TV, Teens & Turmoil: Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee Review

2.20.2020


Thank you to Random House Children's Crown Books for Young Readers for providing me with an advanced reader copy for review. Receiving this galley does not impact my opinion of the book.
"On TV, things are uncomplicated, with lots of fanfare. But sometimes real life is better, in all of its complications, in all of its everyday, quiet ache."

In this novel, Jeff Zenter weaves the perspectives of high school seniors Josie and Delia, known to their horror movie show audience as Rayne and Delilah. On "Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee", the girls watch and review old films that Delia's father shared with her as a child. For Josie, the show is practice for her future career in television. As high school graduation approaches, however, Josie struggles to choose between staying in her hometown to continue the local show and moving to Knoxville to pursue something bigger: an internship at the Food Network. She also unexpectedly falls in love with a guest on her show, Lawson, further complicating her decision. For Delia, the show has more personal meaning: "Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee" is her escape from her home situation, where Delia must care for her mother, and a way to reach out to the father that left her. Zenter's book illustrates the hard decisions that young adults face during their transition to life after high school.

During graduation season, high school seniors confront nuanced situations and their own sense of self. Throughout Rayne and Delilah's Midnight Matinee, Josie and Delia grapple with the reality of moving forward and experience nostalgia looking back. Beyond their concerns for the future of their show, they wonder whether their friendship can last if their futures take them separate places-- a real question many seniors face as the end of high school draws nearer.

"It suddenly hits me, more raw than it ever has before: everything ends...one day you wake up and you're eighteen and going to college...You may find someone you love and get married. And it might last a long time, but it ends one way or another...I'm glad things end, though...There's nothing worth having that doesn't die."

As someone who was in the same position as this book's protagonists not even a year ago, I recognize that this period of transition is unique to the individual. For some, life after high school is enlisting in the military. For others, post-graduation is seeking work, taking time off, or preparing to start college. Writing about this vulnerable time in a teenager's life can be a great opportunity. But to succeed, the characters in such a story must be well-developed, as unique and individual as the high school seniors that they emulate. Herein lies the greatest detriment to Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee: poor characterization that fails to capture the perspective of high school girls.

Zenter presents the story through dual narration, with chapters alternating between Josie and Delia's perspectives. Yet the girls' narration styles were so similar and so unlike how high school seniors speak that I struggled to tell them apart, even when they conversed with one another. In conversation, for example, Josie and Delia exclusively refer to each other as "DeeDeeBooBoo" and "JoJoBee".

As the novel progresses, the girls' diverging storylines allow their characters to become more distinguishable. While Josie, accompanied by Lawson, tries to secure a deal with horror producer Jack Divine, Delia borrows Josie's car to track the father that left her. Josie and Delia's narration starts to work not because the characters' personalities develop to be different from one another, but because their circumstances are different. The similarity in the girls' voices makes them read like the same character.

The dialogue almost creates caricatures of the two teenage girls and contributes to their lacking characters. Josie and Delia's banter alternates between random and drawn-out attempts at humor and moments of existentialism. During the climax, in which Josie's efforts to bargain with celebrity producer Jack Divine devolve into a fistfight, Josie's out-of-place jokes make the last portion of the book feel slightly ridiculous. Her reaction to the crisis exacerbates the contrast between the ending and the more realistic first half of the novel. My lasting impression of these interactions was that I was reading someone's attempt to write in the voices of two teenage girls instead of reading the actual voices of two teenage girls.

While I appreciated Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee's unique story concept, centered around the girls' own TV show, its portrayal of teen girls, the foundation of the book, fell short.

-★★.5-



6 comments :

  1. This book sounds so interesting! It sounds so emotional and heartfelt. I would not choose to go back in time to senior year of high school. High school in general is such a tumultuous time. It is a shame that the two characters' "voices" are practically identical! Awesome review.

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    1. Thanks Erin! I agree with you-- I appreciate high school for allowing me to develop the person I was then, but I would not return if I had the choice. Hope study abroad is going well :)

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  2. I've only read one book by this author, and I really loved it, but getting the character's voice right or not can definitely be a make or break for a book. I'm sorry you didn't end up loving this one that much.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I've heard a lot of good things about Zenter's fantasy books, so maybe I would enjoy those instead. I unfortunately just felt that he failed to capture the voice of a teen girl.

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