A late night TV show and a convention for horror filmmakers provides an unusual setting for this story of friendship, family and finding yourself.
They’re still in high school but best friends Josie and Delia already have their own TV show – Midnite Matinee is a public access show that airs at 11pm in Jackson, Tennessee (as well as being syndicated in Topeka, Macon, Greenville, Des Moines, Spokane, Fargo, and Little Rock). Dressed as vampires called Rayne and Delilah, they show second rate low-budget horror movies interspersed with their own silly skits. They each have their own motivation for doing the show: Josie sees it as a stepping stone to achieving her long-held ambition to work in television, while Delia harbours a secret dream that her Dad (who she hasn’t seen since he walked out when she was seven) might one day see her on the show. As their senior year comes to an end these motivations start to clash and it all comes to a head when they take a road trip to a convention for horror filmmakers. Will their friendship survive ShiverCon?
Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee is told in alternate chapters from Josie and Delia’s point of view. The use of a first person voice usually helps the reader feel close to the character whose viewpoint they are sharing. In the case of this book, however, it really didn’t make a difference. While there is no doubt that author – Jeff Zenter – is an extremely talented writer, I rarely found myself identifying with either girl. This is surprising as both should be easy to relate to: Josie and Delia are genuinely nice people who should be immensely likeable but, most of the time, I really didn’t care.
This is in stark contrast to every other characters in the book, all of whom positively jump from the page. Josie’s boyfriend – Lawson – is an unusual and instantly appealing mix of gentleman and street fighter. (I fully anticipate that I won’t be the only female reader who almost falls for him – especially when, towards the end of the book, he steps up to protect Josie against a slightly strange and violent Russian.)
Similarly, Delia’s mum – Shawna – is an outstanding and multi-layered character. A sufferer of chronic depression, she’s far from perfect. Indeed, given Delia’s descriptions of the various ways she has to ‘mother her mother’, we really should dislike Shawna. But we don’t. Instead, her obvious affection for her daughter grabs our heart-strings and we’re totally on her side. Indeed, there’s a powerful mother / daughter scene at the very end of the novel that’s almost guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes.
This is a book about the characters and their changing relationship so (the trip to ShiverCon aside) there’s not that much to the plot. However, there is a strong narrative arch as both girls grow and begin to find their feet in the post high school world.
If you enjoyed this, perhaps you should try another YA book set in north America: We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen is a stand out novel for me. Alternatively, the mother, Astrid, in No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen reminds me a lot of Delia’s mum.
Publication Date: March 2019
Publisher: Andersen Press
Author’s Website: Jeff Zentner