Saturday, June 1, 2013

Rereading Sarah Dessen: The Truth About Forever

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. This month we read The Truth About Forever. This is the book that gets recommend the most to Dessen newbies and since I didn't remember loooooving it when it first came out I was interested to find out what I thought after the reading it again. Read on to see what my friend Sandy and I thought of this month's reread.

Synopsis:
A long, hot summer...
That's what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy's father.
But sometimes unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister's project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl's world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry?
About the Story
Main  Character: Macy Queen
Age: 17 (I think...she's going to be going into her senior year)
School Year or Summer?: Summer
Boy: Wes
First description of boy: “Now that he was right in front of me, I could see that he was tall and had brown hair that was just a little bit too long. He was also strikingly handsome, with the sort of sculpted cheekbones and angular features that you couldn't help but notice, even if you did have a boyfriend.” (page 23)
Crushable?: Oh, goodness, yes.
Big Secret?:  No.
Heavy Storyline?: Sort of...see below.
Parents Together?: No...we find out early on in the story that her dad died a year and a half ago.
Siblings: One sister, two or three years older.
Takes Place In: Lakeview (with some parts in Colby, the beach town)
Cameos: This one required some Google research. Lorna McPhail, weather girl, is mentioned and I couldn't recall if it was That Summer or Someone Like You that she was from (the movie How to Deal screws me up). Turns out she's from That Summer! Thank you to Sandy for finding that one. Also, Wikipedia tells me that Stella, Kristy and Monica's grandmother, is reading a book by Remy's (This Lullaby) mother. Neat!

About the Book
Released: 2004.
Epigraph?: No.
Format (of the copy I read): Hardcover.
Own?: Yes.
Signed?: No. (I'm now kicking myself for not bringing it to get signed.)
Read or Reread: Reread
Age when first read: 17-ish.
New cover vs older cover: Definitely old. I don't understand the point of that bracelet. Or the flower, come to think of it. The bracelet is just weird to me. I do like those turquoise colours more though.

My Thoughts
How did I not love this one when I first read it? I know I said the other month when I read This Lullaby that I wasn't going to pick favourites but I think this one is winning. No wonder everyone recommends starting with this book. I fell head over heels in love with The Truth About Forever this time around. I don't really know what was different. Perhaps it was because I couldn't understand why it was better to be imperfect when I was 17. After all, Macy was about that age and she was struggling. I guess I identified with her so much that I wasn't able to see the benefits for the changes. Does that make sense? It's hard to remember exactly how I felt almost ten years ago!

In case you couldn't tell from the above, I loved this book. I'm so so so glad that I did a reread of this (which seems to be a common theme in my reread reviews, yes?) because I think I understood it a bit better. I think part of what makes this such a popular book to recommend to Dessen newbies is that it includes all of the things that make Dessen's books so amazing - an incredibly real teenage girl, summer, some serious life changes, and a sweet but amazing and funny guy. I also find that siblings (especially sisters) play into her novels quite a bit and they're almost always older and were a bit wilder when they were the age of the main character.

I mentioned the realness of the character and that's probably my favourite thing about Dessen's books. Macy is perfectly imperfect and that's what she needs to learn to accept. What I love about the guys in Dessen's novels (for the most part, anyway...I think in her later novels she allows the romance to end happily more than she did initially, like in, say, Someone Like You) is that they see the best in the girls. They also seem more mature and able to guide the girl into a better life. The two I'm thinking of in particular are Wes in Truth and Dexter in This Lullaby (and I think there's this kind of aspect in Lock and Key but I can't really remember). That seems a little...I'm not sure how to describe it...controlling? That's not the way it is though. They're more like...positive wake up calls. And are usually incredibly swoonworthy. I need a Wes. I mean...I love my boyfriend *waves* :)

Overall, this book is a winner. If you STILL haven't read a Sarah Dessen book (and I'm constantly amazed at how many YA fans out there haven't read her books), you need to run, not walk, to your bookstore and buy this one. And then go back and start with That Summer and work your way up to the one being released on Tuesday. Not a YA fan? Read it anyway. Trust me. This quote alone should be enough to make you want to read it. It's perfection on a page.


Sandy's Thoughts
This is the perfect Sarah Dessen book! The Truth About Forever is full of well-defined and remarkable characters; even the mean girls are interesting. The writing itself, as per usual, is on point with unexpected twists that just appear and are not shoved in the readers face. Some teen novels can talk down to their intended audience and that gets frustrating for the reader and discourages them from reading. Sarah Dessen never does that! Her ability to write from a realistic perspective is why I continue to read her books long into my twenties. She always writes about real life situations and dramas that have real life resolutions by the end of the novel.

In Truth, Macy is stuck between two paths and at first she tries to follow both. But as in life, at some point those paths fork and she has to choose between being “perfect” and being her real self. Macy has to pick between snarky librarians and the life that she built around her boyfriend or chaotic caterers and a new guy with friends that accept her. She is unhappy from the moment her boyfriend leaves and she is forced into a job she has no passion for. When her path intersects with Wish Catering and she learns the stories of its employees her choice is made for her.

She finds kindred spirits amongst Delia, Wes and Kristy. They fill the silence left behind by Jason. From the moment these characters appeared in the novel I loved them. Kristy and Monica (even with her monotone) give Macy more confidence than Jason ever could. Wes is the pinnacle of a literary guy you want to date or even just meet, be his friend, buy a sculpture, anything. Deep down all of us girls pray that this boy exists and Sarah Dessen knows how to write them, so thank you very much to her! She gives us hope. Within a few pages I immediately hated Jason and loved Wes, she writes her characters that vividly. His best line is, and I quote, “ I like flaws they make things interesting.” (page 192) Followed closely by, “ I’m not into appearances.” Sawoon, indeed!

There is a sad undertone to this novel. The death of Macy’s father sends a wrecking ball through her life and the life of her mother and sister. The sudden death of a loved one has a way of doing that. This book is very good at showing all the different ways people grieve. Grief is an innate and natural instinct, just as an individuals reaction to that grief is. Some people hide and deny that anything is different (Macy’s Mom), some choose to plan and focus to control what is left (Macy), some openly grieve and feel free to move on mindful of what they have lost, (Macy’s sister Caroline), some rebel and then step up when they are ready (Wes), and others try to keep the memory alive (Delia). I found it very interesting that each character that had suffered a loss dealt with it in their own way but they did all have to deal with it in the end. I loved this novel and would recommend it to anyone who has lost a loved one. Sarah Dessen breaks down grief and makes it clear that everyone goes through it but with help you can come out the other side.

Macy learns a valuable lesson. The truth about forever. That truth is simple. Forever could end at any time so treat every second like it could last forever. The potential of forever is vast for all of us, how we spend our forever is what defines us.

Next Month:
We're reading Dessen's upcoming book The Moon and More. I CANNOT WAIT!!! This will also be the only "read" for this read/reread challenge!

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