Title: Night Owls
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
BY MANDY TE
After a gruelling couple of weeks with assignments and exams looming over me, Dunedin finally treated me to a sunny day – one where I could relax on my porch with pillows, music, and Night Owls. This novel is an enchanting and delightful debut into the Young Adult genre by Jenn Bennett. With a beautifully cultivated plot and characters that do not shy away from their imperfections, the characters in this novel offer the reader a glimpse into the humble beginnings of a romance that becomes so much more.
Night Owls follows protagonist Beatrix Adams, an aspiring artist who has her summer all planned out – she’s going to win an art competition by drawing real cadavers. However, this is something her mother “Katherine the Great” does not approve of. It’s also something that Beatrix hasn’t quite sorted either. Missing the last train home after attempting to talk her way into the local hospital’s Willed Body Program, Beatrix has to catch San Francisco’s night bus. Notorious for transporting drunk and rowdy people from clubs, Beatrix anticipates an unexpected journey home and in some ways, it’s unexpected indeed.
Sitting down next to her is a boy her age or as Beatrix puts it – a “very hot” boy her age. Jack Vincent is tall, eclectic, and an instant spark occurs between the pair. As Jack and Beatrix increasingly become part of each other’s lives, both characters are exposed to some hard truths and interesting discoveries about themselves, as well as each other.
Night Owls is a novel that is carefully crafted with surprising characters, which is rare to see in Young Adult novels these days.
The premise of the novel itself is also encouraging, as Jenn Bennett’s characters subvert some of the generic staples seen in teen romances.
Bennett also explores some serious issues such as mental illness and does so in a way that is respectful rather than idealised. Simply showing issues as they are and not embellishing them gives the novel an admirable sensibility.
However, there are instances where the novel also fits perfectly into these tropes and annoyingly so. As someone who enjoys Young Adult novels, it gets a little unbearable to see the same ideas repeated by authors over and over again.
Even though I found most of the characters generally likeable, I also found it difficult to relate to the novel’s protagonists as their romance, in some ways, inhibited their independent growth rather than helped to cultivate it.
Ultimately, Night Owls is a refreshingly enjoyable novel to read. Not only do Jenn Bennett’s style and plot make it an interesting story, they also provide the reader with some very warm-hearted feelings throughout the pages.