May 19, 2012

Review: Moonglass

By: Jessi Kirby
Published: May 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardback, 232 pages
First Reviewed: September 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
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I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both.

Anna’s life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It’s bad enough that she has to leave her friends behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love—a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface.
While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that have been buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tide means that nothing, not the sea glass that collects along the shore, not the truths behind Anna’s mother’s death, stays buried forever.

Rating: 4/5

Another one of the books I got with birthday money. I'd been wanting it for a while and couldn't wait to get my hands on it. This book not only sounded like something I'd love, but it has one of the best opening lines ever. "I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now I've thought my mother drowned in both." If you can read that line and not fall in love with it, then there's something wrong with you. (Kidding...maybe...) Anyway, while I don't think the book as a whole quite lived up to that fantastic line, I did very much enjoy it.

I'm so-so on Kirby's writing. First off, for a first published novel, I felt it was very, very strong, but it also felt like first-time writing much of the time. While she's obviously very strong in creating lines that make you feel, she'd resort to repeating the same words over and over. Like "ripples," for one, which began to drive me a bit nuts. And she made characters smile so often I was beginning to wonder if they ever frowned.

Also, I got a bit annoyed with the slang. I mean, it wasn't over-the-top, but I usually always mark off for slang like "cuz." Unless the characters have distinct dialects/accents, 'cause would work just fine. "Cuz" wasn't the only slang in this, mind you; it's just an example. I am surprised, I'll admit, how much slang was allowed in this by the editor(s).

One more thing I would have loved to see more of was the beauty in Kirby's prose and lines. When it was there, it was stunning. The perfect blend to create the feelings inside me and give realism and life to the character. But then I felt as though Kirby would lose it sometimes and fall into the average narration.

Kirby is, though, one to watch, in my opinion. I think if she ditches a lot of the "first-time writer" stylistic choices, then she'll be absolutely amazing.

I pretty much only have one nitpick about the characters. Okay, two. 1) In the beginning, I didn't much care for Anna and should I say...demeanor. Kirby led me to believe she would be the teenager that's only obsessed with boys, and it made me nervous. There were still a very of those "oh, look at me, boy" traits scattered throughout the first halfish, but once they were gone, I really started to love Anna.

My other issue was with the characterization as a whole. While personalities were distinct and I liked the characters, they weren't all developed to the fullest for me. Anna was more toward the last half, but the rest just seemed to be missing a little something. Mainly Tyler, who I think would have benefitted from a bit more attention from Kirby. He was a good character, but I just didn't understand him or get the vibe from him I think Kirby was trying for in the beginning. If that even makes sense.

Anyway, I did like the characters. I felt for Anna, and I really liked her friend, Ashley, and her dad. Actually, all the other supporting cast were pretty great. Just missing that little something to make them ones I'd remember forever and ever. Ashley, I may, though, considering she was someone I thought would be a stereotype, but ended up being a sweet addition, and even a symbol.

It's funny. I just finished Stay by Deb Caletti, and for the first half of this book, I couldn't help comparing the two. There are an incredible amount of similarities, but it only led me to see the amount of beauty in this book. More so than I would have saw, methinks. No offense to Stay; that book just wasn't for me.

In the beginning, I'll admit to being a little worried. I thought this would have been another book to disappoint me. I held the stakes high after reading the first line a few times, and once the boy came into the picture and we started to get to know Anna, I thought I was going to be in for another "oh, a boy will cure all my problems and we're just going to kiss and kiss and stroll into the moonlight and blah blah," but thankfully, that's not what we got. (Oh, and by the way, that kind of storyline can work if done right; I'm not dissing it...well, just the overdone, unrealistic kind...)

Instead, we got a nice setup and development of all kinds of relationships. Friendships, acquaintances, and her romance, though I would have liked to have seen a bit more connection between Anna and Tyler before their kiss. And I really enjoyed watching Anna grow and develop a relationship with something she should have long ago.

The main reason I'm bumping this down a star is because I wanted more emotion throughout. When it was there, it was great. Especially the last, er, fifty pages or so. That section really tugged at my heart, but I would have loved to have seen that all the way throughout. Though, there was some there. Also, I think there were a few aspects that could have been expanded on. I'm not sure if it was Kirby's choice or her editors', but some things felt a tad bit brushed over. For example, I would have liked to see a bit more with Joy and Andy. But overall, I really enjoyed this.

Why...oh why, book world, do books have to be advertised as romances (see cover) when the real story is about overcoming pain and tragedy. Really...the romance in this isn't over-the-top. It's subtle and sweet. Oh, and there is just a tad bit of language. I think only 2-3 words. No f-words, though. So it's pretty clean. Ohhhh! And I think Kirby could have come up with a better meaning/story behind "moonglass." A stronger one, anyway.

To end, this book had one of the strongest opening lines I've ever read, though I don't think it quite lived up to it. However, it was very good and I read it almost in one setting. The characterization, while I think it could have used a bit of development, was solid and I really liked--almost loved--some of the characters. The plot was strong and held quite a bit of emotion, though it could have used some more, and the writing has some growing to do. Overall it was a good read, with beautiful symbolism and messages, that I highly recommend.

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