Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Buy the book: Amazon (UK) / Amazon (US) / Book Depository
Feeling alive is always worth the risk. Meeting Jack on the Owl - San Francisco's night bus - turns Beatrix's world upside down. Jack is charming, wildly attractive... and possibly one of San Francisco's most notorious graffiti artists. But Jack is hiding a piece of himself. On midnight rides and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who this enigmatic boy really is.Reviewing this book is going to be so hard because all I want to do is scream at you about how absolutely fantastic it was. This book just completely amazed me and I have fallen a little in love with it. It instantly topped my top reads of the year list and became a firm favourite of mine. So I am going to try my best in this review to explain all of the reasons why this is an incredible read that you have to read! I also just want to take a moment to explain that this has a different title and cover in the US. There the title is The Anatomical Shape of the Heart, so make sure to keep and eye out for it and buy it at the first opportunity you get!
This is one of those books where I know that I won't be able to review it well enough to do the book justice, but I am going to try my hardest. I have so much I want to say about this book, but no idea where to even begin. I don't want to overwhelm you with all of my thoughts, but I do want to adequately express and explain why this book became an instant favourite of mine and why you should run out and buy it. I feel like the best way to do this is in LIST FORM! Yes, time for a good old list.
Reasons Night Owls is one of the best books I've ever read:
Bex: I found our main character absolutely fascinating. I've never come across a character before who has a passion for anatomical art. It's not really something I've come across in books before at all and that side of Bex really did fascinate me. It fascinated me because it was something that I couldn't immediately understand. I love how strong she is and that she knows what she wants to do and isn't afraid to work hard to do it.
Jack: Jack is the mysterious guy that Bex sees for the first time on the Owl bus. He's a total flirt, completely charming and it's easy to see why Bex would be attracted to him. He's also very funny, witty and I loved his sense of humour. He also shares Bex love of art, just a very different kind. He's described as having the style of Marlon Brando in Wild One, and looking like the love child of David Beckham and James Dean.
And then he was kissing me like we were both on fire and he was trying to put the flames out, and I kissed him back like an arsonist with a pocketful of matches.
2. LGBT characters: I feel it's so important that more YA books have LGBT characters, and as secondary characters and not just lead characters. It makes the book feel more real to me because the world we live in is so diverse and filled with many different people. I love that LGBT characters are a lot more common and prominent in YA fiction. This book contains some brilliant LGBT characters.
3. Sibling relationships: Who doesn't love seeing wonderful sibling relationships in their books? I know I do, even if it does make me rather envious. I spent most of my childhood fighting with my siblings, even though we are close now. This book has great sibling relationships, they love and support each other and help each other.
4. Mental health themes: A brilliant point was made on the mental health panel at LFCC, and that is the fact that we must remember that we all have mental health, not just something that effects those who are struggling with it. It's great to see a book that deals with mental health issues so openly. It is dealt with very realistically in this book, but it also educated me on aspects of mental illnesses that I didn't even know about. At the YALC panel they also discussed how years ago mental health wasn't explored or talked about openly, it was a very taboo subject. This book explores not only mental health, but also how different people handle and react to it.
"I've spent the last three days at the Zen Center trying to get back on my feet, and you just pull me up like it's nothing."
5. Sex positive: More YA books could do with promoting a more open and positive attitude towards sex. There are moments in this books where characters are judged for their sexual activity, but it's used to teach about the hypocrisy between how men and women are treated differently in regards to that. But this book promotes a very positive attitude toward sex. Our characters are actually mature enough to have sex because they are willing to have actual conversations about it and discuss protection. I really wish more books handled teenage sex as well as this does.
6. The art: Bex wants to be an anatomical artist, and is planning to spend her summer drawing cadavers. Jack is a graffiti artist who spray paints words throughout the city of San Francisco. I loved all the art in this book, but also both characters passion for it. I was absolutely fascinated by Bex's love and appreciation for anatomical art. I'm an incredibly squeamish person who gets nauseous just writing about blood, veins and organs (typing this is making me want to vomit!), so I could think of nothing worse than spending my summer holidays studying the organs of a corpse and then drawing it in detail. But Bex's love for it is contagious, so much so that I found myself googling images and gaining my own love and appreciation for the exquisitely detailed art I found. I'd never realised that something that I would brush off as ugly could be made to look so beautiful. but it does.
"What do I want?" His fingers brushed over loose strands of hair near my temple. "I want to call you every five minutes. I want to text you goodnight every night. I want to make you laugh. And I want you to look at me like you did that first night on the bus."
7. Slow build romance: There is no hint of the dreaded insta love in this book, although there is definitely attraction between the two right from the very beginning. These two get to know each other over the course of the book and their feelings grow over time as they connect over shared interests and help each other through difficult times. This is the slow burn kind of romance that I love, where there is sexual tension and a ton of chemistry between the two characters that grows and builds over the course of the book. This has so many swoony moments and I was rooting for these two from the very beginning. Jenn Bennett is also amazing at writing the more sexy scenes too. Jack is most definitely worth of book boyfriend status and I'm sure readers will fall for him right along with Bex.
