Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading … Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Just Finished Reading … Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney

Starry Nights
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. 


  1. Hmm...this is on my schedule to review but I'm nervous about the magical realism element as I haven't had the best luck with those kinds of books (see September Girls and Imaginary Girls or maybe it's the fact that both titles mention "Girls"). I hope I enjoy this one and even if I don't, I'll still plan on reading When You Were Here.

    1. I haven't read either of those so can't comment, but will be curious to see how you come out on this. Even though magical realism isn't my thing, I still enjoyed the art themes and the setting.

  2. I love that it is set in Paris. And I feel magic can be used a little so long as it is not so much. Cause then I start to think that it is paranormal or supernatural event happening. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Magical realism can be hit and miss for me too, but I probably like it more than you do. I think I would probably love the setting the most. Thanks for the review!

    1. The setting was fabulous. I felt transported!

  4. I love I love your photos! The setting and art themes draw me in, as does the Parisian male narrator, but magical realism doesn't always work for me. I liked LIfe of Pie and Like Water for Chocolate (mostly), but something about adding fantasy elements into contemporary weirds me out. I do love Basil E. Frankenweiler. Definitely a fave of childhood! I have a copy of this one and will probably read it eventually, but I'm not rushing out pick it up.

    1. I don't mind the books where there's just one small bit of MR -- like What Alice Forgot -- but a little goes a long way for me.

      Look forward to hearing your thoughts when you read it!

  5. I don't read younger YA or middle grade often, to be honest. I orefer the more mature side of YA. But I doubt I'll be able to resist the Parisian setting, it being my weakness and all.
    I'll probably give this a chance eventually. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Well, this is definitely YA -- the characters are 17 -- but somehow, and maybe it was either the magical realism or the romance, it felt like a younger story...

  6. Oh dear. Magical realism is hit or miss for me too, and if you're saying younger end of YA, this probably isn't for me--especially since I only had so-so feelings about her last book. BUT BUT BUT. Paris is wonderful, and so are your photos!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. The setting is just fabulous. That is what kept me reading … and happy.

  7. Yay! I really liked this book, I definitely fit into your categories of people who would: Francophile, art lover, AND a fan of magical realism:) I know this book won't be for everyone but it was such a nostalgic read for me--I've been to Paris and the Musee d'Orsay, the Louvre--seen so many of those paintings mentioned, reading this just took me back. It seemed like a fairy tale to me in a way. Yes to Parisian teens instead of American teens--loved that as well.

    I love the pics you included--way to use those visual aids:)

    Great review!

  8. Like you, I don't read that many magical realism books, but I have read a few that were pretty good. This one sounds like I would enjoy it. So I'll add it to my wish list.

    Thanks for sharing.


  9. This book sounds really cute! :) I've had some issues with magical realism- seriously, Imaginary Girls was unbelievably weird and I did NOT understand it- but I think I'd enjoy this book! I've always wanted to go to Paris (you are one lucky duck having gone there plenty of times!) and yes, I agree that books set in different countries are a fresh change! :) I think I'll add this book on my TBR list!

  10. Julian is 17, how many "great loves" has he had? And I LOVED From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. One of my all time favorite books!


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