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Hilary T. Smith
Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Bryan Peterson
Moonglass - Jessi Kirby Jessi Kirby’s 2011 debut, Moonglass, is a gentle, introspective novel about facing the past and moving forward. Reminiscent of Sarah Dessen’s thoughtful, subdued style, Kirby has an excellent grasp of teen emotions and beautifully captures the internal journey of her sixteen-year-old protagonist, Anna. The focus of Moonglass is fixed squarely on Anna’s emotional arc – understanding and acceptance of her family’s past in order to embrace her future. She begins the story unsettled and guarded, having just relocated with her father before commencing her Junior year. Leaving her friends and former life behind, Anna soon realises that her new home holds the key to long neglected memories and the secrets of her deceased Mother. Anna is a refreshingly confident and self-assured character, and her voice is fluid, effortless to follow. While dealing with the challenges of starting at a new school and making new friends, she has a strong sense of a self and a solid relationship with her father that prevents the opening of the story from falling into overused “new girl” clichés. Moonglass tackles several heavy themes, such as suicide and mental illness, yet it never feels cumbersome to read. Kirby’s light style affords the subject matter the necessary gravity and respect without weighing the narrative down or coming across awkwardly didactic. Through Anna’s perspective, the issues presented feel authentic and organically developed. As Anna gradually learns the truth about her mother and comes to accept certain facts about her life, the emotional repercussions feel realistic and in keeping with her characterisation. While there’s a romantic element to Moonglass, it is by no means the focus on the story. Rather, it is a subplot that complements Anna’s internal journey. Kirby uses a light hand, choosing to tentatively progress the connection between Anna and Tyler, while keeping the spotlight on Anna’s familial relationships, past and present. It’s a character driven, sedately paced story – carefully layered and developed in order to create the depth required for the climax. In this respect, some my find the pacing rather placid, particularly if accustomed to plot-driven novels. However, while I read Moonglass more slowly than I anticipated, I appreciated that focus was on crafting believable characters. My only real reservation about Moonglass is that I occasionally found the symbolism a little obvious and heavy handed. Though thematically appropriate, some of the motifs (sea glass, mermaids etc) did begin to feel somewhat laboured. Despite this, Moonglass is a solid, touching contemporary with strong characters and a slightly different take on the central issues. Highly recommended for fans of Sarah Dessen and Sarah Ockler. This review also appears at The Midnight Garden