A year after Luna's mother was killed by a cab, 14-year-old Luna, still aching from grief, discovers her mother's cellphone with seven voice mail messages, all with clues about the truth about her mother's life and final moments. From the start, adult author Lewis (Relative Stranger) anchors Luna as independent and self-aware (perhaps overly so), but the promising beginning erodes, as Luna's grief takes a backseat to her search, which starts to feel melodramatic as Luna suspects her mother was having an affair. The already manufactured and implausible premise becomes even less believable after Luna's father gives her an old-fashioned camera for her birthday. Luna photographs Daria, a model she met while traversing New York City to follow up on clues, after which Daria secures a one-woman show for Luna, an agent promises Luna a book deal, and a photo-shoot with the New York Times and a trip to Italy follows. This is due in part to Luna's famous parents, but the book's credibility suffers, making Luna difficult to connect or empathize with. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
VOYA - Caitlin Augusta
Fourteen-year-old Luna accesses her mother's cell phone messages to discover the circumstances of her death. She receives assistance from her precocious brother, Tile, and her cello-playing boyfriend, Oliver. As Luna unveils the facade of her parents' marriage, she also develops as a professional photographer. There is something of a fairy tale quality to Luna's Upper West Side Manhattan life. Her father is a renowned film director, and her mother was a model. Luna's attempts to understand and forgive others make for a slightly surreal coming-of-age novel. Luna's tribulations, including grieving, a clueless boyfriend, and traitorous friends, will endear her to teen readers, as will her unrelenting nosiness. Luna's first-person narration, however, seems too mature for fourteen ("Every girl at this table will probably stress about food and weight when we're older, but why do it now?"). Some of her unvarnished statements blink like road signs that readers cannot possibly miss ("I cannot listen to them [the messages] right away, and if I do, maybe only one at a time.") The dramatic tension and the plot are misaligned. When Luna discovers her mother's affair, that feels like the climax of the book. Yet the subsequent backstory draws out the conclusion and makes it difficult for readers to acknowledge Luna's emotional closure. While the boyfriend plot will sell this story to readers, it seems untethered, an artificial foil to Luna's mother's decisions. Structural issues aside, Luna's journey will pique teen interest, as will the supporting cast of characters. Reviewer: Caitlin Augusta
Children's Literature - JoAn Watson Martin
When Luna loses her mother in a traffic accident, her life changes drastically. Her family lives in Manhattan's Upper West Side and her mother was a beautiful, much sought after, model. As Luna searches for clues for what happened the night her mother died, she feels compelled to protect her little brother. Her father insists she forget it and move along with her life. He buys her an old style camera to start her on a career as a professional photographer in hopes she will not realize he is lying. She recruits her boyfriend, Oliver, to help her solve the mystery of where her mom was and who she was with that night. When she spots Oliver kissing her former friend, she thinks their relationship is over before it begins. She longs for her mother because she could have talked to her about Oliver. Finding a red cell phone under her mother's bed, she decides it might be easier to handle if she will listen to the seven unheard messages one at a time. She fears she is not ready to face everything at once. As she listens to one message after another, she feels as if she is getting closer to the TRUTH. But does she really want to learn about that night? Her mother's brother, Richard, and Julian invite her to Italy and help her accept that no one is perfect. They have saved a box of her mother's things for her. Most fourteen-year-old girls will consider Luna lucky to have the trust of her father, credit cards, and a driver on call. What more could a girl want? The author offers an unusual mystery that pulls the reader through, hoping to solve the challenge of the seven messages on a cell phone. Reviewer: JoAn Watson Martin
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Luna's mother has been gone a year now—killed suddenly when she stepped in front of a taxi. And while the teen and her brother, Tile, are still trying to make sense of life without her, Luna comes across her mother's cell phone and discovers seven unopened voice messages. Luna listens to them and discovers secrets about her parents' relationship, including a clandestine affair. Her pain eases somewhat as her interest in photography, along with the gift of a camera from her father, sends her out into the city taking pictures and leads to her first gallery show. But with the growing understanding of the circumstances surrounding her mother's death also comes a growing awareness of herself as an individual, not just the daughter of two famous people. She feels stirrings of a first love when she meets her neighbor Oliver. He is dealing with issues of his own, from a domineering father to a former girlfriend who wants to end his new relationship with Luna. A solo trip to Italy to visit her uncle and his companion gives her the time and space she needs to resolve her feelings toward her father, Oliver, and her loss, and she discovers that sometimes the answers you want are not exactly the ones you find. The hook of the unopened phone messages ties the various story lines together nicely. With its realistic portrayals of love in various relationships and the theme of developing one's sense of self, the story will appeal to older readers.—Diana Pierce, Leander High School, TX
Read an Excerpt
A LITTLE ABOUT MOI
I may be fourteen, but I read the New York Times. I don't wear hair clips or paint my cell phone with nail polish, and I'm not boy crazy. I don't have a subscription to Twist or Bop or Flop or whatever they call those glossy magazines full of posters of shiny-haired, full-lipped hunks.
