by Daisy Whitney
To be published by Bloomsbury
on September 3, 2013
Source: e-ARC from Netgalley. Please see my full FTC disclosure on the right sidebar.
Summary from Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Julien is a romantic—he loves spending his free time at the museum poring over the great works of the Impressionists. But one night, a peach falls out of a Cezanne, Degas ballerinas dance across the floor, and Julien is not hallucinating. The art is reacting to a curse that trapped a beautiful girl, Clio, in a painting forever. Julien has a chance to free Clio and he can't help but fall in love with her. But love is a curse in its own right. And soon paintings begin to bleed and disappear. Together Julien and Clio must save the world's greatest art . . . at the expense of the greatest love they've ever known.
Buzzwords: magical realism, Paris, art themes
My take: Okay, I'll admit right off that magical realism is not usually for me, unless it's an element in a children's book. In YA and adult books, I usually find it too weird and trippy. Yes, I know that adults need magic too. Feel free to lecture me about this in the comments if you want.
So … the magical realism was not my favorite part of Starry Nights, and I wasn't crazy about the "greatest love he's ever known" that Julian finds with a girl in a painting.
But …. I still found a lot in Starry Nights that I enjoyed:
1. Paris. I have been to Paris a couple of times and it's a city I absolutely love, even though I don't speak a word of French. I've visited many of the settings in the book: the Musée d'Orsay, the Louvre, and Monet's garden at Giverny. Here are my photos of some of the places the book mentions:
|Close up view of Lover's Bridge -- from the prologue.|
|Musée d'Orsay, where Julian gives tours. The building was a former railway station.|
|Monet's gardens at Giverny|
2. Parisian teens: It was such a great change to read about French teenagers instead of American ones. I thought that Julian, his gender-bending new friend Bonheur, Bonheur's adorable sister Sophie, and aspiring ballet dancer Emilie were all fun and engaging characters.
3. Calling Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler! From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was one of my favorite books as a kid and I still read it from time to time. It didn't feature magical realism, but it did follow two kids who hide out in the Metropolitan Museum and solve the mystery behind a mysterious statue. Starry Nights had some similarities -- Julian's mother runs the Musée d'Orsay, so he can also sneak in and out whenever he wants, and he's trying to solve a bunch of mysteries: why does the art come to life when he's around? Why are some of the paintings at the museum starting to fade?
4. An excellent author's note: I love it when authors use real events and people to inspire their stories. But I hate when they neglect to add a note at the end to explain where they took creative license. Starry Nights has a fantastic author's note that explains everything -- I was surprised to learn there's a lot of reality in this book to go along with the magic. Fascinating!
Julian is supposed to be seventeen, but Starry Nights still read to me like a book on the younger end of the YA spectrum. Maybe it was the whole "paintings coming to life" thing, or that way that Julian fell for a girl in a painting with all the wide-eyed, worshipful fervor of a tween staring at a One Direction poster, but he felt much younger to me.
But if you're a reader of any age who is a Francophile, an art lover, or a fan of magical realism, I definitely recommend that you give Starry Nights a try. If, like me, you prefer your books with more grit and less quirk, try Daisy Whitney's YA contemporary, When You Were Here.