Review: The Moon and More, by Sarah Dessen

 

About the book here.

I’m not usually a fan of steamy romance novels. Sure, they excite my imagination and get my heart pumping. But many of them are unrealistic, catered to the emotional desires of the female population.

So when a friend bought me one of Sarah Dessen’s books a few years ago, I was skeptical. But once I started, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Since then, I have read almost all her novels.

Sarah’s books are more than an emotional fix. Characteristic of her writing, The Moon and More is not simply a romance. In fact, I would say that the story of 18-year-old Emaline is distinctly not about finding the perfect summer fling. Instead, the novel focuses on a larger search—Emaline’s search to discover who she is, and what adult life might hold for her.

Sarah Dessen is a wonderful writer, and The Moon and More is no exception. Her descriptions of the small beach town of Colby transported me—I could almost feel sand between my toes and hear crashing waves. Sarah’s voice is also fun and easily readable. Her dialogue is conversational and natural, making the pages turn quickly without rerouting and backtracking.

One of my favorite aspects of this book were the supporting characters. Emaline’s two best friends are quirky and colorful: Morris is lazy, sloppy, slow-moving, and Daisy is fast-paced and fashion-forward. Yet they’re dating. Sarah does a wonderful job of realistically creating that odd couple no one can picture together, but somehow make work.

While I loved the minor characters, Emaline herself was a disappointment. The side-line characters have distinct traits that make them believable. Emaline, however, doesn’t have much going for her: she isn’t particularly quiet or loud, obsessive or low-key. She doesn’t have any hobbies or habits. Frankly, she was a boring main character to follow.

She also doesn’t realize her mistake when she starts dating the wrong guy. Theo is the kind of character we love to hate, and Sarah is successful in her portrayal of a city boy who is too large for a small town. But Emaline doesn’t realize their major differences until she has wasted an entire summer with him. It’s frustrating to read about a bad relationship, especially when everyone but the main character is cringing.

The novel didn’t end as I expected. Most of Sarah’s main characters find romance—that “ah ha” moment when the relationship clicks. But Emaline ends the novel as a single, not as a girlfriend. For an author who is expected to write romance, there was a definite lack of relationship closure. The small part of me that loves fairy-tale happy endings was disappointed. But the better part of me applauds.

Let’s face it: most high school romances don’t last. I was glad Sarah wrote a realistic ending for Emaline’s story—an ending which Sarah makes clear isn’t actually the end. Novels only show us a snippet of someone’s life, and usually end when the characters are on a high. If Sarah wanted to write this kind of story, she would have ended it toward the beginning, when Emaline grows tired of her monotonous life and finds a thrilling new romance.

But she doesn’t. The Moon and More is about the transition from childhood to adulthood, and for most of us, that transition lasts a lot longer than the three months before college.

I liked the ideas Sarah Dessen is exploring: growing up, facing changes, finding an identity, and navigating challenging relationships. While Emaline herself wasn’t a great character, her friends and family were wonderfully realistic. I was glad that Emaline decided to forge her own path at college.

 3-stars-out-of-5

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