Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

  • Jeff Zentner
  • Penguin Teen, 2019

There’s a line on page 87 of this book that Josie, the romantic lead, voices: “I’ve had boyfriends who were nothing but irony and sarcasm, and it grated after a while.” For me, this sentence sums up this book.

Josie and sidekick Delia are intensely self-absorbed high school seniors. One is plagued by too much choice, too much that comes easily to her. The other is plagued by loss and lack. Their joy is making public access TV together while dressed as smart-talking vampires. If you like your realism lashed with snark, this book is a great pick. It would make a strong screenplay, and I suspect a movie is what the author is after.

The novel warms up considerably in the last few pages, once the core story is resolved. There are multiple passages of Delia reflecting on her resilience, alongside numerous authorial sentiments about the importance of friendship and secure love. In many ways, these chapters form a coda to the larger plot; they are very different in pace and tone. Readers may notice, in fact, that the last third of the book feels incongruous and uncomfortably pasted together. Although Josie dominates the main plot, these last few chapters underline that the book is really about Delia. At this point the alternating-narrators structure collapses as a device and reveals a failed writing experiment.

Written as a tribute to the average teen, this novel will feel relatable and identifiable for many readers. Expect them to question why Delia and Josie sound interchangeable, though, and to feel manipulated by the unknitting of the narrative structure at the book’s conclusion.