ONCE IN A FULL MOON
Paranormal Young Adult
Harper Teen/Katherine Tegen Books
Releases January 1st
Received from publisher via NetGalley
Celeste has a pretty good life. She has two best friends, Abby and Ivy, and she's dating the ultra-handsome Nash which makes her the envy of almost the entire female population at school. On a dare, the girls travel across town to visit a psychic who provides both Abby and Ivy with fairly mundane and banal fortunes, but shocks everyone by telling Celeste to beware of a kiss under the full moon as it will irrevocably change her life.
Unbeknownst to her friends, Celeste is only imagining kissing one boy under the full moon, and it's not her boyfriend Nash. New student Brandon Maddox has caught her attention, holding her spellbound though a relationship with him is impossible as he's from the wrong side of Legend's Fall.
While Celeste pines for Brandon, rumors of the the infamous Legend's Fall werewolf increase exponentially as more and more wolves are spotted all over town despite typically staying away from populated areas. Disregarding the psychic's warning, Celeste gets the kiss she's been dreaming of night after night, only what follows is not the incandescent glow of true love, but rather the stuff of myths and legends.
Because there aren't too many unique paranormal entities on which to base a novel, most creatures having been written about at one point or another, it's important to find one or two elements (a new twist on the familiar mythology or incredibly engaging characters) that cause the book to shine against a dull backdrop of the same monotonous tale. Unfortunately, Once in a Full Moon fails to do anything other than strictly adhere to a common folklore, employing popular plot devices without injecting them with an added spark to cause a flush in our cheeks, an ache in our hearts, or any other physical manifestation indicative of deep involvement with characters or story. Instead, we as readers are like skipping stones, glossing quickly over a surface we've tread again and again, up in the air at intervals with nothing on which to latch to weigh us down enough that we drop from the air and plunge beneath a thoroughly exhausted superficial layer and into the wells of a gloriously expansive depth.
Legend's Fall is a town divided very definitively between the Eastside, identified by it's more suburban feel, and the Westside, a more agricultural community opposed to the ever-encroaching spans of concrete and development. This small difference causes dissent among the residents of each side, making the attraction between Celeste, an Eastsider, and Brandon, a Westsider, a type of forbidden romance. However, there is really no explanation for the rampant bias against the Westside in the high school, and though people often don't need much cause to formulate a prejudice, a more clear and profound reason for their hatred would have been welcome to help us better understand the Romeo and Juliet-esque scenario. Perhaps an old family feud, or an ugly rumor spread generation to generation, or a more extreme difference in quality of life; anything to make us suck in a breath and hold it every time Brandon and Celeste are together, inching to the very edge of our seats as we desperately hope they don't get caught. Instead, we get only the possibility of mild ridicule and a potential drop in social status, and though in high school that is often tragic, it's ultimately not enough to help us make sense of Celeste's adamant refusal to publicly acknowledge Brandon.
Celeste herself defies logical explanation at times as she possesses some rather baffling contradictory opinions. She at one point questions whether or not she can be with Brandon when it's implied he's the type of person to scare one of her friends on purpose when in the thrall of the moon, but yet she remains utterly devoted to peers who constantly ostracize him for simply living at a perceived geographical disadvantage. She defends him verbally but shuns him physically, claiming to be different from the masses but proving with every action she's just another carbon copy of the Eastsider standing next to her. Celeste glides through her life towing the popular line, blanketed in a mediocrity she refuses to shed, comfortable with friends who do only what's best for them and a boyfriend who doesn't push her to be an individual, but settles instead for a drone who spouts idealistic notions yet refuses to act on them.
This story declares itself to be one of finding true love, and though Celeste professes to have found that elusive emotion with Brandon, she's unwilling to emerge from her protective prejudicial cocoon and be the person she says she wants to be. Brandon, for his part, is oddly content being relegated to the shadows for his confounding outsider status, and the love they declare for one another is a difficult pill to swallow when neither demonstrates the courage to fight to be together. If admitting to their relationship would be on pain of death, the financial ruin of a family, or something equally daunting, then their mild displays of latent defiance and fear of discovery would be understandable, but with only the disdain of four or five teenagers as a consequence, it's shockingly difficult to empathize with their circumstances.
Overall Once in a Full Moon is a quick, easy read, one that may appeal much more to younger readers as opposed to adult fans of teen fiction, but it ultimately comes to the table with a well-used recipe devoid of any fresh ingredients.