Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: August 13th 2015
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Purchase: The Book Depository / Waterstones
Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Leonardo da Vinci’s footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.
Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix’s own family’s closet tear them apart?
It's not often that you find a book that you can deem to be perfect and can bring about all of the feelings for the characters. For me, Night Owls by Jenn Bennett (or The Anatomical Shape of a Heart in the USA) was one of those particular books. I can't quite put my finger on it and explain exactly what it was about this book that made it literary perfection for me, but it just felt right, you know? This book reminded me so much about what it means to slowly fall in the love and the dramatic dilemmas that often can come along with it. Not everyone's love story is as easy as it seems, I mean look at Romeo and Juliet and that's seen as probably the most famous love story there is. Beatrice and Jack's relationship is no different, and the beauty of it is that it's gradual. So going more in-depth about this book, what did I think?
Jenn Bennett's writing style for one was something that immediately drew my attention into this book and made it pretty impossible to put down. Jenn writes so fluidly and the interweaving of some of her metaphors are beautiful, just beautiful. What stunned me the most I think about this book is just how long and developed this story felt whilst only being just over 270 pages. In comparison to most YA contemporaries, this is quite a short novel and yet it packs such a punch that really leaves the reader feeling satisfied and overall quite impressed.
In terms of the plot, we are introduced to the character of Beatrix, a student who just wants to become an anatomical artist. After being stood up for a meeting with a doctor in charge of the corpses in the local hospital, she runs into Jack whilst waiting for San Fransisco's Night Owl bus. Jack has a secret, he's the notorious graffiti artist in the area, but are there other secrets he could be hiding? Their relationship kicks off from that moment when the pair become intrigued by one another. As the plot develops we learn more into who Beatrice is as a person and about her family life, but we also get to see what makes Jack tick and the trials he goes through on a daily basis. What I really loved about the way Jenn introduces us to the histories of these characters is the way it's gradual and serves a purpose for the story, instead of just info dumping on the reader. It made the transition really smooth and I really appreciated the way it was handled. What I found most interesting was why Jack was graffitiing - I found it so heart warming and the way Jenn portrays families is so touching and realistic, it really makes the reader well up with emotion, be that happiness or sadness.
As I progressed through the story I found myself contemplating the possibilities in my head of what could happen at the end of the novel. Being compared to the likeness of a John Green or Rainbow Rowell novel (I mean, who isn't these days) I was expecting some heart-breaking ending that would send me gushing and running for the tissues. I was so relieved to find out that this ending was actually happy and that there was some genuine resolve, instead of the authors leaving their readers on the floor in a puddle of tears whilst they roll in the cash. I really appreciated Jenn's way of ending the story and it's very clear to see why this is going to be such a popular title in the months to come. Night Owls is definitely one to watch out for if you haven't got it on your radar already!
As I mentioned earlier on, the way Jenn writes her characters is extremely realistic - especially when it comes to family figures. In both Beatrix and Jack's situations, there were heart-warming elements and also some that arose some very popular tropes in YA fiction today. The majority of these being the removal of one parental figure in their lives and the neglect of another. Whilst I say this are popular tropes to use, Jenn Bennett uses them to her advantage in a way that distracts the reader from seeing them as just tropes, and actually creates well-rounded and very individual characters that show development throughout the story. I loved the tackling of the father figures especially in this novel. Beatrix's father is out of the picture the majority of the time and it was refreshing to see Beatrix's character face up to her father when the situation occurred. It showed that her character had real depth and exemplified her strength - something sometimes either overlooked or over dramatically personified in personal scenes. In this novel there was the perfect balance between emotionally stable and showing the impact of her father's choices. Similarly with Jack's father it was empowering to see his development based on his position as major. Bennett focuses her character development by creating a 'happily ever after' scenario in which the father see's reason behind his actions and strives to work towards them in the future. Whilst I would have liked to have seen gradual progression on his front, I think Bennett tackled it well.
As for Jack and Beatrix's characters, in my opinion they were very perfectly developed. Jack was sarcastic, a tad vain and slightly narcissistic in a comical way. All of these qualities would usually have me rolling my eyes as they're often used in the 'troubled boy next door' scenario, however with Jack's character they strangely worked and I found myself to really enjoy them. As for Beatrix, there was no major element of weakness on her part. I enjoyed her determination and her strength in this novel and whilst there were definitely times where she was faced with struggles, she overcame them in a very familiar way which is why I found her character to be so realistic and quite reliable.
So overall this was a very heart-warming and empowering novel that certainly packs a punch and will leave a pleasant taste in your mouth well after you've turned the last page. Although it's sad that I can see no future continuation for this story as Jenn concluded it beautifully, I must say I really look forward to any future YA projects she will be working on, because for a debut in the Young Adult genre, she has really hit the nail on the head. It is with my greatest pleasure to award Night Owls by Jenn Bennett a 5 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale. Night Owls is a book that will definitely leave you craving more. It's characters and story leave the reader with the happiest of feelings and an ending that will leave you eternally satisfied.