Actually, based on the cover, I feared that Moonglass might be cheesy, but it was actually true, touching and oddly magical. Kirby's writing caught me right away, like a rip tide catches a swimmer, only perhaps not so menacing. Her prose has this natural beauty to it, and she describes the settings perfectly. Her author blurb at the back informed me that she actually lives in the same sort of place she wrote about and her love for the ocean, the cottages, and walking on the beach really shine through.
The book also has a sort of dreamy quality to it, and not just because a few of Anna's dreams are sprinkled through the text in italics. Most any scene in nature had this eerie, ethereal, slightly magical quality, and it set the tone so well. Some authors transport the reader to a place, and Kirby certainly does that. Though I'm not a visual reader, I could picture the settings vividly, because of how well Kirby describes everything.
In another thrilling turn of events, Moonglass turned out to be less about romance, as implied by the cover, and more about family. Anna's mother died when she was seven, and she and her father never really talk about it, which has come to bother Anna more and more, especially now that they're moving back to where her parents met. Now, do not take away from this that we have another neglected child, because we don't. Anna's dad loves her, both in words and actions. He can be a bit overprotective, sure, but what loving dad isn't? Even better, though they have rough patches, Anna and her dad really talk and they hang out together regularly, like at the weekly Poke-N-Eat dinners.
The characters all felt very real to me, and their relationships felt very natural. Anna, adventurous but reserved, does not make friends particularly easily. On her first day, a girl she expects to hate (the kind with a little dog in an oversized purse) approaches her and basically insists on them being friends and coerces Anna into joining the cross country team. Ashley has tons of money, is a bit of a ditz, and has nothing in common with Anna. She's the kind of person I generally despise, but, like Anna, I could not help being charmed by her good heart and generosity. For example, Anna lies to her about her mother, because she hates the pity when people know her mom died, and, usually when that happens in YA, the friend storms off in a huff, but Ashley immediately accepts it and moves into helping mode. Ashley's not the brightest about most things, but she's a genius about people.
Of course, there is a romance, but a very sweet, understated one. There are no declarations of love and it has all the awkwardness of a high school crush. Other than the fact that Anna gets the hottest guy in school, the romance felt very much not tropey. Actually, not only are their no "I love yous," but Anna and Tyler really don't profess their feelings at all. They're totally in the awkward what-are-we phase for all of the book, which totally happens in real life but I haven't really seen much in fiction. They have a lot of awkward silences, but they're definitely growing closer to one another slowly. I enjoyed this, particularly with it on the back burner.
Kirby tackles a dark subject but surrounds it with so much beauty that I think Moonglass will satisfy both readers of darker and lighter contemporary novels. This was just such a lovely, flowing novel. Now I'm off to add all of Kirby's other books to my tbr list.