Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review: Moonglass by Jessi Kirby


When Anna was little, she and her mother used to search for sea glass, but since they looked at night, they called it moonglass. Now, ten years after her mother's mysterious death, her father is working as head lifeguard on the same beach where her mother grew up and her parents first met and fell in love.

Reluctant to get close to anyone (including her father) and not pleased about having to start at a new school, Anna begins to spend more time alone, running the length of the beach and wondering about who her mother really was. After meeting a lifeguard named Tyler, she slowly lets her guard down and together they start exploring the abandoned houses that dot the beach.

But when learning more about her mother's past leads to a painful discovery, Anna must reconcile her desire for solitude with ultimately accepting the love of her family and friends.


The Short Version:
Beautifully emotional and vivid in setting, Moonglass is a story of secrets, romance, and forgiveness. With a sympathetic but still sometimes frustrating protagonist, a cocky but sweet lifeguard love interest, and an interesting dynamic between father and daughter, the characters play a strong and well defined role throughout. A well paced plot, shifting between mystery and character growth, and fluid, gorgeous writing make this one a brilliant, stunning, and intense yet rewarding debut.

The Extended Version:
Anna is disgruntled at the start, frustrated about moving and having a rough time connecting with her father. This creates a different kind of bond with the reader, blending both frustration and affection. Likely able to sympathize with the distance between Anna and her father, readers will gravitate towards her while still wondering about the dad’s side of things. Rebellious in some ways, and obedient in others, Anna is a very realistic teen, and though she’s certainly got her pool of issues to wade through, she isn’t purely angst or sorrow. From sweet to intelligent and perceptive, Anna shows a range of sides and emotions, each one well cued and explained.

Tyler seems sure of himself and arrogant at first, but that side quickly fades into a caring, genuinely kind boy that makes for a fantastic and completely swoonworthy love interest. The reasons Anna is attracted to him are clear, far beyond his physical appearance, and their banter keeps things lively and fun. Despite his lighthearted nature, Tyler knows when to be serious, when to be there for Anna, and when she needs nothing more than a hug or a laugh. Their relationship grows in such a steady, believable way, and the impact they had on each other for the better is clear.

From other lifeguards who range in personality types to new friends at school, Anna encounters plenty of people that bring out different elements of her. Even her father shows different sides amongst the different crowds, from the way the lifeguards who he manages view him to family friends. The new girl element is present, without being a crutch, and Kirby has done a beautiful job of bringing on a rather large cast of characters in a way that isn’t confusing or too much at once.

Though there is the romantic element, it definitely is not a focus nor does it take away from the bigger issues and points of the book. The back and forth between Anna and her dad, from misunderstandings to miscommunicating completely creates a fragile but real air, and is most definitely something any girl can likely relate to. Their need for each other is clear, and yet they’ve been through so much it’s also obvious why there’s distance now. This, combined with a growing mystery about not only where they are living but things related to Anna’s mom create a unique and powerful emotional atmosphere that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go.

The plot moves at a very steady pace, with something always happening to keep the reader intrigued. The huge role that moonglass itself plays in this book is well thought out and a fantastic element, giving life and ties to Anna’s mother while still being something fresh as well. Hints of mermaid mythology are also infused in a smooth manner, bringing up questions and providing explanations, while still staying true to the contemporary style.

Kirby’s writing is beautiful, and rapt with very vivid descriptions that certainly draw in the reader’s senses without being overbearing, overdone, or verbose. From the misty saltwater air to the cool nights and sand in your tours, Kirby brings the setting to life as strongly as she does Anna and the other characters. Infused with intensity and emotion, Kirby creates some very breathtaking and heartwrenching scenes, while still keeping things very true to Anna’s mentality and voice.

The characters are the strongest point in this book, each one uniquely developed and created, and all well fleshed and very clearly multidimensional, and Kirby’s inherent writing skills are showcased perfectly. She doesn’t only rely on her characters, however, and has a fantastic storyline to back it up, and powerful writing to round it out. Across the board, Moonglass is a must read and holds plenty of elements for many different readers to find something to adore about it.

Source: ARC received from author/publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication Date: May 3, 2011


  1. Sigh. This sounds like a beautiful book. Thank goodness that its release date is around the corner--I'll have to keep an eye out for it while I'm in B&N or Borders. Fantastic review, Kari! :)

  2. This one sounds SO good! I've had my eye on it for a while but didn't realize there was a hint of mermaid mythology in it. It sounds like my kind of read for sure! Thanks for the awesome review!! :)

  3. Kari, thank you for such a beautiful review! Can't wait to meet you at ALA!

  4. on my MUST read list. Yep.

    Thanks for the review, Kari.