REVIEW: By the Pale Moonlight by Jennifer Hendren
Dear Ms. Hendren:
Your book came to my attention through the recommendation sent to Sarah and I via our podcast email. In the podcast, Sarah and I both buy the book. I hoped it was going to be as awesome as promised, unfortunately this young adult novel read as juvenile as its characters. There was a serious lack of decent worldbuilding, a large reliance on cliches, and a very unlikeable first person narrator.
When one of Makenna Wilhelm’s class mates is savaged, somehow Makenna just knows that it is an animal. What is worse she thinks that it might be her hot neighbor, Ty. Makenna believes that something strange is going on with Ty and suspects it is tied into the animal attack of her classmate. Makenna accepts Ty’s transformation almost without question. The worldbuilding is nill in this book. Ty agonizes that it is him and has been trying to develop tools to prevent his shifting or to prevent him from leaving his home during the full moon. There is no real discussion of the existence of werewolves but there is plenty of google searching to determine what will kill and stop them. Is Ty savaging people? Is Makenna in danger? Who are her true friends? Those are the questions of the book.
Told in the first person, the reader is subjected to Makenna’s thoughts and observations only which is unfortunate as Makenna came off as shallow and cruel but presented to the reader as a sympathetic figure. We were supposed to empathize with her, but I became more irritated with each passing page. The prose is rough but readable which is ultimately why I finished it and why I’m not giving it an F.
Makenna is the kind of person who dumps on old friends because she has made cooler, new friends as she has grown older. She has no real regard for her newer, popular friends either.
“My best friend, Jenna Nichols, stood near the fence line getting ready for the half-time show. Several players ogled her legs beneath her short cheerleading skirt as they passed by her on the way to the locker room. She’d certainly earned a reputation with the team. Last time I’d bother to count, she was on her third boyfriend recruited straight from the starting line-up….In my current mood, I might blurt out just how Ty felt about her. Jenna wasn’t likely to take the words ‘superficial slut’ well.”
These aren’t exactly the thoughts that a girl has about a true best friend, are they? If this story had been a redemptive arc by Makenna learning that her shallow pursuit of popularity was hollow or, alternatively, we were to cheer Makenna’s cold blooded social climbing, the story would have been much different and much more fresh. Unfortunately that wasn’t the book I was reading. Instead, Makenna is presented as the victim, particularly when her cool friends turn on her and she is forced to rely upon an uncool girl for help.
Not 20% in and Makenna realizes that Jenna wasn’t a true friend at all:
“I watched the back of her blonde head and realized I didn’t have any regrets over her lost friendship. If there was anyting to be disappointed over, it was that it took me so long to realize she wasn’t the kind of person I should’ve placed my trust in to being with.”
Makenna is a user without a conscience. She blackmails a decent guy who she has always looked down on for not wearing the right clothes or living in the right part of town into helping her. Apparently Makenna is so incredibly hot that these guys she treats like absolute shit are hot for her. I guess Makenna’s efforts at blackmail are supposed to be smiled away with indulgence but threatening to spread a rumor that a guy who is disadvantaged has a drug problem and may be doing other bad things wasn’t sympathetic. I didn’t find this cute or endearing and was confused as to why I was supposed to.
What’s strange is how the optics of the story appear at the end, when certain characters’ true colors show through. At that point, I wasn’t sure if you were trying to send a message that being on the top of the food chain was a moral imperative otherwise you were in danger of being a demonic evil soul. I suspect the message of the story was supposed to be much different. Perhaps it was a redemptive story of one girl’s lust for popularity gone wrong. I’m not entirely certain. I do believe that when a book revolves around one character, that character regardless of their moral compass, needs to come off as likable.
If I was a horny teenager then maybe Makenna would have been the bees knees. This story ends in a big cliffhanger, but I am not interested in what happens next. D