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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Lefty's Lowdown: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Published: April 3, 2018 by Simon Pulse
Source: I received an eARC of this novel through Netgalley. That has not affected any of the opinions stated in this review. Every thought is my own.
Summary from Goodreads:

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

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

This novel was everything I needed. Bennett's last novel Alex, Approximately, was one of the big contemporary titles last year, and while I really enjoyed it, I don't think I connected to it the same way other people did. It put Bennett on my radar, but I wouldn't list it among my favorite contemporary novels of all time. 

Starry Eyes, though. This novel gave me all the heart flutters and goofy grins I wanted from Alex, Approximately. I was in a hell of a reading slump when I cracked this baby open. I hadn't read anything for over a month, and I hadn't read anything that truly stole my heart since the beginning of January. But the moment I began Starry Eyes, I was hooked, wholeheartedly devoted to the story. 30 pages in I had already fallen head over heels with the love interest and had an unwavering smile plastered on my face. 

First and foremost, who doesn't love a good "trapped in the woods with the guy who broke my heart" trope? Because I do. I certainly do. You know the intensity is going to be through the roof and the sexual tension is going to be sizzling off the pages, which is absolutely true about this novel. And Zorie, the protagonist, has no idea why their friendship dissolved and how they started to hate each other, and it was a heck of a journey making these discoveries alongside her. 

So let's talk about the characters. Zorie is obsessed with planning things and ensuring that everything goes according to plan. Lennon, the dark brooding outcast with two moms who own a sex toy shop, is smart and full of surprises. I love them together and I love them separately. They both have some annoying traits, which I thought was excellent characterization on Bennett's part because she gives them annoying traits without making them annoying. They were both so well-developed and relatable. Even better, though, is that the secondary characters were well-developed, too. Some of them were absolute shitheads, and I'm so glad that's addressed, and some of them are rays of sunshine, like Lennon's moms, who persistently treat Zorie like family despite the feud with her father. 

The setting was really interesting too. I thoroughly enjoyed following Zorie and Lennon on their wilderness expedition. This novel kind of made me want to go on a long ass hike and become one with nature, which is quite the feat, considering I hate the outdoors and any sort of exertion. Anyway, I think some novels that have journeys like this can drag because there's a lot of description and focus on the journey itself, but Bennett finds a nice balance of journey, character development, and plot progression. Every scene has intrigue. 

I also think it's important to note that Bennett addresses, sometime subtly and sometime explicitly, some really important matters: safe sex, healthy sexual attitudes, consent, cheating, bigotry, toxic friendships, nontraditional families. It's good, friends. It's so, so good. 

I could not tear myself away from this novel. It's over 400 pages and I devoured it in one sitting. I stayed up until 7 am reading it. This is a solid read for contemporary lovers out there. One of my new favorites! 


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