Monday, 19 May 2014

Review - The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

The Moon and More

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
Series: Standalone
Published by Viking Juvenile on June 4 2013
Genres: young adult, contemporary
Pages: 435
Rating: 4/5 stars
Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.
Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.
Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby? 
Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going? 

Sarah Dessen’s strong suit has always been characters, and she does not fail here. You’d think after so many books, she’d run out of steam eventually, but this is not that book. I haven’t related to a character the way that I relate to Emaline in a very long time. She may be a Type-A while I’m pretty laid back and carefree, but we have a lot more in common than I could have anticipated. This is primarily due to our shared strained relationships with our fathers. Like Emaline, I grew up in a (very) blended family with two older siblings and one younger. We were both raised by stepfathers who did a much better job at parenting than our biological fathers ever even attempted. Reading about Emaline’s conflicted feelings about her relationship with her father was like rehashing the last few years of my life.

While Emaline was clearly the best part of the novel for me, the supporting cast was all well-developed and interesting, as usual. The unusual relationship between Emaline’s best friends Daisy and Morris was particularly interesting, especially their decision to keep in touch via snail mail in the fall. It was a sweet relationship that I thought contrasted well with Emaline’s relationships with both Luke and Theo. They were both nice boys, but it was clear that personality-wise those relationships were doomed from the start. The vast differences between Emaline and Theo made for interesting events, and he was pretty adorable a lot of the time (I’m a sucker for unabashed enthusiasm) but I can see how his ambitious nature and desire for excess would conflict with Emaline’s less straight-forward worldview. I loved that the book ended with Emaline being single – it made sense for her. She needed to discover what she wanted, not what other people wanted for her. Also, it’s never a good idea to jump right from one committed relationship to another (in my opinion).

While not a plot-driven book, The Moon and More was swift-moving and captivating. Following the events of the summer after Emaline’s graduation from high school, there was enough going on at all times to keep the reader entertained without being overly involved. Between working for her family’s summer rental agency, boy drama, maintaining her friendships with Daisy and Morris, entertaining little brother Benji, and dealing with her tentative relationship with her father, Emaline is a very busy girl. This book is about her mental and emotional evolution into an independent young adult. I loved that it was about so much more than a summer romance.

The writing is just what this book called for, if that makes sense. It’s fluid and accessible, with a spattering of lovely turns of phrase. Like most contemporary YA, it relies more on dialogue and transitory action rather than description. And it does it well. Sarah Dessen has a lot of experiencing crafting contemporary YA, and she’s renowned for a reason. Her writing and stories are what other contemporary YA strives to; she’s the best of the best.

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