Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading … The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Just Finished Reading … The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Review of The Moon and More
by Sarah Dessen
To be published by Viking Juvenile
on June 4, 2013

Source: bought



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?
Why you should read this book in ten words or fewer:  It's Sarah Dessen.

My longer take: I've read every single Sarah Dessen book and enjoyed them all.  I think the Goodreads blurb (above) of The Moon and More makes the book sound like it's about this big, dramatic love triangle. I didn't read the book that way at all.

Once I decided that this book was not all about the romance,  I enjoyed it a lot. To me, The Moon and More was a story about a girl who is surrounded by well-meaning people who -- based on their values and life experiences -- are trying to tell her what kind of life she should have, and she has to cut through all that noise and find her own path.

Emaline is spending the summer working for her family's real estate agency and getting ready to head to college in the fall.  She's been with Luke, her boyfriend, since ninth grade. She thinks she has everything figured out: she'll spend her summer handing out keys to vacation rental houses in the quaint beach town of Colby, then in September, she'll go to the same state school that Luke will be attending. End of story.

But things don't go according to plan. First, Emaline's biological father turns up in Colby. He had been urging Emaline to apply to Ivy League schools and even offered to help pay her tuition, but mysteriously rescinded his offer. Then Emaline starts noticing that she and Luke aren't as much in sync as usual. Finally, a documentary filmmaker from New York shows up in town to interview Clyde Conaway. (You might remember him from Along For the Ride -- he's the bike store owner always trying to come up with new names for his shop.) The filmmaker, Ivy, has brought along her young assistant, Theo, who is eager to impress his boss by getting Emaline to show him the lay of the land in Colby.

I love returning to Colby. After reading so many books set there, I feel like I know the place well. The Moon and More puts the residents of Colby (Emaline and her friends Daisy and Morris, plus Luke and Clyde) in sharp contrast with the outsiders (Ivy, Theo, Emaline's father and brother.) The insiders all know one another and how things in Colby work; the outsiders are portrayed as a bit blundering and insensitive. That said, I know from experience that sometimes that is the dynamic of life in a small town that's overrun by summer tourists. But as Emaline comes into contact with these brash, dynamic outsiders, she's forced to ask herself whether she's as ambitious and determined as they are, or whether she fits in better with the relaxed, beachy vibe of Colby.

While the book's blurb seems to suggest that this decision is paralleled by Emaline's choice between two very different guys, I didn't really read the story that way. Luke, Emaline's boyfriend, was so laid-back it was hard to get a read on him -- he came off to me like a good guy who looks great with his shirt off. Theo, the outsider, is smart but tries way too hard -- he's socially awkward in a way that made him seem too immature for the coolheaded, practical Emaline.

I think that Sarah Dessen's books always do a nice job of bringing to life complicated family relationships, and this book was no exception. There was clearly strain between Emaline and her biological father, strain that was never really resolved. The dynamic between the reclusive Clyde and the aggressive Ivy and Theo was also fun and well-portrayed -- they try to pursue Clyde, and he gleefully evades them.

Finally, I loved the way that, through the events of the book, Emaline discovers new things about herself -- including some things that really surprise her. Sarah Dessen has set a number of her books during a character's last summer before college -- Along for the Ride, This Lullaby and The Moon and More, to name a few. This is bound to be a confusing and emotional time of life, and I think that The Moon and More did a great job of showing one girl's experience with that exciting, scary moment when you're ready to take a big step toward adult independence.

32 comments:

  1. Great review! Sarah Dessen really knows how to write some good contemporaries! I'll probably pick this book up around this summer, since her books are perfect for it!

    Happy Reading :)

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  2. When I first saw this book on Goodreads, I was excited to read it. After reading your review, I'm really, really excited. Great review!

    Christie @ The Shadower's Shelf

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  3. Great review, Jen! I can't wait to read this one. I'm a huge fan of Sarah Dessen's work. :)

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  4. I do own all SD books but have read (And LOVED!) only one and I'm so glad that The Moon and More was no exception. I'm really looking forward to picking this one up soon. Lovely review, Jen!

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    1. You own them all and have only read one?
      Not to be bossy, but get reading them!!!! They are perfect for the summer...

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  5. This sounds awesome. I haven't read any of her books. I really have to get on that!!

