Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rereading Sarah Dessen: Keeping the Moon

Another month, another I Eat Words Sarah Dessen Read/Reread Challenge read! Check out this post that explains the details about the awesomeness that is this challenge. October had my BFF Sandy and I rereading Keeping the Moon. This was one of Dessen's novels that I really couldn't remember much about so having the chance to reread it was great. Overall thoughts: I liked it but didn't love it but Sandy plans on recommending it to all customers at the bookstore where she works.

Colie expects the worst when she's sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast -- first for being fat and then for being "easy" -- Colie has no friends at home and doesn't expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina. But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along.
About the Story
Main  Character: Nicole "Colie" Sparks
Age: 15
School Year or Summer?: Summer.
Boy: Norman
First description of the boy: "...a guy with shoulder-length brown hair, a tie-dyed T-shirt, cutoff army shorts, and Birkenstocks. He had about a million of those Deadhead hippie bracelets on his wrist and he was wearing sunglasses with blue frames." (page 8)
Crushable?: Sort a way that sneaks up on you.
Big Secret?: Not really.
Heavy Storyline?: Yes.
Parents Together?: No. Colie's never met her father.
Sibling(s)?: No.
Takes Place In: Colby.
Cameos: Definitely The Last Chance, but I'm having a hard time nailing down which novels it pops up in. I also think the big pot hole Colie's aunt Mira mentions on their road features in, I think, The Truth About Forever.

About the Book
Released: 1999
Epigraph?: No.
Format (of the copy I read): Paperback
Own?: Yes.
Signed?: No.
Read or Reread: Reread.
Age when first read: Oh boy..15? 16?
New cover vs older cover: New. The jean shorts and bare midriff are all wrong for Colie, even if the sunglasses fit in. The new one features fireworks, which play into the story.

My Thoughts
I can't quite decide what made me not love Keeping the Moon. It's still a really great story and a fabulous one for young girls because Colie's growth is so well defined and shows what can happen when you really start to believe in yourself and learn that other peoples' opinions don't really matter all that much. In a non-hokey way. Promise. There's still the depth and realness in this book that I love in Dessen's work.
Something Sandy and I have talked about before was the fact that the name of the restaurant that comes up frequently in Dessen's books has changed over the years. In this novel, it's the Last Chance Bar and Grill. At some point over the years, Dessen changed it to Last Chance Cafe and, in fact, it's changed in the synopsis and on her website on the Keeping the Moon page. Why did this happen? A simple oversight or the fact that a "bar and grill" isn't the best or most glamourous place for teens to be hanging out?
Looking back, I know I was pretty lucky in high school. I didn't have to deal with the crap that Colie did with her weight. I was actually more like Morgan as she says, "I was so skinny you could see my collarbone from a mile off. ... Plus I was ten feet taller than any of the boys. And since my mom never wanted to buy me any new clothes and I kept growing, all my skirts and pants were too short. My nickname was Highwater." (Page 133) Yep, I was that girl with the too short pants. Not because my mom wouldn't buy me clothes but because we couldn't find any that fit me. This is a problem that still haunts me today!
Anyway...even with all of the problems in her life, or perhaps because of them, Colie is a strong girl, deep down, as all Dessen's characters are - even if she doesn't realize it at first. It was so amazing watching her "become a butterfly" (if you read the book that makes sense!). I think it was even better watching her transform because she was so young. She was learning some great lessons at just fifteen and I'm confident that the last couple of years of high school will turn out ok for her (as ok as high school can be!).
For those wondering about the romance, it's there in this story but it is by no means the central story (which is true for most of Dessen's books). This story is about Colie finding herself, true, but I think the other reason the romance doesn't play a huge part is because she's only fifteen. Norman isn't your typical leading man and, as I stated earlier, his charm and personality sneak up on you and you eventually realize that he's an incredibly decent guy.
Would I still recommend Keeping the Moon even though I didn't loooove it? Absolutely. I think this is a great one for younger teens both because of the age of Colie and the overall story and themes. I liked it and I'd definitely still recommend it.

