A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rayne & Delilah's Midnight Matinee is award-winning author Jeff Zentner's third consecutive contemporary fiction book set in his native Tennessee, following two best friends who host a kitschy horror and sci-fi show (the title of the book) every Friday night on a local cable-access network. As in his previous books, Zentner explores the act of creating something you love (in this case, the campy show) and the intensity of best friendship with someone who understands and accepts you, flaws and all. There's occasional strong language (including "ass," "d--k," "bitch"), some passionate kissing and making out, and a little violence, both in a ring (MMA-style) and on the street, and it's best for seventh- or eighth-graders and up, particularly high schoolers who can empathize with the two main characters' struggle to figure out what comes after high school and how to achieve their dreams.
What's the story?
RAYNE & DELILAH'S MIDNITE MATINEE is best-selling young-adult author Jeff Zentner's third Tennessee-based novel, following best friends and high school seniors Josie and Delia, who transform into witchy Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, respectively, to host a Friday night cable-access show dedicated to introducing audiences to obscure and cult-classic horror and sci-fi films. Middle-class Josie does it mostly because she dreams of a career in television, whereas down-on-her-luck Delia (whose father left the family when she was 7) is the horror-film expert who selects the movies every week. The show is eccentric and silly (gags and sketches involve Josie's basset hound and dim-witted twins who dress up as anything the girls ask). But it has a reliable if negligible following in a few cities. After Delia discovers that Jack Devine, a once famous horror-show host, will be at ShiverCon, a summer horror convention in Florida, she convinces Josie that collaborating with him would be the big break their show needs. Meanwhile, Josie is dealing with parents who want her to attend the flagship state college in Knoxville, and with growing feelings for Lawson, a guest performer on the show who's obviously into her.
Is it any good?
With his third beautiful book, Jeff Zentner has cemented himself as a master of thought-provoking, stereotype-busting, heart-lifting YA fiction. His books are truly on par with those from John Green, Gayle Forman, and Melina Marchetta. As Rainbow Rowell eloquently states in her blurb of the book, "Anyone can break your heart -- Jeff Zentner can also make you laugh out loud." This is a book full of humor that endears the two main characters to the readers so much that when the tears come, at least there have been many laughs. And the tears aren't as heartbreaking as they've been in the previous two books, although there are still difficult themes explored, from absentee fathers and depressive mothers to the loneliness of feeling left behind. Those aspects are important, but it's the central friendship that makes the book such a memorable read.
Josie and Delia are so close that despite not looking anything alike and coming from vastly different backgrounds, they are commonly mistaken for sisters. They share not only a healthy sense of humor but also their love of their show, complete with alter egos (in the vein of sillier, less cleavage-sporting Elviras, for Generation X parents and older). The developing and so-so-sweet romance between Josie and aspiring MMA champion Lawson (who is half-white, half-Mexican and brings in the book's only ethnic diversity) is refreshingly earnest in a time when many YA romances are based in conflict, stress, and sarcasm. But the romance, as lovely as it is, takes a backseat to the real love story, the sisterhood between Josie and Delia, who each have secrets and sadness (Delia's journey to find her missing father will particularly break readers' hearts) yet are each other's biggest cheerleaders.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role of popular culture in Rayne & Delilah's Midnight Matinee. Why is horror fandom so important to Delia? How does the show help Josie and Delia achieve their goals? What are the book's messages about the power of creating something with someone you love?
Discuss the theme of leaving people behind vs. being left behind. Should seniors make post-high school and college plans based on what their close friends are doing? Why is it important to follow your individual dreams and paths even if it means going away?
For those who've read Goodbye Days and The Serpent King, what do you think of the references to both books and cameos by their characters? Do you think the author should continue to set all of his books in Tennessee?
Jeff Zentner's first book was about three co-ed best friends, his second focused on a squad of male best friends, and now his third is about two female best friends. How do the representations of close friendships differ in each book? What about the settings?
- Author: Jeff Zentner
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: February 26, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 10, 2020
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