Friday, May 18, 2012

Retro Friday Review: Dani Noir

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! (From Angieville)
This is my first time participating in this weekly feature. I hope to continue reviewing older books. I'll see if I can maintain it. My pick this week is Dani Noir by Nova Ren Suma. This book is only a few years old (2009) but I never see this book mentioned that much. I was first drawn in by the cover and the name of the book. The cover deliciously illustrates the mood and tone of the book. It harkens back to old film noirs, which is what the book is also based on. This is truly a cover that fits the book and the themes within.

It's the summer between 7th and 8th grade and Dani lives in a small town in upstate New York. She is obsessed with old movies, especially movies with Rita Hayworth. She uses films to narrate her life and to understand it, and she spends massive amounts of time at the local movie theatre, which shows old films exclusively. Her life is complicated by the fact that her parents are divorcing and her mother is falling apart while her father has moved across the river. Her best friend has moved away and Austin, son of the local theatre owner, spends his time annoying her or so she thinks. Dani is struggling with her parents' divorce and when she discovers that Jackson, Austin's older cousin, is being visited by a mysterious femme fatale, she finds herself in her own film noir. To unravel the mystery of this girl with the polka dot tights, Dani uses the detective skills she learned from watching these films.

The best way I would describe this book is cozy. I knew what was going to happen just from the first chapter, but I still enjoyed the book. The book is a mystery/noir and a coming of age story. I liked the combination of the two genres and thought the author did an excellent job of using the medium of film to illustrate the divorce between Dani's parents and the turmoil she is experiencing. Dani's favorite actress at the beginning is Rita Hayworth and this shifts at the end of the novel, which is a nice way to show the changes in her life.

The most interesting thing about the novel were the characters. Dani is not a perfect person, but she grows throughout the story. She is bratty, intelligent, selfish, curious and even caring at some points. At the beginning, she is selfish and while she doesn't completely outgrow this at the end, she has begun to realize that she has flaws, and that her parents, friends and acquaintances are flawed and complex as well. My favorite realization that Dani has is when she realizes that Austin has a crush on her and Taylor, her former best friend, has also changed and maybe their friendship can be rekindled. I also loved the character of Austin and while Dani found him annoying at first, his friendship with her was very sweet.

As this is Nova Ren Suma's debut, I thought she did an excellent job at making complex characters and I already have her second book on my to-read list.

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