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What: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Who: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK

When: June 2018

How: A copy of this novel was provided by Simon & Schuster Australia for review.

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best-friends-turned-worst-enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern-day 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.

Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to try to make their way to safety. But as the two travel deeper into the rugged Californian countryside, secrets and hidden feelings surface. Soon it’s not simply a matter of enduring each other’s company, but taming their growing feelings for each other.

To be entirely honest, I wasn’t sure what I was going to rate Starry Eyes. I’m not a big contemporary reader, and when I do pick up a contemporary it’s usually a queer one. But I decided to give this one a go because I’d heard great things about the author’s previous books, and I read a lovely review of Starry Eyes that made me inclined to think I’d enjoy it. And, for the most part, I did.

Starry Eyes is about seventeen year old Zorie, who has a habit of making detailed plans for every aspect of her life. So when her mother cajoles her into going on a week-long camping trip with people she doesn’t really know, Zorie’s perfectly planned summer break goes belly up. Especially when her ex-boyfriend/best friend shows up.

Zorie was an interesting character to read about because on the one hand she was very much into structure and planning and details, but on the other hand she adjusted very easily to the fact that she was stranded in the wilderness with a guy who had only been in the park once before. I guess I expected her to be a bit more rattled by the whole thing, but a few days into it Zorie was suddenly a fan of the great outdoors and no plans and hiking. I felt like this shift was a little quick, especially given that the book was quite long and more time could have been given to Zorie’s transformation. Overall, though, I liked her as a character. I like characters that have a strong passion for something, and Zorie’s love for astronomy was a highlight of the book and her character.

I was hesitant to give Starry Eyes a three star rating because there was one major thing that I couldn’t really get beyond. And that was Zorie’s father. The man was a homophobic, racist, xenophobic bigot and yet… none of this was challenged on page. Zorie never said anything to her father about his vile behaviour, his wife never said anything to him about his vile behaviour. No one said anything, and no one challenged his words and actions. Which is just… not okay. (As an aside: this man was not feared by either his daughter or his wife, which made the fact that neither of them challenged him quite disturbing.) I was actually happy to see a character in YA with two mothers (Zorie’s love interest, Lennon), but then they were subject to Zorie’s father’s homophobia which just felt completely off to me. You actually can include queer characters without queerphobia making it to the page – especially unchallenged queerphobia. This was a big letdown for me in this book, and I couldn’t see Zorie’s father in any kind of warm light even though the narration certainly tried to make me.

The reason I did end up rating this book three stars is because it included a romance trope I haven’t seen before in YA: second chance romance. Zorie and Lennon were best friends turned boyfriend and girlfriend turned enemies. So there’s a little bit of every romance trope, really. Friends to lovers, and then enemies to lovers, and the fact that their relationship was a second chance romance. It was really interesting to see how the past between Zorie and Lennon influenced who they were as individuals and how they interacted with each other. I certainly did like them as a couple and wanted them to find their happily ever after.

All in all, there were things I liked and disliked about Starry Eyes. Overall I guess I did enjoy it. I liked how the setting was unique, and how the world building really made me feel like I was out in the wilderness along with Zorie. I liked how Lennon wasn’t your typical a-hole YA love interest and took care of Zorie. I liked how it didn’t shy away from Zorie’s sexuality. I suppose the big downfall was the unchallenged bigotry of Zorie’s father. If it hadn’t been for that I think I could have fallen in love with Starry Eyes. As it is, though, it was a contemporary that was a different experience for me, which was nice to come by.

© 2018, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

trigger warning

reference to death of mother (aneurysm), chronic hives, reference to death of father (suicide), reference to attempted suicide, ableist language, romantic cheating, homophobia, racism, islamophobia

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Posted on: June 5, 2018 • By: Chiara

13 Responses to Review: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

  1. I really haven’t had luck with this author so far. Both books I read were either meh or not for me at all. I’m considering reading this one but it’s not a priority so who knows if I’ll ever get to it. xD

    • Chiara says:

      I can honestly say I’m not interested in her other books, eep. This one didn’t gel with me in any way so the same probably goes for the other titles. I hope you enjoy it if you ever get around to it, though!

