PJV Quickie: There is a reason Sarah Dessen has a large fanbase: she’s an amazing writer. Like the ocean that is a constant background in the story, you don’t realize the depths that Ms. Dessen has taken you until you reflect back on it and realize you were in much deeper than you thought.
Review: It’s the summer before Emaline is going off to college, and she’s working at the family business (summer rentals) and hanging out with her long-term boyfriend Luke. Not a fabulous summer, but a good one, she hopes. Then suddenly everything changes: Her father (who is not her dad – there is a significant difference) unexpectely comes to town with her half-brother, her boyfriend Luke might be having growing pains, and Emaline is suddenly working with a filmmaker’s assistant, who’s pretty cute and has lived outside her tiny town of Colby.
Now nothing is going the way she’d planned and so many of the things she’d believed to be solid and unchanging are not what they appeared to be. As the days get closer to college, Emaline starts realizing people change, change is not necessarily bad, and life in a small town might be more interesting that she thought.
I really, really liked The Moon and More. Ms. Dessen has a way of writing that brings you right into the story. I could feel the heat of the day while Emaline was working and the gritty, ever-present sand under my feet. Emaline is a typical girl, a people-pleaser who took on more than she thought she could handle, but had a good support system in her family and in her BFF.
There were so many themes woven into the story, but I’d have to say family was perhaps the biggest. Emaline’s mom was a teen mom, she got pregnant when she was dating a summer-vacationer. He went back home at the end of the summer; Emaline’s mom raised her alone. When she was three, her mother married her dad. Dad, not father, because a dad is someone who loves you and is there for you, which her biological father is not. I thought Ms. Dessen really handled the dynamics of a blended family very well and subtly highlighted the awkwardness and hope that comes with having a parent who lives elsewhere with a new family. I absolutely loved Emaline’s half-brother Benji, he was a great character without being an annoying caricature of a kid.
Lest you think otherwise from my synopsis above, there is NOT a love triangle in this book. There are growing pains, on all sides, and decisions that might have been made in haste, but I like how we got to see the progression of things in that area, and was really, really happy with the way the romance aspect of the story ended.
I really, really want to go into how the way something appears on the outside is not what’s underneath, but that would be giving away spoilers in more areas than one. The Moon and More may have run a little long, but ultimately I found it to be charming, entertaining and satisfying. There’s not really a Big Moment or Thing That Happens, just an enchanting story about the summer between being a kid and becoming an adult.
Recommendations: I’d recommend The Moon and More to fans of contemporary YA fiction, beach-themed stories, and coming of age tales.