Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reading Sarah Dessen: The Moon and More

Hosted by I Eat Words
Welcome to month four of the I Eat Words Sarah Dessen Read/Reread Challenge! Check out this post that explains the details about the awesomeness that is this challenge. Ah, a new book from Dessen! That always makes the summer that much better, in my opinion. I'm always excited when she releases a new book because, as you know, she's one of my favourite authors. Even though I had stayed away from early reviews of The Moon and More because I didn't want to know anything about it, I still knew that there were a few mixed reviews out there. I was hesitant because my expectations were so high but I ended up really loving this new book.

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?
Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?
About the Story
Main  Character: Emaline
Age: 18
School Year or Summer?: Summer
Boys: Boyfriend Luke and new boy in town Theo
First description of Luke: "Halfway down the stairs to the front door, I glanced out one of the big windows, spotting the object of their ogling: a tall, very tan guy with curly blond hair, shirtless, wielding a long, awfully phallic looking pool brush." (page 9-10) 
First description of Theo: "He, however, was not from here, something I discerned with one glance. First, he had on Oyster jeans - dark wash, with the signature O on the back pockets - which I hadn't even known they made for guys. Second, he had a knit cap pulled down over his ears, even though it was early June." (page 13)
Crushable?: Neither of them totally did it for me but I'd definitely be more drawn to Luke (and not just because that's my boyfriend's name!)
Big Secret?:  No.
Heavy Storyline?: Not heavy and not overly dramatic but there are issues.
Parents Together?: Yes - sort of. She has a father (biologically) and a dad (her stepdad who adopted her when she was three).
Sibling(s)?: Yes, two older sisters. Margo is 22 and Amber is 20. 
Takes Place In: Colby, the beach town that shows up often in Dessen's works.
Cameos: So many! Emaline's BFF works at the store owned by Heidi, Auden's stepmom, from Along for the Ride and they both make an appearance. Also from Along for the Ride are Clyde and Esther (though I admit that Google had to help me with those connections). Luke's cousins are Wes and Bert from The Truth About Forever. They visit the Last Chance Cafe, which is mentioned in a couple of books, I think. Finally, Spinnerbait (Hate Spinnerbait!) from This Lullaby is playing at the club in town.

About the Book
Released: June 4 2013.
Epigraph?: No.
Format (of the copy I read): Hardcover.
Own?: Yes.
Signed?: No. 
Read or Reread: Read
Age when first read: 26.
New cover vs older cover: Not applicable since this was just published. I do have to say that I'm not a huge fan of the cover. After reading the book I get the significance of the grass but I still think that water would have been a better choice.

My Thoughts
I don't think I really allowed myself to believe that summer was here until I read Dessen's new novel. Her books are just the perfect summer read because they're amazing and almost always take place during summer vacation. I was looking forward to The Moon and More because, for the first time, the entire novel took place in Colby and was told from the perspective of someone who grew up there. I found this aspect of the novel to be really interesting - and probably the reason I really liked this book. I grew up in a town that has its fair share of tourists who are staying at the nearby beaches (Sandy can actually talk about this more because she lives at the beach) but it's not really anything like Colby (I wish it was though!). Like Emaline, I'm a small town girl at heart but, also like Emaline, I was eager to find out what the world had to offer once I was done high school.
Speaking of Emaline, I really loved her character and felt really connected to her. I know what it's like to have a family structure that requires an extra step of explanation and I can still remember my last summer before starting university. She had her flaws and, once again, I wanted to be a big sister for her but I knew she was a smart and strong character and would be able to figure out her life. I just loved reading her story.
One thing I found interesting was that Emaline and her boyfriend Luke were having sex during the story. That sounds weird, I know. The interesting thing is that I can't recall another Dessen novel where the main character was having sex during the book. Remy, in This Lullaby, had slept with guys before but she and Dexter never actually had sex. It seems like an odd thing to note but it seemed quite different for Dessen and that's what made me pay attention. This isn't a bad thing and it's not in any way graphic (I don't believe there are any descriptions at all) but it just made me think. I also could be wrong in recalling all her previous novels - can anyone correct me?
I found the boys in this book interesting, too. Dessen usually writes some excellently swoonworthy male characters (see: Wes from The Truth About Forever and Dexter from This Lullaby) but there was something about Luke and Theo that prevented me from wanting them for myself (hey, you all have book boyfriends, don't try to deny it!). Perhaps it's because Emaline herself doesn't quite know who she wants because she doesn't quite know who she is. Romance really didn't play a large part in the novel and I think that's what made the boys take a backseat in the story.
Overall, The Moon and More is a great read. New and old fans of Sarah Dessen will enjoy it, I think. And if you STILL haven't read any of her books, why not start with this one?

Sandy's Thoughts
Yes! A new Sarah Dessen novel to add to the collection. In her eleventh effort, The Moon and More, Dessen does not disappoint. The characters seem a little older and wiser than some of their predecessors but the coming of age teen story is still there. You still get that same feeling of satisfaction when you close the book for the last time and the story is all wrapped up. As with every Dessen ending there are questions and possibilities untold but there are also twists and turns you never saw coming.
Being the eleventh book, Dessen has mastered the personalities of the towns and people she has created. I love the cameos she throws into every novel and this one had a ton! We met Auden at Clementines, Clyde from the Washroom, Wes and Bert from Truth are mentioned and there are many more hidden tributes to her past novels. That made this novel special to me. I love that she has created her own little world between Lakeview and Colby and that her readers are part of it. I felt like I was part of the Colby beach community and invested in the outcome of Emaline’s summer.
Emaline hopes, from the beginning, for a different kind of summer. By virtue of the fact that it is the last one she will have before moving on to college it should be different. However, fate sees fit to give her a summer of changes that she will never forget. She had wanted the summer to mean reconciliation between her and her biological father and fun times with her long-term boyfriend (page 389). Instead she was gifted with the unconditional love of her younger half-brother and a true sense of herself without a boyfriend to influence her. This summer teaches Emaline that no matter where she goes she will always have her friends, family and Colby to support her.
For most of this novel I struggled to swoon over either boy in Emaline’s life. Luke seemed to be a little too conceited and Theo was just too pushy. It seemed as though both boys were too into themselves and never really heard or saw Emaline they just bowled over her. The boy I really liked was dozy Morris. He and Daisy were the shining couple of The Moon and More for me. It wasn’t until the last fifty pages when Theo shows his true colours and Luke is there that I really felt invested in the Luke/Emaline relationship. Luke finally showed that he knew her and saw her for who she was, not who he thought she was.
I also really enjoyed Clyde’s back-story. I found it very compelling and wanted to know, along with Ivy and Theo, why he had quit being an artist and moved back to Colby if he was so successful.  Clyde is one of the big Colby personalities so it was interesting to discover more about him. Everyone has a story.
Sarah Dessen says it best, “It takes so little to change everything.” (Page 187) That is the crux of every one of her novels. One small moment, action, or reaction can change the entire course of a summer, a year, or a life. I am looking forward to number twelve!

Next month: We're reading That Summer. It will be interesting to go from Dessen's newest book to her first. 

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