Starry Nights

By Daisy Whitney
Published on September 3rd 2013
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Source: Netgalley
Seventeen-year-old Julien is a romantic—he loves spending his free time at the museum poring over the great works of the Impressionists. But one night, a peach falls out of a Cezanne, Degas ballerinas dance across the floor, and Julien is not hallucinating.

The art is reacting to a curse that trapped a beautiful girl, Clio, in a painting forever. Julien has a chance to free Clio and he can't help but fall in love with her. But love is a curse in its own right. And soon paintings begin to bleed and disappear. Together Julien and Clio must save the world's greatest art . . . at the expense of the greatest love they've ever known.
This book was exactly what I needed at the time: mostly light-hearted, cute, romancey fluff. I had read a bunch of fairly heavy/dark books in a row, and I knew the next one I had scheduled to read for a review was fairly heavy as well, so I needed something short and cute and fluffy for a quick change of pace.  Trust me, deliberately searching out fluff is not something I do often, but I really felt like I needed it.

This story takes a pinch of magical realism, a dash of mythology, and a whole heaping of art appreciation to tell the story of Julien, who thinks he's going crazy when he notices that paintings are all starting to come to life, which no one else can see.  He quickly learns that everything he's seeing is real, and things get more complicated when he finds himself falling in love with a beautiful girl in one of the paintings.  Not to mention the fact that the simple quirks of the paintings coming alive starts to turn sinister as the paintings start to deteriorate in mysterious ways.

As Julien begins to get closer to Clio, the girl in the painting, he also begins to understand the real reason why he can see the living paintings and no one else can.  Julien is a bit of a melodramatic romantic at heart, so of course he falls head over heels in love with her almost instantaneously.  Clio is a bit of an enigma, for reasons which become clearer as the story goes on.  I enjoyed all of the other famous paintings that are worked in throughout the book, especially when they come to life for Julien and Clio, and the backstory involving Renoir and other painters of that era was interesting without sounding too textbook-y.  The cast of supporting characters are all interesting, although some could have stood to be fleshed out more.  But I would definitely read an entire book about Bonheur and Sophie, two of Julien's friends who help him understand why he can interact with paintings.

This book is a collection of things that shouldn't work for me: cutesy, twee romance; teenagers who don't talk like teenagers; completely missing parents; instalove.  But I can't get too up in arms about it this time around.  I went looking for cute fluff and I found it -- if I had been reading it expecting anything else, maybe I would have been disappointed, but I went into it knowing exactly what I was getting, and I was okay with that.

I did want to mention a few drawbacks that did stick with me.  Even though the book was about French teenagers, nothing about it felt particularly "French" to me.  Now, that sounds arbitrary, and I have absolutely zero idea what French teenagers sound like, but until Julien mentioned little tidbits like that he had always lived in Paris and that he was bored in English class because he was already fluent, I honestly thought he was an American living abroad.  (That probably shows a larger problem in the US-centric way in which I/lots of people read books, but still.)

There also just seemed to be something a little missing in really making the location "pop" to make me feel immersed in Paris.  I don't know if the book would feel any different to someone who had never been to Paris before, but for me, I didn't feel transported back to one of my favorite cities in the world, which is what I'd hoped for.

Overall, though, I thought this was a fun, quick read.  I enjoyed this book for what it was.  I would recommend this to anyone looking for a little fantasy and a lot of romance.  Aside from some scenes of making out, this is a clean/appropriate read.

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