfits to match. So much that you may roll your eyes at her outfit descriptions because they are so numerous and lengthy. While Aunt Mona has many moments that let readers see how amazing she is, I could do without the countless descriptions of her outfits that attempt to make her look quirky. The same goes for her love interest Leon Snodgrass, presented as what a frat boy becomes when he leaves college and barely anything else. I had this same problem in Alex, Approximately because I felt like I was being hit over the head with the character’s unique vintage style over and over again.
As for the pacing, the beginning of Serious Moonlight grabbed me a lot more than Alex, Approximately. For the first 200 pages, I found myself moving through the story quickly. While the mystery aspect could come across cheesy, I actually found it somewhat endearing since it helped Birdie come out of her shell. Then, the book took a major shift. There was a large chunk of the middle solely devoted to the relationship and devoid of any progression of the mystery plot, which confused me. This part of the book really slowed down for me and I found myself pushing through for more of the plot to develop. While I assumed I knew how the mystery ended (and I was correct), this derailment wasn’t my favorite aspect of the book.
Another aspect that I move back and forth on is the relationship in this book. For the majority of the book, I absolutely loved Birdie and Daniel. Both Birdie and Daniel grow as people throughout this book and learn to open up to each other throughout their relationship. I was actually really excited during the first 90% of this book because it generally steered away from the soap-opera style drama that I wasn’t a fan of in Alex, Approximately. Then, the big moment of the mystery came and some of my love left quickly. While I understand how Daniel reacted to this moment, it seemed fairly out of character for him, especially how he treated Birdie after it happened. I also was not satisfied with how quickly the characters moved past this moment either.
Overall, Serious Moonlight is a solid young adult novel. I can see why so many people consider Jenn Bennett an auto-buy contemporary author because she creates loveable and multi-dimensional characters in her books. However, there were still several aspects of this book that reminded me of reasons that Alex, Approximately was only a three star read for me. That being said, I am still interested in checking out Starry Eyes, another book by this author currently out on the market. I give Serious Moonlight three out of five stars.
I received Serious Moonlight as an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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