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  6. Yea i've heard great things about the author. She sounds super fantastic. Can't wait to start reading her books. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

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  7. Yeah, the jacket copy did not do this book justice, IMO. It was much more about Emmaline discovering what she did and didn't want. I thought is was a wonderful, bittersweet story. Great review!

    Kate @ Ex Libris

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    1. I really liked it too. And was relieved that it wasn't all about this boy or that boy...

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  8. Glad you enjoyed this one, I've enjoyed all the Sarah Dessen books that I have read too :)

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    1. I love them all! I mean, I have my absolute favorites, but I always love her books.

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  9. Exactly! I love the way the author can bring real life aspects and make them feel real for the reader. I enjoyed this book as well. Nice review.

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    1. She does a great job portraying family life. Her families are not dysfunctional, but not perfect either -- no one's family is perfect!

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  10. I am really glad to hear that the implied love triangle of the blurb isn't really present. Sometimes I get so tired of books where it is a boy (or two) that forces the protagonist to reevaluate her life. That's fine sometimes, but I feel that's overdone. Dessen is a seasoned enough author that I guess that shouldn't be too much of a surprise. I do like the books where characters are on the verge of starting college/making major life choices. It sounds like perhaps I should read Dessen's other books set in Colby to really appreciate all she has to offer in The Moon and More, but I guess I'll see if that happens or not. Lovely review!

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    1. I think the book does show Emaline using her reactions to these different boys to sort out her feelings about different life paths, but I was really relieved that the story wasn't the old, "oh, these two hot boys love me; which one should I pick?"

      Emaline realizes that she has to figure out what is right for her first and that the romance thing will follow, which made me very happy. No one ever did themselves a favor by changing their personality for a guy!

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  11. Really great review. I'm super excited to read this one!

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  12. Oh, I love this review, Jen! I just posted mine today, too. ALONG FOR THE RIDE is the one Dessen book I haven't read yet (I've been saving it for ages, since it's the last one), and I liked Clyde Conaway so much I'm glad we're going to see him--and Colby!--again.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  13. I think you covered the romance stuff pretty good without giving too much away. I wasn't sure what to say without spoiling it. I really liked this one too but I'm not a Sarah Dessen expert like you. I have only read one other book by her but now I'm really wanting to read more, especially after your review of this one. I didn't know any of her characters crossed over into other books, and I didn't know there were other books set in Colby either. I'm not even sure where it is... If it said in the book I missed it or forgot.

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  14. I still have never read anything by Sarah Dessen. I have the one you gave me on my shelf and keep meaning to pick it up but forget about it. The time between high school and college is a big step. It wasn't really for me because I went to junior college so there was no big move or big step. And really even when I transferred I only moved an hour away and it was to a school most of my friends were going to. I just read Burning that comes out in June and it was about a guys summer before college and I thought it captured the feelings of excitement and nerves perfectly. Glad this isn't a big love triangle book and more about the character deciding on her life.

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  15. I am reading this now and really enjoying it so far! I love Sarah's books that deal with that last summer before college, they're actually my favorites of hers. Glad to hear you enjoyed this so much!

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  16. i think that I would connect with Emaline as well, thanks for review

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  17. Along for the Ride is the ONLY other Dessen book I've read. Glad to know I'll be in familiar territory with this new book. :) Great review...I can't wait to see this family dynamic for myself.

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  18. I've read four (or five?) Dessen books and enjoyed them all (This Lullaby being my fave, as you know) but they do all follow a familiar pattern. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I do wonder when she releases a new book if it will be the one to break the pattern. Sounds like I might still be waiting for that happen? So, I'd like to read this at some point, love the family dynamics like you, love the beach town setting of Colby, love the summer before college setting, but I will probably wait until my library stocks it:)

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    1. I've read every Dessen novel and I feel like this one did break the pattern (I agree they've been a bit formulaic) but I don't think I can explain why without spoilers. What do you think Jen?

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  19. I agree that the synopsis makes this sound much more like it's about a big dramatic love triangle, which I was alternately dreading and anticipating...but then it's actually about so much more. I'm still working on my review for this one and I think it's going to be hard.

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  20. I've only read Along For the Ride, which weirdly I didn't love for some reason, but I do like the sounds of this and can't wait to dive into it this summer. :)

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  21. I've never read a Sarah Dessen book, but I feel like I'm going to love them when I do!

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