We were both frantic and fevered, and it was the first kiss I'd ever had that felt like a fight. And the way he made my body ache made me think I'd been doing it all wrong until now.
This is a book for anyone who loves contemporary. Or swoon worthy romance. Or mature YA characters. Or characters with a passion for art. Or a book that's filled with diverse and wonderful characters. This is a book for anyone. It should be devoured and loved! This read will leave you with the biggest smile on your face because the romance between our to main characters is just absolutely adorable.
* I received a copy of this book through LoveReading4Kids in exchange for an honest review.
I loved this book so much that I couldn't resist asking Jenn Bennett if she would be willing to let me interview her for the blog. She was absolutely lovely and was more than willing to provide an interview. I tried no to squeal too much when she said yes, but I just could not stop myself.
1. First, I'd like to start by asking you to share a little bit about yourself.Thanks for having me on your blog! I'm an artist and an American author. I live in Atlanta, Georgia, which you may know as the birthplace of Coca-Cola (yes, our gift to the world is diabetes: you're welcome!) and the home of the busiest airport in the world. It's also extraordinarily hot. I'm obsessed with all things vintage, which is a nice way of saying I Like old junk, and I collect weird things like old postcards of redwood trees and 1930s theatre prints. My mother is a Viking, I've lived in a million places (I was born in Germany), and have travelled around the world. I'm married to a film geek. We have two evil pugs.
2. Although the book is titled Night Owls here in the UK, the US edition is titled The Anatomical Shape of the Heart. So, whilst both are relevant to the story, why the change? Which title came first? And do you have a preference?The U.K. publisher kept my original title, NIGHT OWLS, which was a nod to the San Francisco late-night buses (Owls), and a description of my lead characters' nocturnal activities: Beatrix is trying to sneak into a university lab to draw medical cadavers (she's obsessed with anatomy, a la Leonardo da Vinci) and Jack is an anonymous graffiti artist. The U.S.publisher wanted to focus on the anatomy side of the story. I like both titles, but I won't lie: I'm partial to my original. (Ten points to the U.K.!)
3. Night Owls is your YA debut, but it's not your debut novel as you have quite a few adult fiction books. What made you want to write a YA novel and how have you found the experience different to writing an adult fiction book?My fantasy series has a teen character, Jupe, who is sort of this fan-favorite character of mine, and a lot of readers often told me I should write him as the hero of his own series. That never happened, but somewhere along the way, my agent suggested I try my hand at writing YA. She thought I had the right voice for it. I was nervous to try it, worried that I would screw it up, that I wouldn't sound authentic. But when I started writing, it just felt... right. I have it when authors say that books "write themselves", but this one nearly did. The words just flowed. I enjoyed every second of it. It was a joy.
4. Are you working on any more YA novels? And if so, can you tell us anything about it?Yes, I just finished writing my second YA novel and sent it my agent. I can say that it's a standalone romance, contemporary, with new characters, and it takes place down the coast from where NIGHT OWLS is set. Also, I love it just as much as I loved this book. (Maybe more!)
5. What did you find the easiest and hardest about writing Night Owls?The easier part was writing it. The hardest part was waiting for my U.S. publisher to set a publishing date, which was two years after my agent sold the book. Two years is a looooong time to wait. Long enough that you start to wonder if you ever really wrote the book at all of if it was just a strange memory and you really just ate some bad shellfish.
6. Night Owls is a book that I feel really celebrates diversity and the differences between people that make us all unique. Was that important to you when writing this book?That is always important to me when writing any book. I write what I see, and my world is diverse. Just on my block alone, I can look outside my window and see a gay couple talking to a Jewish elderly woman across the street, a disabled man fixing a car, two Latino kids riding bikes, and an African American war veteran jogging. All of that is beautiful to me.
7. Bex has a love of anatomy and draws anatomical art, with dream of becoming an anatomical artist. Did you have to do a lot of research for this? Or is it something you also have a passion for?I studied art college and have a Bachelor in Fine Arts, so I did a lot of anatomical studies, though it was never my passion. But I can understand how someone with Bex's mind could be obsessed with the human body, because it's so complex and amazing. For the book, I did a little research, yes- especially on the Willed Body lab, which is an existing lab at a university hospital in San Francisco. I also watch a lot of cadaver dissection video footage, which had quite the same effect on me as they had on Bex in the book: namely, they made me lose my lunch. (Shudder.)
8. What books or authors first inspired you to start writing?You know, it wasn't a particular book, but rather something a former boss of mine said at my last (boring) corporate job. He asked all of us what we'd be doing if we weren't working there, and out of nowhere, I blurted, "I'd be an author." And I'd never even thought of it consciously before. Never written one single word of a book. Two years later, I was signing my first contract with a NYC publishing house. So the moral of this story is this: If your subconscious is trying to tell you somehting, listen.
I absolutely LOVED this book and I can't help but want to share it with as many people as possible. Jenn Bennet was lovely enough to not only provide an interview, she also worked with her Simon & Schuster UK publishers to organise a giveaway. One UK winner can win a copy of the book from S&S. But I will also be giving someone else the chance to win a copy, and this giveaway will be international.
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