By day, they’re just high school seniors from Jackson, Tennessee.
Come 11:00 on Saturday nights, Josie (aka Rayne Ravenscroft) and Delia (aka Delilah Darkwood) are hosts of Midnite Matinee, a public access cable show that bookends cult horror films with eccentric entertainment—a skeleton costume dance party, a Frankenstein puppet reading fan mail. Middle-class Josie doesn’t love horror movies, but she’s a natural in front of the camera and wants to pursue a career in television. Her parents urge her to attend school in Knoxville, where she can intern with the Food Network, but that would mean leaving the show—and Delia. Meanwhile, Delia, living in a trailer with a struggling, depressed single mother (the portrayal of mental illness, including a positive attitude toward antidepressants, is very welcome), considers herself firmly mediocre. Being on camera frightens her—but the old movies are her last link with her father, who took off when she was 7. Delia’s desperate to reconnect. When a PI discovers that her father might be in Florida, near the ShiverCon convention where famed host Jack Devine might help them garner a wider audience, they take a road trip. Zentner (Goodbye Days, 2017, etc.) nails his teen characters, their longings, and their motivations, and the first chapters are downright hilarious. Over-the-top Devine lessens the overall impact of a story that still closes well. Despite the diversity of the actual setting, all characters follow a white default.
Short of brilliant, but only just. (Fiction. 14-18)