Author: Jenn Bennett
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: I received an e-galley of Starry Eyes via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. :)
It is a well-known secret that I love Jenn Bennett. I think she is one of the best YA contemporary authors out there, and I'm definitely a biased reader when it comes to her. I first read Jenn Bennett last year with her YA release Alex, Approximately. I absolutely loved the book (review here) and therefore had high hopes for Starry Eyes. And let's just say that I was not disappointed!Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.
But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.
What could go wrong?
With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.
And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?
First, let's talk about the characters. As you could probably tell from the synopsis there are two main characters: Zorie, and her love interest and former best friend, Lennon. I thought both of them had such distinct personalities. I think one of the big faults with contemporary romances is that the two leads can't stand out on their own without the other. This was not the case for Starry Eyes. Zorie and Lennon were fleshed out to the point that I related them to people I knew back in high school and now in college. They seemed like real people, and I was able to connect their personalities to people I know in real life!
If you don't know, one of my favorite tropes is the "best friends to something more" theme. Two recent reads, Lady Midnight and Run Away with Me, had this trope, and I absolutely loved the romance. Some of the shows I watch do this as well: Grey's Anatomy (Jackson and April), How to Get Away with Murder (Michaela and Asher), Vampire Diaries (Caroline and Tyler), etc. So I knew that I would most likely love the romance in this book, and I was not wrong! Zorie and Lennon have such a great history, and I loved that they didn't ignore their past, but that it really shaped how they interact with each other in the novel.
I was completely immersed in this story, but especially when it came to the romance between Zorie and Lennon and their parents' drama. There's this scene in the beginning of the book, where Zorie is using her telescope, but not to look at stars, but rather a certain someone. The way that scene unfolded was hilarious, and what made it even better, was that it was brought up later on in the book. Bennett doesn't let strings loose, and I loved that Lennon kept bringing up the instance to embarrass her! Their interactions seemed genuine, and exactly what a best friend (and maybe something more) would do. The teasing was endearing, hilarious, and made me root for the romance.
|the UK cover!|
One thing that I always appreciate from Jenn Bennett's novels, at least the three that I have read, is that they are all sex-positive. There is a lot of shame surrounding sex, specifically for women. While men have sex and they are celebrated for it, when women have sex, slut-shaming and guilt seem to follow. I love that all of Bennett's protagonists own their sexuality, and don't feel ashamed for being sexual and exploring it. Also, Lennon's parents own a sex shop, which allowed for hilarity. The sex is not in your face, so if you don't like to read those sort of scenes, I think you are still good to read the book.
Starry Eyes doesn't just focus on the romance: family is a big part of the plot as well. The novel is actually pitched as Romeo and Juliet meets camping in modern day. Zorie and Lennon's parents are in quite the feud, and I liked seeing it all play out, and how it affected the protagonists and their relationship. I do think it got a bit dramatic at the very end, but it was still entertaining! Also, thank goodness for having parents actually exist in a YA contemporary!
Lastly on my list of what I liked were the maps and the small town feel, which go hand in hand. The setting felt real, and the maps throughout the book helped establish the setting as well. The maps allowed the book to be more interactive as well, which I appreciated! Since I did have an ARC of this, it didn't translate that well, but I now want to go to a bookstore and look at the maps in person.
However, the setting is not as tangible as the one is Alex, Approximately. While I was reading, I wasn't actively comparing the two books against each other. But afterwards, I realized that one of the reasons I like Alex, Approximately more than Starry Eyes was because the Alex, Approx. world felt much more realistic and involved.
The one aspect that dropped my rating from a full five stars was the ending. I felt that the ending was a bit too tell and not show for me. As the resolution was coming, I sensed a shift in the writing style I didn't enjoy as much. Nevertheless, I loved how everything ended!
To be honest, this is not my favorite of Jenn Bennett's young adult novels. But, it's hard to top Alex, Approximately, which is one of my favorite YA books out there. Starry Eyes was lovely and I recommend it whole-heartedly. Starry Eyes is a cute, angsty, sex-positive, and filled with heartfelt relationships and is a strong addition to Jenn Bennett's repertoire.
With that, I give Starry Eyes
4.5 out of 5 Stars!