Emaline’s life in Colby mirrors the town in many ways: small, safe, and fairly idyllic at first glance. She has the perfect boyfriend in Luke, and they’ve been together forever. But now that it’s the summer before college, Emaline has herself wondering about what her future holds, and whether or not she wants to go bigger than what she currently has. When Theo, an ambitious New Yorker helping film a documentary about a reluctant local artist, enters her life, he questions her safe little life and pushes her to experience more. When Emaline’s absentee father re-enters the picture and also wants more for her, she finds herself being pulled in more than one direction. How can she reconcile her home–her life in Colby–and her future?
Dessen’s latest offering is one of her stronger ones in recent years. This one has all the Dessen staples: the sleepy beach town, vivid secondary characters, a strong female narrator, and complicated family dynamics. But Dessen manages to make all this feel very fresh, and her characters not only feel incredibly real, but they act and react in very real, surprising ways. This is one that readers will devour.
There are no easy answers or choices here. One of the novel’s standout pieces is the complicated, messy, authentic relationship between Emaline and her father. He’s a deeply flawed human being, and while Emaline recognizes this on some level, she still seeks his approval. It’s a rare novel that manages to encapsulate the complexities of such a relationship, and Dessen aces it here. It’s frustrating and moving all at once.
As always, Dessen populates her story with a variety of characters. Emaline has a loving, sweet, and slightly wacky blended family, and it’s clear that they love each other immensely. Her friendships and relationships with other people in the town are also well-developed. Readers will find themselves totally immersed in the town of Colby (again).
Sweetness, humor, and some major character growth make this contemporary YA a standout of the summer, if not the year. Highly recommended.
The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen. Viking Juvenile: 2013. Purchased copy.