Tuesday, April 16, 2019

BOOK REVIEW | Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Title: Serious Moonlight
Author: Jenn Bennett
Series? No, Serious Moonlight is a standalone
Pages: 432
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: I received an ARC of Simon Pulse in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Many thanks to the publicist for sending me the book!

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.

Serious Moonlight is Jenn Bennett's fourth YA novel. After reading and loving her previous three - The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, Alex, Approximately, and Starry Eyes - I was highly anticipating Serious Moonlight. Serious Moonlight is a fun, sex positive, and strong addition into Bennett's repertoire, and one that I recommend to all contemporary readers!.

Serious Moonlight follows two main characters: Birdie and Daniel. Birdie and Daniel had a one time hookup, and Birdie is horrified to learn that her knew job at a hotel is alongside with Daniel. Birdie loves her mysteries, and when Daniel proposes they solve a mystery at the hotel, they strike a bond. Birdie, a self-diagnosed and in-denial insomniac strikes up a friendship (and possibly something more) with Daniel that is full of fun adventures, family drama, and pie. 

One of the strongest aspects Serious Moonlight has going for it is the amazing and wide-spread diversity. Serious Moonlight is diverse in many ways. Birdie is an insomniac and doesn't have the cookie-cutter family: her mother died when she was young and her grandmother just passed away 6 months ago, leaving her with only her grandfather and mother figure/friend/Aunt, Mona. Though Birdie's life is far from what is "normal," her character rings true and universal. Outside of that rep, Daniel is an Asian lead who is also deaf in one ear. I loved seeing all this representation, and it rang true for me. Of course, I recommend seeking out own voices reviewers to make sure this is the case, but I didn't come across or became aware of any problems.

As is the trend with Jenn Bennett's YA novels (I haven't read her other novels, so I can't speak for them!), Serious Moonlight talks unabashedly about sex. Teenagers have sex, and Bennett isn't afraid to get into it. The sex isn't perfect, much like in real life. There's fumbling, condom searching, but most importantly, explicit consent and conversation. Some readers might not be comfortable reading about teenagers having sex, but I believe it's more constructive to have open conversations about sex and show healthy and consensual sex rather than act like all teenagers are celibate. Outside of Birdie and Alex's sexual relationship, they also have a great amount of banter and friendship, which left me chuckling out loud and positively swooning for my own Daniel Aoki.

If you're not a fan of romance, don't be put off by Serious Moonlight! The novel is largely a coming of age story, where Birdie must ask herself pressing questions, like what she wants to do with her life (personally and professionally) and if she will ever confront her increasing insomnia and health issues. Other more mature themes, like disability and suicidal thoughts, were also focused upon and handled with care and grace. 

Unlike some of YA contemporary novels, there is a focus on family throughout the novel. Daniel has a strong relationship with his well-meaning, loving, and ultimately over-bearing parents. This leads to some conflict with Birdie and Daniel's relationship and also provides opportunities for character growth and vulnerability. Birdie's relationship with her grandfather and Mona are also touching. Birdie is afraid to lose anyone else, and her anxiety was both heartbreaking and yet very, very relatable, as I have the same fears.  

Each character in Serious Moonlight is unique; you definitely won't be confusing anyone while reading this! One way Bennett sets up and defines her characters as individuals is giving them a "quirky" passion. For instance, Mona is an artist and lives in an old theater. Birdie is a mystery-aficionado and yearns to be a detective. Daniel has an affinity for both magic and carpentry. By having each of their characters have such distinct passions and interests, it's easy to differentiate them. 

The only reason that I am not giving Serious Moonlight a perfect score is because of the secondary characters. Though completely unique in their own right, I wish we saw a more complex side of them. For instance,  Mona seemed eccentric and quirky all the time and Daniel's parent's strict. There are one or two scenes that disrupt this characterization, but I wish there were more subtle hints throughout the novel in addition to one or two scenes devoted to showing a character's complexity. Personally, it feels more organic when characters slowly reveal their complexities, and I didn't get that in Serious Moonlight. 

Despite my little issue with the secondary characters, Serious Moonlight is a wonderful YA contemporary, and one that I recommend to everyone. Jenn Bennett is such a strong writer, and every time I read her books I'm left smiling and a little bit happier. Bennett dives headfirst into the complexities of what it's like to be a teenager, and delivers an unflinchingly honest coming of age narrative. 

With that, I give Serious Moonlight 
4.5 out of 5 Pies!


  1. I am a solid Jenn Bennett fan. Her books make me happy and this book, made me happy. I think Daniel is my favorite of her YA love interests. I just adored him.

    1. I am as well! I completely agree; her books make me happy too! She does deal with sensitive topics, but manages to make the tone of her books so lovely. :)

  2. GAH yes I absolutely agree with you! Daniel is just the BEST, and he was like... realistically the best though? Not so perfect you'd roll your eyes. I have adored each of Jenn's books, I can't wait for her next one. I am so glad that you enjoyed this one too, awesome review!

    1. I completely understand what you're saying! Like, Daniel's got his own problems, but he also just seemed so understanding and willing to make his relationship with Birdie work. I seriously need to reread Alex, Approx to see who my favorite of Jenn Bennett's protagonists are! Thanks for visiting Shannon!

  3. Wonderful review! I love Jenn Bennett's books so much! I adored both Birdie and Daniel, especially Daniel, and I just love the way Bennett handles topics that could be considered sensitive. Her books are always emotional reads for me but also manage to leave me with a smile on my face by the end.

    1. Thanks so much Suzanne! Me too :D She has done no wrong yet, and I hope it stays that way! Bennett handles such hard topics with such grace; I really appreciate it! And I'm in the same boat. :)