April 14, 2019

Review: Serious Moonlight

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Grade: B+
Release date: April 16, 2019
An e-galley was provided by Simon Pulse via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Although I definitely wasn't a fan of Jenn's last book, Starry Eyes, something drew me to this one. I think it was the promise of a mystery, and Birdie's interesting job.
Birdie is such a compelling protagonist. She has a bunch of baggage (deceased mother, recently deceased grandmother, no father in the picture, been isolated for the last eight years), and she's stubborn. So even though she wants to grow and move past things, she also holds onto them and refuses to admit she has problems. It was nice to see a female character be like that for once, instead of the brooding love interest. (Not that Birdie is particularly brooding. She's definitely quiet and has walls, but she's not brooding.) Side note: I did worry that homeschooling and religion were going to be portrayed super negatively (the cover copy made me worry), but I don't think either did really. Birdie's grandmother was religious, but Birdie comes to realize Eleanor's overprotectiveness stemmed from her relationship with Birdie's mom more than anything. And Birdie seemed super chill about being homeschooled; I'm sure she might've liked a public school experience but she wouldn't let Daniel make fun of her past - and she's still super smart to boot.
In contrast is Daniel, the love interest. He comes across as cheerful and interested and well-rounded. He has his own baggage (depression, some rough times in high school), but he doesn't want to make them Birdie's problems - he just wants her to know that they're a part of him. Also, he and Birdie had great chemistry. Sometimes you read a story with a romance (or that's all about a romance), and you can't buy into it. I definitely bought into Birdie and Daniel.
Things I wanted more of: setting, mainly. The hotel and the diner had so much potential, and I felt Jenn underused them. There were all these fun pies referenced, and I wanted more of those. And I love when YA protagonists work interesting jobs, so I wanted more at the hotel and about the guests. The main mystery is kind of connected to the hotel, but not enough for my tastes.
The mystery kind of worked. It took some turns that were a bit...melodramatic, perhaps. But I appreciated that it was Daniel's way of trying to get to know Birdie and not let her run away just because of her baggage and fear of connecting with others.
Also! I loved all the little Seattle things and the references to famous fictional detectives.

Content warnings: discussion of a suicide attempt, deceased loved ones, drug consumption (cannabis), sex, and foul language

The Verdict: Definitely one of Jenn's better books. Needed even more pie, though.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: It's preordered.

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