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Serious Moonlight

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Serious Moonlight Book Poster Image
Layered and deep romantic mystery set in Seattle.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn a bit about magicians, tricks, famous mystery novels, films and TV shows (each chapter begins with a quote from a favorite sleuth). Also the ingredients in good diner pie.

Positive Messages

Serious Moonlight explores how loss and grief affects young adults; how sex is more meaningful when it's between people who care about each other than people who've just met; how relationships should be based on honesty and open communication; and how passions/interests can help define you.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Birdie is intelligent and analytical. She's a good amateur detective. Daniel is caring and talented. He wants to help and protect Birdie. There's racial/ethnic and disability representation: Daniel is half-Japanese, half-white, and his grandparents were confined during the WWII internment of Japanese Americans. He's also deaf in one ear because of an accident. Birdie is narcoleptic and has cataplexic episodes.

Violence

Recollections of a self-harm incident (an attempted suicide). A young woman with narcolepsy sometimes passes out asleep in somewhat dangerous situations. She falls and loses control of her body, scaring everyone around her.

Sex

Birdie remembers details about her unconventional first time -- a spontaneous one-night stand with a boy she'd only known for a couple of hours. An older teen couple  starts a consensual sexual relationship.

Language

Occasional language: "Oh s--t," "f--k," "f--ker," "douche," "shut the hell up," "a--hole," "Oh God," "Jesus," etc.

Consumerism

References to various mystery books, TV shows, and movies, like Veronica Mars, Agatha Christie, Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes, The Thin Man, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Birdie accidentally eats cannabis-laced gummies and is so stoned she needs Daniel to take care of her.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Serious Moonlight is a young adult romance from Jenn Bennett, who once again tackles tough topics such as loss, grief, self harm, and disability. In this story, two older teens who once hooked up without knowing each other's names rekindle their friendship -- and more -- after they work at the same Seattle hotel. The main characters, who are 18 and 19, both have medical conditions (she's got severe sleep issues that point to narcolepsy, and he's partially deaf), and there's positive representation of Japanese American culture, since the love interest discusses his grandparents' treatment during the Japanese internment during World War II. The language is occasionally strong ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," etc.), and the romance builds up to a consensual sexual relationship.

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What's the story?

SERIOUS MOONLIGHT, best-selling author Jenn Bennett's fourth young-adult romance, follows homeschooled orphan Birdie Lindberg, who ends up working at the same grand Seattle hotel as her handsome one-time hook-up Daniel Aoki. Clever Birdie, who lives with her recently widowed grandfather on Bainbridge Island (a ferry ride away from Seattle), loves detective novels and true-crime mysteries. When Daniel, who's a talented magician, suggests they team up to figure out if a mysterious hotel patron is actually a reclusive, internationally renowned author who always uses a pen-name, she can't resist. Sparks -- and problems -- ensue as Birdie and Daniel grow closer and begin to solve the hotel mystery, with a little help from Birdie's honorary godmother (her late mother's best friend) and delicious pie at their favorite city diner, Serious Moonlight.

Is it any good?

This is a swoon-worthy but substantial teen romance from one of the genre's most capable authors, Jenn Bennet. It's an ideal pick for fans of Gayle Forman, Brigid Kemmerer, and Jandy Nelson. One of the best aspects of the story is how prominent a role Seattle plays in it, offering precise details about locations and landmarks where Birdie and Daniel meet up, as well as a fascinating exploration of how Japanese Americans in the Pacific Northwest connect with their culture -- particularly the haunting past of Japanese internment during World War II. Birdie and Daniel's relationship is somewhat backward -- they hooked up one sweet but then awkward time and only really get to know each other months later when they become coworkers. But Bennett makes it clear that while attraction can be immediate, real friendship and love take time.

There's a lot going on between Birdie -- possible narcoleptic and obsessive lover of mysteries with a sad and unconventional upbringing -- and Daniel -- partially deaf magic aficionado overcoming his own sadness. This isn't a lightweight romance where the teens' biggest concerns are based on class or social status; these two have uppercase problems, but they manage to acknowledge and overcome their issues. Bennett's romances are always memorable for dealing with heavy topics in a nuanced and considerate way, and this one is no exception. The mystery-solving, the conversations over pie, and the vulnerability Birdie and Daniel show are just a few examples of how their relationship is based on more than superficial attraction. Bennett writes lovely, sex-positive teen romances for mature readers ready for more than fairy tale happily-ever -afters.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of realistic contemporary novels like Serious Moonlight. Why are they so popular with teens. What makes them relatable?

  • Which characters, if any, do you consider role models in the book? What character strengths do they exemplify?

  • How are sex and romance portrayed in Serious Moonlight? What do you think of Birdie and Daniel's relationship?

  • Discuss the different kinds of diversity depicted in the book. Why is there a push for more representations of diversity in children's literature?

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