Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

(First, happy 4th of July! What a great book to post about on the 4th.)
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What a great summer book! I need to say right off the bat that the book summary is a little wrong (if not leading you in the wrong direction). It’s not really about dating a guy and finding someone new/different. Emaline’s boyfriend, Luke, also never comes off as “perfect.” He refuses to wear a shirt most of the time. He also meets up with a girl at a nightclub, and Emaline finds out about it (from a note left behind from the girl). The two break up before Emaline considers Theo, the New Yorker.
And even more misleading is the idea that this book is all about the romance. Because as tends to be the case with all of Dessen’s books, it’s more about growing up. Emaline is spending her last summer at home before heading off to college. And a lot of this book felt like her coping with her inevitable goodbyes. There’s also a lot going on in Emaline’s family life. Her birth father, after coming back into her life and encouraging her to apply for ivy league schools, bails on her when she finally comes to rely on him again.
Instead of having Columbia paid for, Emaline’s birth father sends her a rather cold letter telling her he can’t pay for it after all, and doesn’t even respond to an invitation to her graduation. Emaline’s mom really tries hard to protect her daughter from any disappointment her birth father is certain to continue to give. And her dad, the one she grew up with, seems to handle it all in stride.
Just when Emaline begins to sort of let go of the disappointment of her father, he comes back into her life, with her half-brother, Benji.
The summer is spent working in her family rental business, befriending her brother, and hanging out with her friends who are all having their own separation anxieties. There’s dress-making, documentary-making, art shows, house-cleaning, and a lot of letting go. The book deals with high school relationships ending, new relationships beginning, and most of all it deals with change.
Dessen totally nails that feeling of wanting to change, but also not wanting to let go. I loved watching Emaline get to know her brother better. And I super loved all the divisions between the tourists and the townies. A huge part of this book was the differences between New York and Colby, between college and work, between summer and fall, between temporary and long-lasting. I love how everyone in Colby respected one another. They gave free Ferris wheel rides to fellow townies. They gossiped at the gym. They understood and trusted each other way more than they ever would an outsider. It was so entertaining watching Theo and his boss try to break into their mindset, and never really get there.
I never really liked Theo. He reminded me way too much of a boy I once knew in high school, a boy I knew Emaline would not work with. He was just way too much in his own head, and not enough in anyone else’s. All of the mistakes he made and bad places he took Emaline were rather hilarious though. The book was so entertaining because of all the things he didn’t know. Yet, he saw Emaline as the more ignorant one. Emaline just becomes so much stronger as the summer goes on. I was so happy when she finally saw Theo for who I saw him to be from the beginning.
The book deals with the pressures of parents, jobs, boyfriends, college-applying, and just all of the things a teen would/should/does go through. The characters were so real.  Also, there were so many cameos of past Dessen characters that it felt like a mini beach vacation reunion for me. This is a perfect summer read. There’s nothing too intense going on in it, though Dessen has this magical power to put it all through the lense of a teen, so everything seems so important and intense in the moment.
I give it a 10/10, and I highly recommend it to contemporary fans (particularly Dessen fans). It’s one of my favorites by her.

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