I was not at all prepared for Moonglass by Jessi Kirby. It looks kinda like a fairly lighthearted Contemporary about a girl who is spending the summer on the beach. And, most of the reviews I had read of the book didn't quite dispel that. They mentioned that the book had more depth than they were expecting, but I mean, come on... When you expect the emotional impact of jellyfish, it's not that hard to be surprised.
But that is lies!
This book was amazing. Anna is having a really hard time. She has to move — start at a new school and leave all her friends behind because her dad just got a job transfer — back to the beach where her parents first met. Her mom committed suicide years ago and Anna isn't really sure why her dad would want to go back to that beach. She knows that the beach is going to bring back memories for her father, but she also senses that it's going to carry them for her as well, if she can only figure out how to unlock them. And it's hard.
Anna is such a perfect character. Not because she's without fault but because she is real. She hurts, she disobeys her dad but (mostly) still wants and tries to be a good daughter, crushes on cute guys, wants to make friends... She is the every teen but she is also completely herself. There is something compelling about this young girl, trying to accept and come to terms with the loss of her mother. And there is a lot to work through there, much more than we know about in the beginning.
The side characters are also wonderfully complex. While their relationship isn't perfect (she is, after all, a teenager) Anna and her dad have a strong relationship and it is obvious that he cares about her and legitimately wants what is best for her and he wants her to be happy. And he does what he thinks he can to make life easier and better (although he is, very definitely, still a dad.) Can I just take a moment to say Yay! for an awesome, concerned and involved parent in YA!!
Tyler was also a perfectly blended addition to the story. As the love interest, he is a natural part of Anna's life but he didn't overwhelm the story. This is a book that has a romance in it, but is not a romance itself, which is how I prefer my stories to be. I feel like so many books right now are just all about the romance, and it was a nice change reading a book where the story itself didn't revolve around the love interest and would, in fact, still be a story without him. Also, the friends from school Anna makes — endearingly ridiculous Ashley and dedicated runner Jillian (who is fighting her own inner demons) also help to give the story strength and reality. And Kirby adds so much to the setting and the characters within the setting, like the other lifeguards and the Crawler that it is impossible not to believe that this is a real place.
It really is such a beautifully strong novel, and I absolutely love the quote used on the back cover. I think it perfectly describes the emotion of the book. It just feels right.
"I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both."At first glance, it's a little bit like — Huh. That's an interesting thought, kinda cool. But, as you look at it again, it starts to mean so much more. And that's how I felt about this book. At first glance, it seems like just another beachy Contemporary. There's nothing wrong with them, but there isn't always much meat to them either. But Wow. Was I ever wrong. There is so much more to this book than the beach. The characters were honest and real and hurting and I just connected with them so strongly even though nothing in my life really mirrors this. But goodness. Kirby has done something special here and it is a book not to be missed.