Sandy's Thoughts
Keeping the Moon is one of the first novels by Sarah Dessen that I ever read. As with every one of her novels the characters are strong and vivid. From the moment you start reading you are transported into Colie’s world and into the summer that transforms her.
We are introduced to Colie after she has changed her outward image from fat and frumpy to skinny and obscured. She is still trying to figure out who she is on the inside and how to show the world that girl. After an adolescence of shameful hiding she is used to being alone or being treated as the punch line. When she arrives in Colby she finds an aunt who is treated much the same way. She assumes that Mira is just like her, the fat girl who internalizes all of the insults thrown her way. Mira is different; she focuses on the good in her life and not the bad. She finds good in everything around her and that positive attitude begins to change the way Colie sees herself and the people around her.
After years of abuse from the stereotypical mean girls Colie is hesitant to let anyone in. This makes her apprehensive about every new person she meets even the ones who take her in at the Last Chance Café. Morgan, Isabel and Norman are all quirky in their own ways but not afraid to show their true selves to anyone who might be looking. Morgan is emotional, Isabel is bitchy and Norman is artsy. Colie makes snap judgements about all of them and is taught a valuable lesson. No one is perfect, no character or heroine in any Sarah Dessen novel is, and like all people they have flaws. It is these flaws that allow the reader to identify or sympathize with the character and cheer for them to have a happy ending. In life the flaws about a person are often what you end up liking most. (Blogger note: YES! This is exactly what I was thinking but just couldn't express.)
Sarah Dessen explores a very interesting topic in this novel. She focuses on the very real existence of girls bullying girls. Colie is mercilessly teased for no reason. No one in any of the schools she has attended takes the time to get to know her, they just judge her based on her looks. That is every teenage girl’s greatest fear. The problem is that there will always be bullies, people who believe they are better than others and use put downs and insults as a way to show it. When you grow up you learn that all that matters is what you believe about yourself. It is important not to let the negative voices be the ones telling you who you are. It takes a summer and a lot of personal discovery but Colie is eventually able to stand up to her tormentors. Every girl bully is a pro at dishing out the insults but once confronted they have no higher ground to stand on and judge. Also, the old tale about strength in numbers is valuable by today’s standards. If a bully sees that you have people who could care less about what they say about you, it takes away a lot of their power as well.
As I was reading the parts that described what Colie’s school life was like I couldn’t help wishing that she had come to my public school. New kids were so rare in our little community that everyone wanted to be friends with them, or at least get to know them, in our grade anyway. It is cruel for kids be so mean to someone, just like them, who already feels awkward and left out. I was so happy when Morgan and Isabel took her under their tutelage and showed her what is was like to have real friends. Confidence comes from having a network of support that you can count on. A group of people who believe in you and accept you the way you are is essential during all points of time. Friends are the best support group for any girl from nine to ninety.
I find Mira’s philosophy to be the perfect antidote to self-shame or misjudgements. She tells Colie that “perfect is a lot to expect from something… we all have our faults.” And “ If something doesn’t work exactly right, or maybe needs some special treatment, you don’t just throw it away…Sometimes we need to have the patience to give something the little nudge it needs.”( Page 118/119) Mira is a wise woman. Everything, everyone has a use, has a purpose and we all deserve to be seen as worthy. Tweaking is necessary to life and to appliances. But everyone has the right to be useful and feel wanted.
Keeping the Moon is a fabulous guide to gaining confidence for young girls. You can be bullied and feel like a loser because of it, but you are only what you believe. Somewhere out there is the perfect set of friends for you, the people you belong with and they know the real person you truly are. Finding them helps you to find yourself and create a bastion against the harshness of life by having people to share in life’s goodness.

Next month
We're getting near the end! November's Dessen novel is What Happened to Goodbye. I didn't love this one as much as I had expected and I'm hoping I like it more this time around.

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