Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Book Review: "Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee" by Jeff Zentner

"Sometimes small and unspectacular things can be a universe."

Josie and Delia are best friends. They're practically inseparable, prone to conversations like, "Have you noticed that if you switch the first letters of every country singer's first and last name, you end up with an amazing Star Wars name?"

Every Friday night, Josie and Delia become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, the hosts of a campy, tongue-in-cheek horror show on public access television called Midnite Matinee. They show bad horror movies, make lots of corny jokes, and quite often have to keep themselves from bursting into laughter while filming, but they try to keep improving and create something they can be (reasonably) proud of.

Their program is filmed in Jackson, Tennessee, but airs on a few markets throughout the south, enough that there are viewers who write them letters to comment on errors, offer criticism and suggestions, and share pervy thoughts that men shouldn't have about two high school seniors. Josie has dreamed of being on television for as long as she can remember, while Delia get involved mostly as a tribute to her father, who shared his love of campy horror movies with her, and then left when she was younger.

As their senior year draws to a close, so much hangs in the balance. While they both plan to go to the same college so they can continue filming the show on weekends, Josie's parents want her to pursue a television career legitimately. Josie doesn't want to let Delia down, but she doesn't know if the show is even what she still wants. And when a guest on the show catches Josie's attention in an unexpected way, it adds even more pressure to the decisions she has to make.

Everything hinges on a meeting Delia has set up with a producer who made a star out of a horror hostess back in the day. They plan to meet him at ShiverCon, a horror convention. They both dream that this meeting will take their show to the next level, which is what Delia wants more than anything, and it would solve all of Josie's problems. And maybe, while they're in Florida for the convention, Delia might track down her father...

"You don't always know at the time when you're experiencing one of those random memories you'll carry all your life. When nothing momentous happened other than driving a little too fast in the direction of Florida, at dusk, with your best friend at your side and, at your back, a guy who's really good at kissing you. Still, you remember it until the day you die."

Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee is a warm, funny, poignant story of friendship, love, following your dreams, and worrying you'll always be the one left behind. At times the book gets a little too goofy, but it has such heart, and Jeff Zentner has created such terrific characters that charm you and make you care about them.

Zentner's first two books, The Serpent King and Goodbye Days, tore me apart emotionally (see my reviews here and here), but he takes a lighter path with this book, although there still are emotional moments. He is truly a talented writer, relying on so much more than teenage characters who speak as if they've been honing their sarcasm and caustic wit since birth. He really has a knack for capturing the right amount of teenage angst and emotion.

I believe Zentner is one of the best YA writers out there these days. If you prefer an utter emotional upheaval, read either of his first two books, but if you just want a fun, slightly zany, and poignant look at friendship, definitely pick up Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee.

NetGalley, Random House Children's, and Crown Books for Young Readers provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

This book will be published February 26, 2019.

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