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“All this time, I’ve been freaking out about wild animals. Maybe I should have been concentrating on the bigger threat: trying to figure out where I fit into civilization,” Zori. –Starry Eyes
by Jenn Bennett
Zori and Lennon used to be best friends. Now they are each other’s worst enemy. They go out of their way to avoid each other, which is difficult to do when you go to the same school and live next door to each other.
When a friend invites Zori to a camping trip, Zori thinks this will be an opportunity to have some fun. No one told her that Lennon would be there. After a series of unfortunate events, Zori and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone.
With no one but each other for company, the two finally begin to hash out their issues. They slowly begin to understand each other, but they still have to fight the forces of nature. Can they work together and make it out of the California wilderness as friends?
Told from Zori’s point of view, Starry Night takes a winding trip and gives the reader a peek into Zori’s home life, friendship life, and love life. Unfortunately, Zori’s controlling, insecure nature makes her difficult to like. Zori is not the only boy crazy, but she agrees to go on a trip to advance her social standing. In the end, Zori discovers that her friends have been keeping secrets from her and that one friend has a grudge against her. So, it’s not a huge surprise when Zori’s friends sneak away in the early morning, leaving Zori and Lennon on their own.
None of the characters have healthy relationships with each other or with their parents. Zori is hiding the fact that her father is having an affair. Lennon allows Zori’s father to blackmail him, which is why he’s been avoiding Zori. In an effort to make Lennon jealous, Zori quickly finds a new boy to make out with. Instead of engaging readers with an interesting, plausible plot, Bennett relies on sexual desire and stupid teenage behavior to pull readers in. To make matters worse, the plot is often unbelievable and the characters unmemorable.
Starry Night is a predictable romance that would be best left on the shelf. If readers are looking for a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, Crossing the Line by Simone Elkeles would make a better choice. However, if you are looking for an entertaining romance, Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moren or Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo would be excellent alternatives.
- Zori’s parents have a wellness clinic, which is next to a shop that sells adult sex toys and is run by two lesbian women. Zori often talks about the types of toys for sale, such as butt plugs and cock rings. The shop “has a themed display window that the owners change once a month. This month it’s a forest, and like toadstools, a curated collection of bright rubber dildos rise from fake grass.”
- Zori thinks it’s “kind of hard to ignore the giant vaginal-shaped sign out front.” She refers to the shop as “dildo land.”
- Zori sees a photo album that shows her dad and another woman. “He’s got his arms wrapped around her, and—in one photo—is even kissing her neck.”
- During spring break a boy kisses Zori at a party.
- Zori uses her telescope to look through the neighbor’s window. She sees Lennon undress. Zori thinks, “holy mother of God, when did he get all…built? …He’s too lean to be buff.”
- Zori has sex with a boy who was moving because “we were never going to see each other again.” Afterward she took three pregnancy tests “just to be triple certain.” Later, Zori finds out that the boy told his friends that they “hooked up.”
- When Zori is preparing for a camping trip, she thinks about the boys who will be there. “I certainly hope there will be roaming hands.”
- Someone asks Lennon, “Is it true that your moms were, like, together with your dad all at the same time… I mean all three of them.”
- During a conversation, a boy says, “Did you know he and his best friend Neal Cassady both slept with Carolyn Cassady, Neal’s wife? Wild, huh?” Later, someone says, “Kerouac drank himself to death. Neal Cassady screwed anything that moved and was a total misogynist… Then he died of barbiturates abuse.”
- At the campground, there is a “carved wooden statue that looks like two squirrels having sex.”
- A girl says she is getting naked with her boyfriend “in the sauna later.”
- A boy tells his friend, “your mom is hot.”
- Before the story begins, Zori and Lennon did a “Great Experiment, in which we tried to incorporate intense make-out sessions in our normal relationship without telling anyone.” Zori thinks kissing Lennon was weird, but “also very nice. So nice that I can’t think about it right now, because it makes me flustered.”
- Lennon tried to rent a hotel room so he could have sex with Zori after the homecoming dance.
- When Lennon helps Zori with her backpack, she wonders if she wants him to touch her. She thinks, “I can’t afford to let my imagination run wild around him. The last time that happened I ended up in his lap on a park bench with his hands up my shirt.”
