Sadly, we have come to an end.
With The Moon and More being the last book on my list of unread Sarah Dessen book (minus How to Deal, a movie adaptation of her first two books combined, which I have decided to skip), we have come to a close to my *summer of Sarah Dessen*. It has been a good summer, thank you to all of you who have taken this journey with me! Now a few short words on what I’ve noticed.
What I found really cool is the evolution of the times through the books, from the 90’s until now. We go from perms to highlights, form cassette tapes to CDs to iPods. Certain words used, certain fashions coming in and out of style. I just found it all really neat.
I also mentioned in a previous post about links between her books; recurring characters and locations. For those of you interested, the YA Bibliophile wrote a post on the subject, check it out, she really does a wonderful job at it!
And now, the beginning of the end.
The Moon and More
As Emaline is preparing herself to go to EastU in the fall, she can’t help feeling that maybe she’s destined for more than just the small coastal town Colby kind of life. Having seen the summer tourists come and go her whole life, she often wonders what it would be like to have a crazy summer, with a summer fling like they do. Although Luke has been the perfect boyfriend, when Theo, an aspiring film maker from New York comes to town, Emaline starts to think she might not have to wonder anymore.
My first initial thought while reading this was that I hate Luke and Emaline. I mentioned in an earlier post that books with infidelity as a theme are not my cup of tea. Sure, he doesn’t technically actually cheat on her (our definitions defer a bit), but the intention is there nevertheless. And they way she just rushes to Theo merely a few hours after breaking up, albeit unplanned, left a bitter taste in my mouth. I can understand about being young and being confused – I mean, my fiancé and I have been there. We are high school sweethearts after all, it’s normal to grow and change. But I’ve always been a strong believer of communication, growing and changing together. You talk about your problems before they become real problems. They needed a break? Okay, take a break to discover yourself or whatever it is you need to do – before you act on anything. Anyway, that’s just me. Luke did redeem himself in my eyes towards the end, though, and I guess that’s what matters. No one is perfect. You mess up, learn, and do better. Emaline, on the other hand, doesn’t ever seem to figure out what she wants. Let’s just say she hasn’t been my favourite protagonist so far.
In contrast, I initially loved Theo’s eager dorkiness. His excitement at meeting Clive for the first time. His reaction to his first kiss with Emaline (sorry for the spoiler, but you soooo knew this was going to happen based on the book jacket itself – just saying). His enthusiasm for everything new. However, this opinion soon changed. First, with his overall pushiness to have things go his way. His ambition at others’ expense and condescension didn’t help either. What I found cute and endearing soon become overbearing and obnoxious. It’s really a book about people changing, people not being who you thought or expect them to be. I think the message here is to not expect to understand everyone, not to make assumptions of who they are and who they should be. Sometimes, even you aren’t the person you thought you were. And when someone (or you) changes? That’s just a part of life.
Speaking of changes, change is also a very prominent theme throughout the book. Many of the characters’ lives are changing; Clyde with the reanimation of his artwork, Benji with his parents’ divorce, and Daisy and Emaline going off to college and dealing with their relationsips. I went to local universities, so I, thankfully (or perhaps to my detriment, depending on how you look at it) never had that huge fear of change due “going off to college”, but I can imagine how daunting it must be. The fear of the unknown, making your own way in the world, away from loved ones – it is a little scary. Yet that’s how life is (and adulthood), constantly facing new challenges as they come. I think Dessen really did a great job with that.
Quite a few passages about fatherhood resonated with me:
There’s a difference between the words father and dad.
(Dessen, 2013, p. 25)
Boy have I heard that one before! Mostly coming from my mother, who has always decided that my step-father was more of a father to me than my biological one (it didn’t really matter what my opinion was). Like Emaline’s parents, my parents had me young, and sadly, my father (like Emaline’s) had a hard time filling in the dad shoes. I always hated that line though, as if there is this cookie cutter mold about what a dad should be, and all must fit in or be considered a father rather than a dad. I confess though, that I did have a similar revelation to Emaline’s a few years ago.
