Let’s face it: Nova Ren Suma can write anything she wants. That’s really all there is to say about her; she’s a goddess. A mysterious writing being from another dimension. From ghosts to sisters to Dani–she’s a master of her craft.
All that to say: Nova Ren Suma wrote the first middle grade book I’ve enjoyed since I was actually in middle school.
- Author: Nova Ren Suma
- Publisher: Aladdin
- Year: 2009
- Genre vibe: Contemporary
- At a Glance: If this were a movie, there’d be music playing in the background right now. You’d be reading this on your laptop but clearly distracted by something else. At least until you see her name: Dani Noir. Then your interests are peaked–who must she be, this girl I’ve mentioned? She must be a movie star, a rising star that will take the world by storm. In reality, she’s Dani–her parents are recently divorced, and the only thing she’s got left is the Little Art, a one-screen old theater in her one-road old town where she spends more of her summer than anyone wants to admit, except herself. Dani witnesses a strange event at her theater one day, and starts to think that maybe life isn’t so far off from the movies after all. (as you finish reading this, you’re so engrossed in this post that you can’t help but go on. The music swells and the audience hears your voice reading the rest of it. It’s somehow not boring at all.)
Where do I start with Dani? How do I start with Dani? Dani is a voice all her own. Dani is such a character. Dani is going to be beautiful when she grows up.
I’ll start like this: I don’t like middle grade.
And continue like this: I really like good stories.
Dani is a good story. Suma’s writing so competently adapts to whatever style she’s working with and somehow nothing is lost. Though I know I’m partial to the so-immersing-it-must-be-witchcraft style of The Walls Around Us, Dani’s heartfelt and often comical voice is beautiful. She very much acts like a thirteen-year-old, but she’s not a child.
I don’t know if I’m praising the book or the author here. But seriously: anything Suma touches turns to gold.
Dani’s got a great story. The movie influences–while absolutely clear and not exactly nuanced, as one would expect from mid-grade–gave everything such a clear progression that feeling lost or bored was never an issue. Events were kept up to pace, and the goal, while not always clear, was always always intriguing. Dani goes on a journey, so to speak. And it’s a fun one to get to watch.
Not all the time though. This book played with my emotions and I didn’t expect it. But let’s be real: I have a soft spot for anything that even vaguely feels like Honk if you Hate Me or includes exile of any kind, so maybe I should’ve realized. In any case, you feel for Dani. You feel so bad for Dani. Dani doesn’t deserve any of this–even though she is a little brat sometimes. She makes bad choices, sure, she’s impulsive and a little blind. But she really doesn’t deserve any of it.
The only thing that keeps this book from being a full five stars is the side characters. While interesting and not unnecessary, they weren’t…super fleshed out. I had a hard time hating Jackson because his first impression was so nice. I liked Elissa, but not much. Same for Taylor. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment very much, because Dani was the point of this book, but if they’d been just a little bit more I’d have gotten more out of it.
But this book. Seriously. It’s like two hundred and fifty pages and I read it in an afternoon and a half. It’s worth every page.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommended to: Anyone who likes interesting things, a little heartache, and amazing writing.
Lasting impression: the roughness of movie theater seats; a puddle of rainwater so still you can see a reflection in it.