April 16, 2019
Blurb: 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. Age Range: Teen
SASCHA DARLINGTON’S REVIEW
Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett is my favorite YA novel of the year, so far. With characters that are richly layered, a seemingly whimsical mystery plot, and engaging writing, Bennett has created a novel that I savored as I read.
Birdie is mortified after her first encounter with Daniel, a boy who is, according to Birdie, sunshine personified, but a part of her looks for him everywhere (and avoids where she thinks he might be) so when she really does see him and has to work with him, it’s equal parts wonderful and terrible. But if there were two characters who were ever soulmates, it would be Birdie and Daniel because they share similar histories, are both awkwardly charming in their own ways, and have people in their corners fighting for their well-being every inch of the way.
That last point is something I really I loved in Serious Moonlight. This past week I saw a “how to” for writing a YA novel and the first thing was to create a character, usually a young girl, who feels like an outcast and is estranged. Seriously, it feels like almost all YA characters just have really bad parents, especially a toxic mother who is typically alcoholic. For Birdie, that’s not true. While her mother died a few years ago, she had her “Aunt Mona,” a stellar if eccentric human being, and two loving grandparents, although her grandmother tried too hard to make sure that Birdie didn’t make the mistakes that her mom made by homeschooling and not letting her date.
At the beginning of Serious Moonlight, Birdie is adapting to life after the death of her grandmother a few months before. Note, all of Birdie’s conflicting emotions regarding her grandmother feel so spot on. Her grandfather and Mona are equal parts her guardian. Birdie and her grandfather share a love of mysteries of all types, mostly because he was a Coast Guard investigator who had to retire because of his narcolepsy, which, unfortunately, Birdie has inherited.
So we have Birdie, a teenager who loves all things mystery, wears a fresh flower in her hair every day (thanks to Billie Holiday), and who is confused and awkward in many social settings. And then we have Daniel, a half-Japanese/half-white boy, with long hair who seems to thrive on life, but he isn’t all that he seems to be. Unlike a lot of YA books in which some boys no longer seem to be boys but are men, Daniel is in that he doesn’t have it all figured out. He’s still trying to establish his own territory with his mother. He’s had a lot to deal with and is still trying to define himself.
Yes, I’ve completely devoted most of this review to the characters. This is a character-driven novel, but that doesn’t mean that the plot isn’t important. The mystery that Daniel intrigues Birdie with is about a famous novelist who no one knows the identity of and who may be visiting the hotel
on Tuesday evenings where they both work but only stays for a short time. Why? Well, that’s just part of the plot but it turns out to be pretty important in the long run. No spoilers here.
Well written, quirky, adorable characters who I would love to visit with far more often, the backdrop of Seattle, pop culture devoted to mysteries, pie, an eccentric Aunt who dresses as a new character every day, a Japanese family living in a Danish-style commune, a Maine Coon cat walking on a leash, a poor octopus that you want to liberate, and a general feel-good ending–what is not to love? I will be reading Jenn Bennett’s back titles for sure.
ps What initially drew me to this book was the ever-so-sweet cover. Covers matter. 🙂
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
5 out of 5 butterflies