Whatever you do, don't call me a tween. That makes me feel like I'm trapped in some adolescent purgatory where I get force-fed Disney-themed cupcakes while watching Hannah Montana reruns--that stage is over. Who came up with that name, anyway? I bet the person who came up with the name Hannah Montana gets paid a quarter of a million dollars a year and drives a Lexus. My cousin could've come up with a better name, and she's five and rides a tricycle.
I grew up in Manhattan on the Upper West Side, and when I was really little, I thought my driver was my father. He'd take me to school every day and make sure my shoelaces were tied. Sometimes he'd let me listen to NPR while he chatted with the doormen. He seemed to know them all, a secret society of men in pressed black coats standing as straight as the buildings they protected. But of course, he wasn't my father. My real father is a film director who was at the height of his career when I was born, which is why he was never around. He was always shooting in places like Africa, Japan, Australia, and Canada. Now some critics say he's washed up, but I think the reason people become film critics is because they failed to be film directors themselves. I don't usually feel famous myself, but I went to the premiere of his last film (the one that supposedly washed him up) and a couple months later there was a picture of us in Vanity Fair. My overenthusiastic English teacher, Ms. Gray, cut out the picture and taped it to the whiteboard. At first I was thrilled, but then I felt weird about it. I ended up sneaking in after class and bending the page so that you could only see my father, with his shiny face, his jet-black hair, and those wire-thin glasses that always seem to be sliding off his nose. He's the one who should be recognized. He literally spends years putting actors, writers, cinematographers, editors, studios, and locations all in a big blender until his movies pour out smoothly onto the screen. All I did that evening was walk next to him and carry the cheat sheet for his speech.
My little brother, Tile, was too young to come to the premiere with us or have his photo taken. When my mom was pregnant with him, the only thing that helped her nausea was lying on the cold Spanish tile in our townhouse bathroom, so that became his name. Everyone calls him Kyle by mistake.
My uncle, a professor who lives in Italy, gave me a small book of Shakespeare's sonnets for my tenth birthday, and sometimes I read Tile my favorite ones. Even though he's ten, he pretends to understand them. I think he just likes the musical way the words go together. Tile is a good listener, and he leaves me alone pretty much every time I ask him to. If a genie said I could wish for any little brother in the whole world, I would stick with Tile. He smells nice and never talks with his mouth full. He also keeps my secrets.
Here's one: I know I told you that I'm not boy crazy, mostly because boys are dirty and unpredictable, but there is one I've had my eye on since I was eight. He is very clean. He lives across the street and our drivers are friends. He goes to a school somewhere outside the city. I like to imagine it's an exotic place like Barbados, but it's probably in Westchester. He's only said ten words to me in seven years. Sometimes when I read Shakespeare's sonnets I think of his big mop of strawberry curls, and the way he swings his book bag in wide circles.
So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet-season'd showers are to the ground
He's one year older than me, and his name is Oliver. He walks with a peculiar grace, almost like he's floating. He also plays the cello, and he's so good at it that when I listen to him through my bedroom window, the tiny hairs on my arms stick up.
Sometimes I lie on my bed imagining the music was written just for me, coming in through the window as a personal serenade. Music sounds better when you close your eyes.
From the Hardcover edition.