I received this book for free from Simon Pulse in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 16th, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Simon Pulse
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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 most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.
I didn’t think I’d ever read a Jenn Bennett book I didn’t love but… unfortunately… Serious Moonlight just didn’t do it for me. It isn’t that it isn’t enjoyable but over the past five years, I’ve come to expect a lot from a Jenn Bennett book and Serious Moonlight just didn’t live up to those expectations for me.
I think, a big part of the problem was that I didn’t love the characters as much and therefore wasn’t as invested in their relationship. While Birdie’s personality and trust issues make sense given her extremely sheltered upbringing, it really started getting on my nerves when we were almost 400 pages in and still dealing with her trust issues. I also thought it was super weird that Birdie didn’t have a single friend???? I get that she is sheltered but… ummm… she was allowed out of the house. She can talk to other people even though she is a bit awkward sometimes.
Love interests in previous Bennett books have always had a significant presence and usually read like main characters but Daniel??? Daniel felt like a secondary character, playing a supporting role in Birdie’s life. I found it really hard to connect with him even though he seemed great on paper. I also felt really uncomfortable when in two separate instances, he blocked an exit and demanded Birdie give him an answer before he let her out. It seemed really off brand given his chill vibe and felt icky.
I was also sad that the secondary characters didn’t have a bigger presence? I wanted to get to know the people at the hotel better (or really, get to know them AT ALL!!!!), spend more time with the fams, and enjoy seeing Birdie and Daniel interact with people who weren’t each other. I did really enjoy the little time we spend with the fams and honestly, the fams made the book for me more than anything else.
The way Bennett incorporated Birdie’s experience with narcolepsy into this book, was also really cool. It felt authentic and well researched (which, I should warn that I don’t have any experience with narcolepsy so this observation is based on my instincts.)
While Bennett’s books tend to be romance driven, there is usually an exciting plot to follow that drives interactions and causes character development. I was so excited when it seemed like Daniel and Birdie would spend time solving a mystery but, the mystery gets forgotten about pretty quickly and makes a hasty reappearance right before the end.
This book is so so so centered on Daniel and Birdie’s emerging relationship that we just don’t get a feel for anything else in their world except for a lot of great sounding pie. We don’t get major secondary characters (except Daniel who is sort of a secondary character himself), we don’t get a feel for their workplace or other favorite places… we just don’t have much to work with to help us ground ourselves in the world of Birdie and Daniel.
Honestly, we don’t even get much reasoning because this book felt like a bunch of loose coincidences tied up in a nice bow. I think coincidences are sometimes necessary to drive forward plots but when every plot point is based on a coincidence, that’s a bit too much for me.
I realize that most of my review has been negative but I do think that Serious Moonlight is not inherently a bad book. I was still invested in outcomes even though I didn’t love the main characters as much as I wanted to. Bennett still writes really well and somehow manages to keep my attention for 400+ pages. Ultimately, even if I didn’t love Serious Moonlight, many many many people will because even at her worst, Bennett writes better than most people out there.
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