24 February 2014

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

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 devoted fans will welcome this story of romance, yearning, and, finally, empowerment. It could only happen in the summer.

I have long been a Sarah Dessen fan: there's something appealing about her writing and knack for storytelling that keeps me coming back for every story she writes.  But there was something off about this one. I don't expect every single book to be exactly the same; Sarah Dessen has shown significant growth from That Summer to now, and I would be disappointed if every book had the same ups and downs and twisty turns. But Sarah Dessen always has a certain magic in her books, some underlying current that fuses the book together in my mind.

The Moon and More was lacking magic. Also, there was a lack of some basic storytelling craft that made me raise my eyebrows: what was going on in this story? The turning point that launches the rest of the novel -- the inciting incidence, if you like -- was shoddy. I completely missed how events had gotten to the point they had, and that meant that the rest of the novel was on shaky ground at best.

A lot of this tied back to the main character, Emaline. While I like her name and her easy teasing and snappy comebacks, I did not like her as a character. This, by itself, is not a bad thing because I am not required as a reader to be best friends with every main character. What was bad was that I didn't have a whole lot of respect for Emaline, because I thought she made stupid decisions. (Again, though, these decisions for the most part seem stupid because the turning point of the whole novel was so poorly done.)

The one thing that always remains consistent with Sarah Dessen, no matter what story she tells, is her writing style: so sparkling and true, she might've gone a little too close to the cliche side in this one, but regardless, I captured Colby crisply in my mind. Her worldbuilding is interesting to me, especially of Colby, because she's already had another novel set directly in Colby (Along for the Ride) and yet she was able to very expertly flesh out a different aspect of the world, very much like how each of us view very differently a space we both inhabit. A good half of my enjoyment of The Moon and More was how well Sarah Dessen presented the little beach town of Colby.

The Moon and More was another excellent addition to Sarah Dessen's works, even if it didn't resonate with me as much as her others have. One note that rang strong with this latest one was the topic of moving onto college. Having just completed my first semester of college, this is something that I immediately identified with. That, too, along with the writing, made The Moon and More a fantastic read.

Book Info:
  • pages - hardcover, 435
  • published - June 2013
  • publisher - Viking Juvenile
  • genre - contemporary
  • received via - library
  • rating - 4/5