Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
This is the third book I've read by Jenn Bennett. The other two being Alex, Approximately and Starry Eyes. I received Starry Eyes in an Uppercase Box and bought the other two from the bookstore. I like Bennett's books because while they're light-hearted, they're still well plotted with some serious issues. Often characters (even lead characters) are not white. They're also LGBTQ+ friendly (although not lead romances in the three I've read). YA is often times ahead of the curve with inclusion.
It's a YA fictional contemporary romance. It's set in Seattle (each of the three books mentioned above are West Coast set, which to me as an East-Coaster, is like visiting a different locale). I mean, people surf here but not like they do out West.
Title: Serious Moonlight
Author: Jenn Bennett
Page Number: 426 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Mystery (a small mystery is included, but it's more like Birdie and Daniel use the mystery to hang out together)
Publisher: Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children's Division, which is part of Simon and Schuster.
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 the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.
As I sit down to review this, I'm also kinda following the insane drama in the YA Twitter community. I actually don't follow authors on social media (for the most part) simply because I don't want to find out that I dislike them. I'm not really able to separate the artist from the art so to speak. After finding out Charles Dickens was a complete ass to his family (and possible secret family), I haven't really picked up his books...although I still love, love, love A Tale of Two Cities. I just don't pick it up. It's been a few generations and at least a century but I'm still mad. So I don't follow the drama on Twitter.
Also, I find that authors don't often separate "author, the brand" from "author, the person" so they overshare or they whine and complain. I think it might sound odd to note that I wish many authors would just...be more calculated and not be emotionally honest all the time. Like, you could still be open and honest but maintain a level of professionalism. It's just all super odd to me. I also think it allows this shit to happen. Like, learn what to share, what not to share, etc. She could have easily said that sometimes reading that people don't like her work is rough but she's glad to have fans or something. She would have still gotten an outpouring of people stroking her ego whilst maintaining the ability to "rise above it all" and secure her fans love as "special people to her." Also, some of those other authors...oh my sweet lord. Take it to the group chat. I haven't read all the authors mentioned so I followed the drama because as much as I don't follow YA Twitter (or Book Twitter)...I love watching companies deal with social media drama. I don't know why...it's a hidden, dark joy. I can't say for certain that you can see when PR shows up to the show...but all of sudden "I'm so sorry" messages were dropping on twitter and accounts were being deleted. It looked like the orders came down. Publishers need a general "this is how to run a proper "Author, the Brand" Social media account fact sheet. Slate has a run-down, not super favorable to the authors above but links to screenshots and quotes from those willing to comment.
What does this have to do with Jenn Bennett? Nothing, as far as I can tell she didn't involve herself in this nonsense. What a juxtaposition of Twitter accounts.
The main character, Birdie, lives with her grandparents (now just her grandfather) and sees her godmother (Mona) regularly. She suffers from un-diagnosed narcolepsy. She's had a sheltered, over-protective life due to her grandmother's rules but she loves a good mystery book. Birdie is a sweet character, a little naive but she has a good heart. Birdie takes a job at a historic Seattle hotel where she runs into Daniel.
The other main character is Daniel. Daniel works at the same hotel Birdie has started a job at; he works as a valet/porter/driver type. Daniel is interested in Birdie from the get-go. He's living with his family on a sort of commune (?) and he mentions to Birdie that a mysterious writer often comes to the hotel, for mysterious reasons. He hopes that Birdie will be interested in the mystery of solving the true identity of the guest. It gives them both an excuse to grow closer.
I'll spoil the very beginning and note that Birdie and Daniel have a run-in before she starts her job (it's a shock to both of them to run into each other again). I always push Bennett's book's to the older end of the YA genre due to her characters, their actions and the more advanced structure of the plot, and Serious Moonlight is no exception. Birdie and Daniel have sex after a chance meeting, in the very beginning of the book. This doesn't bother me but I feel like it's worth noting that YA has come a long way since I was YA age, and varies greatly. Birdie talks to Mona about her encounter (and other more adult conversations) as Mona stands in for a motherly figure at times in Birdie's life.
Birdie is learning how to emerge from her solitary life with a changing relationship with her grandfather, Mona, Daniel and other possible friends. Birdie and Daniel have a cute relationship, and I ended up liking them both. They both have families that are not the 'typical' mold but are realistic, they both have emotional and/or physical health issues (diagnosis?) that they're dealing with in varying unhealthy to healthy ways. There are some very dark elements mentioned and discussed (suicide, absent parents, racism, etc.)
Some of the action (the talking mostly) is done at the diner where Birdie waits for the ferry. It's called the Moonlight Diner. Birdie talks to Mona there and Birdie talks to Daniel there.
This isn't my absolute favorite Bennett book, as I think Starry Eyes is my favorite but I really enjoyed this book. It's longer than other YA romances but Bennett is a nice writer so it wasn't a bore. Bennett's strength in characters is evident as Daniel is sweet yet imperfect and Birdie is nervous but moving forward. They make a nice pairing. It does start with a one night stand and then they get to know one another but it's a sweet built. They both have "baggage" so to speak.
I did wish that Birdie had female friends, although with her lifestyle and isolation I understand why she didn't. I enjoy reading strong female friendships in books and Bennett hasn't really given me that as of yet, I remain hopeful. Mona stands in for that relationship as she's split between mother figure/best friend figure. She's a "fun" godmother but she's somewhat negligent as a parental figure and I found her reasons/actions difficult to follow. She's a mix of "old-soul" and artist temperament...always a mess.
The mystery takes a backseat...or even the backseat of the next car at times. I was fairly sure I solved the mystery earlier as Daniel drops some clues along the way but since it's not so viciously critical to the main story line it was okay that the mystery was a bit less. The blurb invites the idea that the mystery that Daniel gives to Birdie is more integral to the plot line. I suppose that this would be a complaint for me, less Mona more mystery but it's a small complaint.
Bennett still remains one of the YA contemporary authors that hooked me on contemporary romance (YA and adult) as a genre I might like. While this book was longer (a little bit dragged but not as much as I feared), her plotting, her characterization and her prose is top-notch. I wish for more mystery as a personal note and more female friendship overall. I would rate this closer to 4 stars but it's kinda between 3.5 to 4. It's higher than 3.5 but I'm not sure I'll re-read it in the next year. I do have a physical copy and I am keeping it. So....however that works out.
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