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Book Review – Girls in the Moon

She sang in the chorus and when I passed the music room on my way to lunch I could pick her voice out of the rest. I saw it in my head as one golden thread running through a perfectly ordinary carpet.

Girls in the Moon follows Phoebe Ferris as she visits her older sister and rockstar-in-the-making, Luna. Phoebe’s on the hunt for answers. She wants to know why her rockstar parents split up, why her dad stopped calling, why her mother won’t speak a word of her famous past. But Luna has other plans and a few secrets of her own, and if the two can’t find a way to see eye-to-eye, they risk falling apart like their parents did years before: without much fuss and explanation. 

I’m still making my mind up about this read. While the prose was certainly extraordinary and the characters were down to earth and honest, I felt there was a disconnect in the storyline, it left a lot to the imagination. 

I think, perhaps, the main character, Phoebe, was too down to earth. A little too lost in reality. She wasn’t your typical YA quirky heroine, and she didn’t have this expansive character arc. I’d say she merely observed the personal growth of others while staying virtually the same. 

There are so many people that the chances of seeing anyone you know at any given time are slim. You can disentangle yourself from your story. You can be whoever you want to be. 

The biggest things I felt took away from the overall momentum of the story were the miscellaneous characters–Phoebe’s best friend, Tessa, and her former love interest, Ben. They’re introduced into the story early on, and for some reason or another, their names are sprinkled throughout the book in the remaining three hundred pages, but their conflicts are never truly resolved. 

That’s kind of how the book was. It felt like a chunk out of someone’s life–a random beginning and an abrupt end. Even though it aligns perfectly with Phoebe’s travel itinerary, it just didn’t feel like a story. It felt like I’d started a movie twenty minutes late and fallen asleep thirty minutes before the end. 

You’d never know that twenty years ago, my mother was the first girl on the moon.

It sounds crazy, I know. But it’s not what you think. There was no puffy white space suit, no sky filling with stars until it looked like a geode split open in the dark. She didn’t get to stand at the edge of an empty lunar sea, ankle-deep in dust, and look back at the jewel of our planet, spinning.

Of course the writing was beautiful. It was the one saving grace for an otherwise “meh” story. However, I will say this idea of Phoebe’s mother being the first girl on the moon, which, based on the title, was a main theme throughout the book, was never really defined. I get leaving it up for interpretation, but give us a few bullet points to go off of. I wasn’t sure if it was a literal thing, if she was the first woman on the moon because her first album cover featured a moon, or if it went deeper than that into androgyny, women making a name in music–an industry otherwise ruled by men. 

Phoebe’s story was also intertwined with her mother’s story, which maybe added to her stagnancy. It went back and forth from modern day with Phoebe wandering around New York, searching for answers, wondering about an estranged father, exchanging text messages with a boy in her sister’s band she’d been interested in, to the 90s with her mother carefully navigating fame, and a relationship where two people came together with an implied understanding that they wanted the same things, when, in actuality, they couldn’t be farther misaligned. 

The only relationship I felt was truly truly important was the one between Phoebe and her dad. I had hoped it would be a greater staple in the book, but as with much else, it came and it went without much of a fuss. (Side note: Phoebe’s father, in the few scenes he graced, never sounded like a grown man. I was moderately bothered by this.)

My father dropped out of my life three years ago the way the evening sun slides behind the horizon line: you know it still exists, but you’re not sure exactly where. It floats back into view from time to time; in his case, in the pages of Rolling Stone or performing a song on a late-night talk show. 

I didn’t understand that for most of the other kids, having a father wasn’t a big deal. 

This was something we could have gone farther into, but we never did. I don’t have a dad–well I do, but we don’t speak. I would’ve loved to understand this dynamic a bit more. But I think this book almost took on too much. You have the ailing relationship between Luna and her mother, the somewhat cynical nature of the relationship between Luna and Phoebe, the ailing relationship between Phoebe and Tessa, the nonexistent relationship between Luna and her father, the ailing relationship between Phoebe’s father and mother in the 90s, the ignorant relationship between Phoebe and herself, the hopeless relationship between Phoebe and her dad, and the ailing relationship between Luna and herself. 

Nobody ever solved anything, or at least not in a worthwhile way. I think it was a mistake to give these characters only a week to resolve some of their tragedies. Maybe that was the point, maybe this was a one step to enlightenment is better than no steps at all type of book. Maybe it was just a broken story told in an emphatic way, and maybe that’s all it was meant to be. 

The writing wasn’t enough to carry this book, but here are a few lines where it nearly was:

  • I could feel my heart sink as she said it, as clearly as if she had tied a metal fishing weight to it and dropped dit in the middle of the sea. I saw it spinning though the water, saw the flash of metal catching moonlight as it fell. 
  • At six, when the sun is still hot but a little lower in the sky, and guys in suits start to come out of the subway stations, blinking like animals who live underground, we walk back to Brooklyn Heights. 
  • If there were butterflies in my stomach, they were the prehistoric kind, with wingspans three feet wide. 

I don’t know why I loved that line so much, but I just did. 

My overall thoughts are, if this book had ended fifty pages sooner or fifty pages later, there may have been a story to salvage. If you’re going to pick it up, I suggest focusing on the writing, in her prose McNally shines.



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