by Sarah Dessen
To be published by Viking Juvenile
on June 4, 2013
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 He had been urging Emaline to apply to Ivy League schools and even offered to help pay her tuition, but mysteriously rescinded his offer.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.