Rating: 4/5 stars.
Queen Dessen, Empress Dessen, and Rock Star of YA Realistic Fiction Dessen – all titles I whispered while reading this book, usually after the words “bow down to…” After ten previously published novels, Sarah Dessen still has that signature prose style of hers – just enough telling and showing to suck you in while establishing back story, a setting that sits in the back of your mind when you close your eyes, and characters that you can believe in.
The summer after her senior year, Emaline has only a few months left to spend at Colby – the beach town she’s lived all her life – until she leaves for East U. She has it all, in a way: an attractive and kind boyfriend, a dysfunctional at times yet altogether endearing family, and great friends who have her back. But her perfect, serene plan takes a nosedive into deep waters when her absentee father shows up after a long silence. Emaline meets Theo, too – a nerdy yet exciting boy from New York whose ambition may spark some of her own. Even with an SAT verbal score that got her into Columbia and a knack for knowing just what to do and when, Emaline struggles to hold on and let go amidst her last summer home.
If Courtney Summers punches me in the gut with her prose, Sarah Dessen takes me on a trip through the clouds. I could get lost in her writing for days upon days, weeks upon weeks. The irony is that her writing style doesn’t stick out too much, but that in itself is what makes it so apparent – how she can create a heck of a lot out of nothing. Colby with its eccentric residents and its few clubs felt familiar and cozy. Emaline’s family carried just enough issues to work out and her friends had relevance to the story as a whole. Not to mention the two romances within this book, one of which felt even more realistic than those featured in several of Dessen’s past stories.
Dessen takes on theme well too. The word “understated” comes to mind when I think of her work. While the idea of growing up and letting go to the past was obvious – not in a bad way, just due to Emaline’s tendency to introspect – I loved, loved how Dessen handled Emaline’s relationship with her father. Without spoiling anything major, Emaline learns an important lesson by the end of this book because of him, one that resonated with me on a deeply personal level, and one that Dessen incorporates with skill and grace.
While The Truth About Forever and Just Listen still claim the “best books by Sarah Dessen with unparalleled character development and writing” throne, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Moon and More to those searching for a light and well-written summer read. No matter what, I will always bow down to Sarah Dessen.