Susan's Book Review: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
I have been a Sarah Dessen fan since I was an actual teenager. I followed her blog for years, I’ve driven hours to see her speak, and I read all of her books. I don’t love all of her books (I’m looking at you Lock & Key), but I do love this one! It’s set in the familiar beach town of Colby (fictional, but it gets more fleshed out each time she writes about it) and stars high school graduate Emaline the summer before she heads off to college. Emaline has been dating good guy Luke since 9th grade and works at her grandmother’s beach house rental agency. She is happy with Luke—she loves Luke—but she can’t decide if it’s what she wants, or what she knows.
Enter Theo and Ivy. Two New Yorkers in Colby to film a documentary on a reclusive local artist who are renting the newest, biggest, and most expensive beach house. Ivy is the abrasive but genius director and Theo is her 21-year-old lapdog assistant. They are needy renters and it’s her job to keep them happy, so Emaline ends up spending time with Theo to show him around town. Then a misunderstanding involving an accidentally unsent text causes friction with Luke, and suddenly they are broken up. Emaline hardly has time to process it before Theo is trying to take Luke’s place. Add in an estranged birth father, a half-brother named Benji (probably my favorite character), a house constantly undergoing renovation, the busy season and a sister trying to be in charge at work, a mom who wants to spend quality time with her daughter before she leaves for college, and an artist coming out of hiding, and Emaline’s carefree summer is anything but.
Dessen’s books have doubled in size since her early titles and sometimes I find them bloated and can almost feel her struggle to piece the story together. This book is the exact opposite—it felt like it was as effortless for her to write it as it was for me to read it. When she is on her game, no one does it better. She is a master of realistic dialogue and creates layered characters (not just the main ones either—I know the backstory of the guy who owns the convenience store) that have chemistry on the page and whose lives you become invested in. I hate when an author tells me two people are in love. I want them to show me, and Dessen does. I know realistic fiction doesn’t really involve world-building, except it kind of does, because I don’t even like the beach, and she makes me want to visit Colby!