Author: Jeff Zentner
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram
Also by this author: The Serpent King, Goodbye Days
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: February 26, 2019
Source: Chapters Indigo
A contemporary novel about two best friends who must make tough decisions about their futures--and the TV show they host--in their senior year of high school.
Every Friday night, best friends Delia and Josie become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, hosts of the campy creature feature show Midnite Matinee on the local cable station TV Six.
But with the end of senior year quickly approaching, the girls face tough decisions about their futures. Josie has been dreading graduation, as she tries to decide whether to leave for a big university and chase her dream career in mainstream TV. And Lawson, one of the show's guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels, and Josie, is making her tough decision even harder.
Scary movies are the last connection Delia has to her dad, who abandoned the family years ago. If Midnite Matinee becomes a hit, maybe he'll see it and want to be a part of her life again. And maybe Josie will stay with the show instead of leaving her behind, too.
As the tug-of-war between growing up and growing apart tests the bonds of their friendship, Josie and Delia start to realize that an uncertain future can be both monstrous...and momentous.
Review: Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner
Note: I received this advanced reader’s copy free from Indigo Teen for review, but I promise, that in no way influenced my review! Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Quirky trivia-filled humour and perfect teen voices keep Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by King of Tears Jeff Zentner from being too melancholy.
Josie and Delia are best friends who are so close that people often mistake them for sisters. Brought together by a mutual friend who moved (Jesmyn from Goodbye Days), Josie has the goal of being on television, while Delia wants to create something that will showcase her love of horror movies so that she can, secretly, reach her father who abandoned her. Together, the two of them host a public access creature feature show called Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee, where they invite people to watch little known, B-horror movies, and have segments at commercial breaks with them reading letters, dancing with a dog, and generally doing zany things. The show is distributed to a few different locations and while it’s not wildly popular, they have a following.
But high school is almost over and Josie is trying to decide whether to go away for university, even as Delia is begging her to stay in their hometown of Jackson, Tennessee to continue the show. Josie’s parents are supportive of her going into television, but they want her to take an internship with the Food Network, which would mean going away to school. To complicate matters, Josie ends up meeting and getting involved with Lawson, a local MMA fighter who is planning to stay in Jackson. To convince Josie to stay in Jackson, Delia wants to get the show noticed – and she decides the best way to do that is to convince Josie to go with her to ShiverCon, a horror convention in Florida, where they can meet Jack Devine, a famous horror movie host, and try to get seen by more people.
That’s just a bare plot description. What it doesn’t show is just how right Jeff Zentner gets the friendship and voices of Josie and Delia. And yes, it’s surprising for a man to be able to do this so well, but he really captures the loyalty and love and way of speaking between two best friends. Friends so in sync, they finish each other’s jokes. Friends so strong they will yell at gross men and defend each other against the world. And friends so supportive that they will take on the weight of each other’s dreams and fail so that the other person knows they tried.
Zentner’s dialogue and characterization are distinct for both Delia and Josie – you see how they love, support and get one another, but you also see how they differ from each other. Josie is definitely the funnier one, quicker with the wit and one-liner. But she’s also more wary and harder on the world around her. Delia is zanier, with a weirder view of the world, and she’s a lot more vulnerable, maybe because the bulk of the story has her searching for her father, trying to write him an email over and over, trying to understand why he left and why she feels like the adult in her relationship with her mother who sometimes decides not to take her anti-depressants.
For me, Josie’s storyline was very much influenced by how much I adored Lawson, her love interest. Their scenes together just sang with the freshness of finding your person and being able to banter together. She is definitely the levity in this not quite comedy, and the romance is SO adorable.
But it’s Delia’s story that left me heart-wrung and teary. Zentner may have called this a comedy, but he was lying. Delia’s circumstances, from her own mediocrity and the knowledge that she’s not going away to school, to her sometimes-poverty, to her attempts to understand her father’s abandonment, just worked their way into my heart and made me want to hug her. The climax of her story (I won’t spoil it) had me bereft for days.
This is a book for people who love to sink into characters, who don’t mind zig-zagging with a meandering plot and zany twists, and who appreciate the weird in every situation and like to imagine situations where the wacky can – and always does – happen. The journey that Josie and Delia go through in this novel is equal parts emotional and earnest, weird and hilarious. Zentner perfectly encapsulates that feeling of inevitability and looming change of the final semester of high school – of losing something as precious as a daily relationship, but also something as simple as what’s familiar in your life. I can’t do justice to the beautiful way that these characters live, breathe, and stay in your heart. This one is a must-read.
The Final Word:
Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee is a story about friendship, unexpected love, chasing your dreams, realizing they might not be what you need, and accepting and embracing your future. Like all of Zentner’s work, it is full of feels and poignancy, beautiful writing and circularity, and great wisdom about what makes us human. And if you’re a fan of good endings – and I am – this one had my heart lifting like a hot-air balloon. It really worked and made me smile.
RAYNE & DELILAH’S MIDNITE MATINEE by Jeff Zentner comes out on Feb 26 (tomorrow!). Will you be reading it? Have you read Zentner’s other two EXCELLENT novels, The Serpent King and Goodbye Days? What super-emotional reads have gotten you lately? Let me know in the comments!