Published by Simon Pulse on April 3rd 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
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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?
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
After reading and falling in love with both of Jenn Bennett’s previous releases in 2017, I had high hopes for Starry Eyes. And, boy, did it deliver. I stand by my assertion that Bennett knows how to write the PERFECT YA romance. This was the friends-to-enemies-to-lovers camping romance I didn’t know I needed.
One of the things I appreciate most about all of Bennett’s protagonists is how passionate they are about specific, quirky interests. But, like, in a totally genuine, non-manic-pixie-dreamgirl way. Zorie, an aspiring astrophysicist, is no exception. I always love YA girl protagonists who are driven and have a clear vision of their futures. I recognize this isn’t reality for everyone, but that was totally me when I was in high school. Also, it’s never explicitly mentioned on the page, but Zorie seemed to me to have symptoms of an anxiety disorder, and I related to her character so much in that regard. She loves plans and detests spontaneity.
I also love the role family plays in all of her books. In Starry Eyes, Zorie’s family plays a central role in the plot. Her dad is a scumbag, but I adored her mom and the love she had for Zorie. We also get another awesome family dynamic in Lennon (the love interest)’s moms. It was, of course, great to see some queer characters in this story, since my one complaint with Bennett’s books is the lack of representation. The Mackenzies are a second family to Zorie, and I love how they looked out for her even when she and Lennon were fighting.
The setting of Starry Eyes? AMAZING. The beginning of the book takes place in Zorie’s hometown of Medina Hills, just across the bay from San Francisco, which completely jumped off the page. I’ve lived in the South all my life and have only visited the West Coast a couple of times, but somehow Bennett always manages to capture the very essence of California. (Even though she, like me, lives in Atlanta!) Her settings are so vivid and well-crafted, to the point where I always feel transported. The remainder of the book, however, takes place in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Zorie and Lennon head off on a camping trip with a group of friends, and the story takes off from there.
Okay, we have to talk about the romance. I was swooning the whole time. The romantic tension between Zorie and Lennon was so perfectly built. The pacing was perfect. It’s a classic YA romance with miscommunication and unnecessary drama, but I still ate up every word. The fact that all of it unfolded in the wilderness (and all the mishaps that ensued because of the setting) added a fun twist to such a classic romance trope. Also, I loved that sex was discussed in a healthy way and that the author didn’t shy away from mentioning it explicitly. And all of the kisses and sexytimes were just… so good. *swoons* I loved every minute of this romance.
Overall, I recommend Starry Eyes to both established fans of YA contemporary and people who may be hesitant about the genre. If you’re already a fan of Bennett’s work, you will NOT be disappointed, and if not, this book will totally make you a believer.
Have you read Starry Eyes? If so, did you love it as much as I did? If not, do you plan to read it?
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