  2. Ooh I’m interested in checking this one out! I’ve only read Night Owls by the author and I did like it a lot. 😊 It is disappointing with not challenging the awful father though ugh ugh definitely not a fan of that. I guess not everyone is in a position TO challenge people like that, but there should be some internal dialogue about how it’s not okay at at least??? 😔

    My only worry is that I haaate camping. 😂I belong in the dark indoors, forever basically.😂

    • Chiara says:

      I hope you like it more than I did, haha.

      There are definitely cases where characters aren’t in a position to challenge someone, but in this case they definitely were. The father was only horrible to people outside his family, and his family weren’t afraid of him. They spoke their mind to him on other matters, just not these ones. Which is why it felt so off to me.

      Camping is not my kind of thing either, haha. But it was kind of nice to read it because I felt immersed but without actually having to be there :P

  3. Like Cait said, not everyone is in the place to challenge someone like Zorie’s father in person, but if it wasn’t even internally addressed or really show to be NOT OKAY, then yeah, that’s not cool. I haven’t read anything by this author but I have heard really good things. I’m curious about this one, and Night Owls. I’ll probably check one of them out at some point. Thanks for sharing all your pros and cons for this one! I can always count on you to actually notice the LGBT+/queer factors in books and note if they’re done well or not. Nobody else seems to ever comment on that!

    -Lauren

    • Chiara says:

      I’ve amended my review to add that neither his daughter or his wife were afraid of him, and he was, on the whole, nice to both of them. Which is why the lack of challenge got to me so much. I understand that in some cases it’s not possible but this character was painted to be your general dad, which made it very disturbing that no one called him out on his horrible behaviour.

      I hope you enjoy the books if you get around to them, Lauren! I don’t think I’ll be trying any other books by this author, I must say.

      Yeah, I’ve noticed that a lot of reviewers fail to comment on queer things in their reviews so I try to make a point of covering them! I’m glad you get something from it :)

  4. Kelly says:

    I didn’t actually realise that he was never held to account for his words, just in general what a horrible human he was. In hindsight, I’m disappointed in that regard too and sorry that I hadn’t picked up on it. He could have eliminated altogether from the storyline really. I think my favourite aspect was the parental influence from Lennon’s mother’s. I could honestly read an entire book about those two and their window displays. They were so wonderfully sex positive and as a character, so many of their ideals and values were represented in what a wonderful young man Lennon was. I’ve loved all of her books so far but for me, Alex Approximately just pips them at the post. I think it’s the vintage seaside feel to the storyline along with the brilliant banter. Wonderful review Chiara, I’m glad you enjoyed it despite the unchallenged triggers ♥♥♥

    • Chiara says:

      I felt like all the things he said were totally unnecessary, to be honest. And mainly felt like an “easy” way to point out that he was an asshole. Which is not okay, especially since it was never challenged by any of the characters, verbally or not.

      Lennon’s mums were so cool! I loved them a lot, and I loved how Lennon loved them, as well. I don’t think he would have been the same person if not for them, so yay.

      I’m not sure if I’ll try another book by the author as I didn’t really fall in love with any aspect. :( I’m glad you’re a fan, though!

      Thanks, lovely <3

  5. I love her previous book, Alex, Approximately, which is why I’m excited to read this one. Alex, Approximately has a really strong father daughter relationship and I expect the same strong familial relationship in this book. Lennon’s family seems amazing, but Zorie’s dad sounds horrible. Thanks for the heads up Chiara!

    • Chiara says:

      I’ve heard Alex, Approximately was really good, which is why I decided to give this one a go! There’s definitely a strong mother.daughter relationship in this one, but not so much father/daughter. Lennon’s family was lovely! I wanted to hang out with them, haha. No problem, Tasya :)

  6. Wow, that father really sounds like a real piece of work and it’s kind of frustrating how it was never addressed! I adore Second Chance romance and one of the books that features it is Remind Me How This Ends which I loved. Lovely review Chiara!

    • Chiara says:

      Yeah, he was a horrible human being, in my opinion. And the fact that it was never addressed or challenged really hindered my enjoyment of the book :/ Oh, I will have to check out that book! I am getting into romance at the moment :D Thanks, lovely <3

  7. Jackie B says:

    I haven’t heard of this book before, and it sounds intriguing. It’s a shame about the father figure not being challenged, however. I wonder why Bennett included this element? Typically, I see characters built like Zorie’s father for the *sole purpose* of challenging their ideas in YA. … What was his whole purpose?

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