One of the literary tropes that I am incredibly fond of is enemies-to-lovers. Whether it’s the slow-burn nature of discovering or rediscovering emotions, the forced interaction allowing for hatred to morph into a tentative friendship, a possible miscommunication of intentions that caused the initial hatred to become exposed, or the eventual and inevitable conclusion of uniting in passion and love, there is something about the trope I cannot get enough of! This is especially true if the situation also calls for the characters to become dependent on one another, be it for a school assignment, emotional support, or survival.
So, it was an obvious choice to pick up Jenn Bennett’s Starry Eyes, and it was almost involuntary how quickly I was captivated by its story; I was so captivated, in fact, that I read the entire novel in practically one sitting (I took a two-hour break in between for my brother’s volleyball game).
Starry Eyes follows Zorie Everhart, a geeky high schooler whose life is dictated by a firm need of structure: everything in her life – from the day’s activities to how the path toward her desired job studying astrology is paved – is planned with excruciating detail. Should things not go according to plan, anxiety overwhelms her and she gets hives – a physical attribute that makes itself relevant time and time again throughout the novel.
Zorie’s philosophy is constantly being challenged by the actions of essentially every character that she encounters, all of whom follow some variation of Zorie’s mother’s prevalent message, “Don’t be cautious, be careful,” and indulge in life’s spontaneous nature.
However, the foundations of Zorie’s beliefs are shaken one summer after numerous events disrupt her organized lifestyle: her ‘sort-of’ friend Reagan has invited her out “glamping,” one of many outdoor activities unrelated to astronomy that Zorie is hesitant to partake in; she discovers a secret about her father that threatens to tear her family apart; and her former best friend and current neighbor boy, Lennon Mackenzie, who Zorie has studiously avoided since that disastrous homecoming evening that broke her heart, has accompanied her group on the glamping trip.
Zorie’s hopes of attempting to break away from her withdrawn demeanor and climb the social ladder are dashed when the glamping trip goes horrendously wrong, and she is abandoned in unpredictable wilderness with the one person she dreaded being stuck with: Lennon.
Aside from the delicious potential and delivery of my favorite trope within the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the diverse characters and how they each came to life within the text. While the story is exclusively focused on Zorie, I found that there was ample attention given to each supporting character’s personalities and quirks, from Reagan to Lennon’s mothers, Mac and Sunny. Bennet does a wonderful job depicting how these characters’ relationships with Zorie, however strained or close, and personal problems might come to affect her.
More than this, each character is developed in a realistic depiction of how humans are; there were plenty of moments in which every character, Zorie and Lennon included, not only displayed their relatable moments, but also their faults and flaws. It’s boring to have characters that you like at every moment you spend reading, and sometimes you need to have moments where you roll your eyes at your faves. Bennett ensures that while we ultimately favor certain characters, we also host sympathy for those that had proven to be adversaries… to a degree, at least.
The story of Zorie and Lennon is a well-developed tale of understandable moments of conflict and confusion, miscommunication, and the underlying realization that these two never stopped caring for one another. Bennett’s pacing kept me engaged, leaving me either pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised with each new cliffhanger and twist she presented. Even though the novel at times read like a “Wilderness Survival Guide,” throwing me back to my sixth-grade reading assignment of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, I put down Starry Eyes with a new sense of appreciation toward the unpredictability of life. That, as well as the satisfaction of having scratched that enemies-to-lovers itch.
One thing’s for sure, though: I may just have to keep the phrase “don’t be cautious, be careful” in mind.
Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett is now available wherever books are sold.