…I finally got it. We wouldn’t have some big bonding moment, a sudden shift where he became everything I needed him to be. He wasn’t a problem for me to fix, either. Instead, he was a truth to accept… There was a peace in that, just as there was in knowing whether he became anything else would, in the end, be up to only me.
(Dessen, 2013, p. 361).
I think when it comes down to it (and this is an evident current theme throughout the novel), sometimes people fall short of our expectations. I think, at the end, we just need to accept people as they are, instead of constantly trying to change them. After all, people will only change if they want to and are ready to. The same can go with forcing circumstances – everything will not always go the way you want it to. But as Clyde mentions, there is always an opportunity for second chances. My dad and I’s relationship has greatly improved in the past years, mainly because I’ve accepted him as the father he is, and not who everyone (or I) think he should be. It doesn’t mean he still doesn’t disappoint me now and then, but again, that’s just a part of life.
As usual, I found Dessen masterful in her prose, she seems to really see the world as it is and express it in a thoughtful way:
Obviously, endings were different. Harder to see, full of shapes that could be one thing or another, with all the things that you were once so sure of suddenly not familiar, if they were even recognizable at all.
(Dessen, 2013, p. 161)
It didn’t have the happy ending I would have wanted. But I guess that’s just how life is. Not all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes there are dark clouds and storms we need to live through, only to pick up the pieces and build again. That’s what this journey into the world of Sarah Dessen has taught me. Things don’t always fit the way you’d like them to, but you do your best with what you’ve got.
Finally (I saved the best for last), Benji was my favourite character. He’s about my little (half) sister’s age right now, so I could completely relate to his relationship with Emaline. In the same way, my little sister’s energy is without bounds. She is as incredibly insightful as Benji is, and always eager to please. I, like Emaline, feel protective of my little siblings (I have two half-siblings from my father’s second marriage), wanting to shield them from the worst. Benji also reminded me of my (half) brother as well. Our family hit a rough patch at one point, when he started acting out due to problems my father and step-mother were having. Having to see your parents fight (let alone divorcing) is never easy for a child, I should know. So I really felt for my brother during this period of discord. I also really felt for Benji.
In short, I have mixed feelings about this novel. I wouldn’t recommend it to younger teens, as there are some older topics such as sex and alcohol, that may not be appropriate for them. The thought of going off to college may not be as relatable to them as well. However, Benji’s struggles may be something they could identify with, so I leave it to the reader to make their own judgments. Although the storyline wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed, I can’t deny that others may like (or even love) it, and that Dessen, as usual, has written beautifully about life circumstances any older teenage girl can relate to.
Given this, this ending is very bittersweet for me. My *summer of Sarah Dessen* has ended. If you haven’t read any of her other books (or my reviews yet), please take some time and read a few. My personal top 3 favourites were:
- Saint Anything: Although I didn’t make an official review on this one, it’s what initiated my desire to delve deeper into the World of Sarah Dessen, and incidentally her most recent book – definitely worth the read!
- Keeping the Moon: this one made me cry!
- The Truth About Forever: a book with difficult topics I believe anyone can relate to, but at the same time a delightful read
Of course, this is all just relative. What really resonated with me could completely miss the mark with you. If ever any of you are interested (and I really wish I had found this before I had decided to embark on this journey), Penguin created a really neat Sarah Dessen Book Club Kit following the release of The Moon and More that can help you kick start a little book club.
In all, I believe that Dessen does really well with giving us some life lessons (some we need to hear, and others just a little reminding now and then). Incredibly relatable for all teen girls out there, I can understand now what all the fuss was about. I look forward to her other books in the future, now onto the books I’ve been dying to read!
The Struggling Librarian
Dessen, S. (2013). The moon and more. New York: Viking.
Heidi (2011). The World of Sarah Dessen. In YA Bibliophile. Retrieved from https://yabibliophile.com/2011/05/world-of-sarah-dessen.html
Penguin (2013). The Sarah Dessen book club kit. In Penguin Books USA (Teaching guides and activity kits). Retrieved