If you were to be stranded in the middle of nowhere with only one person, who would you want to have with you? Would you want someone with wilderness survival knowledge? Someone who knows how to hunt, or use maps, or survive without having a mental breakdown when they go to tweet about being in this situation and find there’s no phone reception?
Would you want someone who’s going to entertain you, given you’re probably going to die anyway and might as well go down with a smile on your face? Or maybe someone who you’ve always had a crush on to be forced into close proximity with you, giving you the perfect opportunity to finally make a move, or for them to profess their undying love for you. Might as well get one last snog in before you kick the bucket, right?
But what many people don’t consider is who they would least like to be stranded in the wilderness with. I’m sure the person that pops into most of your heads first is some bookish villain or evil mastermind. However, I’m not entirely convinced they’d be all that bad to spend time with. Look at it this way—they probably want to get back to destroying the rest of the world and will find a way back to civilisation ASAP. Worst case scenario, they’ll kill you on the spot. Would that really be as bad as forcing yourself to eat leaves for the thirteenth day in a row? I’d argue not.
For me, the worst person to be stranded with would be someone who I had history with. Someone who had unresolved tension between us. So I think Jenn Bennett got it completely right with Starry Eyes—frenemies stranded in the wilderness together? That definitely sounds like my version of The Bad Place. Hard pass. But that’s exactly what makes Starry Eyes an unputdownable read.
Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best-friends-turned-worst-enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern-day 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.
Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to try to make their way to safety. But as the two travel deeper into the rugged Californian countryside, secrets and hidden feelings surface. Soon it’s not simply a matter of enduring each other’s company, but taming their growing feelings for each other.
Being lost in the wilderness with her friend-turned-enemy becomes reality (or more like a nightmare) for Zorie when a group of friends splits up on a camping adventure that was meant to be far more luxurious than what it turned out to be. Zorie signed up for glamping, but instead got some quality time with the last person she’d want to be alone in the bush with: Lennon. And while that undoubtably sucked for Zorie initially, I was so here for that hate-to-love trope. I knew this book was going to be gorgeous (come on, it’s Jenn Bennett we’re talking about here), but Starry Eyes had me at ‘best friends-turned-best enemies’. I’m a sucker for those kind of stories.
Zorie and Lennon were honestly so fun to get to know. Zorie’s really cautious and an over-planner who has everything figured out—until her camping trip goes horribly wrong. But not only that—she’s into astronomy and loves photographing the stars, and that passion came across really well in the narrative. And then there’s Lennon: the brooding, snarky boy who has a lot of history with Zorie. I loved being drip-fed more information about what really happened between them and seeing Zorie and Lennon start to figure everything out between them. Their relationship was just adorable.
And I absolutely loved the setting. I don’t read that many books that are set in the outdoors, and it was fascinating to get to read about the American wilderness—complete with bears and everything. It was such a stark contrast to everything I’ve experienced in Australia, and that was both terrifying and intriguing. I think I’d rather have to fight off snakes rather than bears though, thanks. I love how the scenery was so well-captured in the writing and allowed me to feel as though the wilderness was enveloping me too. It really was the perfect setting for Zorie and Lennon to be forced into close proximity, where all their past feelings would resurface and they’d be forced to work out the mess between them.
Overall, Starry Eyes is a gorgeous, swoon-worthy contemporary that’s set against a unique background. The characters are three-dimensional and they feel as though they could walk right off the pages, and the relationship between Zorie and Lennon was undoubtably my favourite aspect of this novel. If you love cute contemporaries, Starry Eyes is not to be missed.
Have you read Starry Eyes yet? What about Jenn’s other books? Have you read any other books set in the wilderness, or with elements of camping? Do you enjoy the ‘forced proximity’ trope? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! My review was posted as a part of the Australian blog tour.
Q&A with Jenn Bennett…
Sarah: Hi Jenn, thank you so much for joining me! My first question is this: If you had to swap lives with a character from any of your YA novels, who would you choose?
Jenn: The heroine of a book no one has read yet: it’s a YA historical adventure that takes place in the 1930s, in Turkey and Romania. The heroine is a teen heiress with a treasure-hunting father. I’d like her freedom…and her love interest. And when it’s published next year, everyone can read it and let me know if they agree!
S: Ooh, that sounds so interesting! I’m definitely eager to get my hands on a copy now. I’d probably have to go with Felicity Montague from The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, because she’s bookish and badass and she’s also a pirate. Sounds like a pretty epic life to me.
Next question! If you were sucked into any bookish world, which place would you least like to get lost in?
J: Probably Sarah J. Maas’s COURT world. That place is filled with danger and horrible people. I’m sure I’d get killed in less than a day.
S: Agreed! I mean, it’s a miracle I’m still alive on this world, seeing as how clumsy I am. But yes, Maas’s Court world would be a very tricky one to navigate.
Question number three! What’s one trope you always love seeing in books and one you’d rather see burn?
J: Trope I love (and love to write): forced proximity romance. Trope I hate: love triangles.
S: Ooh good choices! I’d have to agree with you for your least favourite trope, but my favourite one will always be ‘the bad boy with a heart of gold’.
Onto a more Starry Eyes-themed question. If you were stranded in the wilderness with one literary character who isn’t from your books, who would it be?
J: Jamie Fraser from Outlander. He’d be a good guide and excellent company.
S: I still need to read / watch that! I’ll go bury myself in shame now. But if I were in that situation, I’d have to go with Kell from A Darker Shade of Magic. Surely he could magic a doorway to a parallel world into existence? Otherwise he could entertain me with his magic anyway.
Final question! What are some upcoming YA novels you’re excited to get your hands on?
J: LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff, and The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee.
S: LOVE IT! I’m currently reading Lifel1k3 and I’m adoring it, and The Lady’s Guide is one of my most anticipated books of 2018. I can’t wait to finally get a copy!
Thank you so much for this little interview, Jenn!