- One of the boys has “been with” all three girls who are on the trip.
- A girl tells Zori, “your skeevy dad tried to sleep with Michelle Johnson’s mom after the Olympic fund-raiser in Berkeley this spring.”
- Zori has neurotic dreams about Lennon, but the dreams are not described. She thinks, “We just started talking again, and my body is so stupid that it’s already having erotic dreams about him, which is what got me into trouble with him in the first place.”
- Lennon sees Zori “kissing Andre in front of [her] locker.”
- Zori tells Lennon, “Andre and I had sex one time. Once! You probably screwed Jovana’s brains out for months!” Lennon tells her, “And yeah, we had sex. But I wasn’t in love with her.”
- As Zori and Lennon fight, Lennon kisses her. “He kisses me roughly. Completely unyielding. His hand is on my head, holding me in place… I kiss him back.” The two make out for about one page and then are interrupted.
- Lennon and Zori are talking when, “softly, slowly, his lips graze over mine. His mouth is soft, and his hands are roaming up my back. I exhale a shaky breath, and he kisses me: once, briefly. Warmth flickers in my chest.” Zori goes to unbuckle his pants when there is a scream. They leave the tent to find out what’s going on. The scene is described over a page and a half.
- Lennon and Zori have sex. First, “we both pounce on each other at the same time… My legs wrap around his hips, and he’s holding me against the tree, pinning me as he warms my neck with kisses…” When they undress, Zori thinks, “I CAN SEE EVERYTHING, and I can’t stop looking—I don’t even care that I’m shivering in my bra and panties in the middle of the woods… It’s actually happening. It’s good, and a little awkward, and sometimes funny, because wow, human bodies are weird. But it’s also more than I expected—than I even hoped.” The scene is described over eight pages, but they stop and have a conversation before they have sex.
- The story implies that Lennon and Zori have sex in the back seat of a car.
- When Zori’s friend is mean, Zori thinks, “I sort of want to punch her in the boobs.”
- Someone tells a story about a family that went camping and got lost. “An animal had eaten the husband’s leg.”
- When Lennon tries to get a hotel room for him and Zori, Zori’s dad “demanded to know if my moms had sanctioned this. He called them ‘dyke heathens.’” Then, Lennon hit Zori’s dad. Lennon said, “After I landed the punch, he started to come after me, but one of the hotel employees stepped in.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- At the campground, the adults have wine served with dinner.
- Zori watches as a couple of her friends steal wine. Later, she finds out that a couple of her friends got drunk that night. One drunk boy “Pissed on a yurt.”
- Zori’s mom gives her “miracle weed lotion” to put on her hives.
- Lennon’s father overdoses on pain pills.
- A boy sends Lennon a text, “asking if I can get him weed again.”
- Profanity is used often. Profanity includes ass, bastards, crap, bitches, damn, dick, fuck, god-damn, holy hell, hell, shit, and smart-ass.
- Zori sees a “motherfucking snake.”
- Oh God, God, Jesus, Oh Sweet Lord, Christ, and other variations are frequently used as an exclamation.
- Zori thinks, “Oh for the love of God” a few times.
- The phrase “crap on toast” is used several times.
- Lennon says that Zori’s dad is a dick, a scumbag, and that he has “sticks that are stuck up his ass.”
- Lennon tells a girl, “You’re being a huge asshole, you know that?” The girl tells Lennon, “Brett likes you, and you’ve been nothing but a prick to him since we left Milita Hills.”
- After Zori sees a picture of her dad kissing another woman, she thinks, “Thank God the normal clinic receptionist came in to take over for me at lunch.”
- When a boy sees Zori spying on him, she thinks, “If there’s a God above, please let him or her grant me the power of time travel, so I can rewind the clock and completely avoid this nightmare.”
- Lennon thinks, “Thank God for small favors.”
- One of Lennon’s moms has no tolerance for thieves. Zori thinks, “May God have mercy on anyone who tries to shoplift vibrators from Toys in the Attic…”
- Zori is distracted when Lennon is “feeling me up.” Because she can’t concentrate, Lennon asks Zori, “Are you saying I’ve got magic hands, like Jesus?”