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 Click on the banner below to follow the rest of the Starry Eyes blog tour!
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
Click on the banner below to follow the rest of the Starry Eyes blog tour!