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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Dani Callanzano is thirteen, going into eighth grade, and living a ho-hum life in Shanosha, New York. Craving the dramatics of the noir films she loves, run at the town’s Little Art theatre, Dani is intrigued when a mysterious girl in polka dot tights appears. Soon she’s investigating strange circumstances, just like her celluloid heroes. But in solving the mystery, Dani discovers there’s more to it and her life than she ever thought possible.

Since I love classic movies and anything that is “noir,” I knew I’d love this novel. Who couldn’t love a novel that namedrops Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles? I was right – there’s a lot to love. This book’s out in hardback in September, and I’m waiting to buy it, because my copy has already fallen apart. (Plus have you seen the new cover art?)

The cover art (by Marcos Calo) immediately caught my eye. The image of the mysterious girl, back to the viewer, caught by a stream of a light, in muted shades of grey and black, it’s all true to the noir aesthetic, but it especially reminded me of a famous shot (pictured below) from the 1955 film The Big Combo, widely considered to be one of the top noir films.

One of the big strengths of Dani Noir, author Nova Ren Suma’s style of writing is cinematic, with each word easily conjuring images in the viewer’s mind. Here the screenwriting adage “show, don’t tell” is followed – we can visualize Dani’s quiet life easily.

“A slow fade-in on my life: There’s this little mountain town, smack between two long highways that go nowhere in either direction. There’s the one supermarket, the one movie theater, the one Chinese restaurant. But there are about twelve different places to buy junk for your lawn.”

Yet there’s a conversational tone, like you’re talking to your best friend. It’s hard to believe that Suma isn’t a teen herself, the dialogue is that accurate, that real. You’ll see a little bit of yourself and other people you know in the characters, and although Dani may be thirteen, the situations in her life – friendship, divorce, big city dreams in a small town, etc, will resonate with you.

In the end, there’s only one mystery left to Dani Noir, and that one is for the reader: why didn’t a book like this arrive sooner?

ARC for review provided by the publisher.

Title: Dani Noir
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Date: September 22, 2009
Publisher: Aladdin
Pages: 272
Format: Hardback

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