Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review: Once and for All

It is a happy, happy summer when Sarah Dessen has a new book out in the world. I've been reading her novels for about half my life now (!!!) and I will continue to read them as long as she continues to write. I love her storytelling, how her stories focus on a life-changing moment for a teenage girl, and how so many of her novels are set during the summer. Once and for All, Dessen's thirteenth novel, is out today and it is absolutely lovely.

Here's the synopsis:
As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen's thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.
Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that's why she's cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm's length. But Ambrose isn't about to be discouraged, now that he's met the one girl he really wants.
Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.
I'm always thrilled when Dessen's novels return to Colby, a little beach town that makes frequent appearances in her books. It might just be because I grew up in a town surrounded by beaches but I just adore the feel of Colby. The town is where Louna meets Ethan, her first love that ends so tragically. Even though we don't really see much of the town - they only spend one night together - I think it was a perfect place for them to fall in love. Plus, there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to Along for the Ride that I absolutely adored.

Speaking of Ethan...the reason their relationship ended is completely heartbreaking. I don't want to give it away because Dessen reveals the details of the relationship in stages and I thought that was really well done.

Maybe it's just because I'm getting older but I liked that Louna had just finished high school and was going to be going away to college in the fall. That summer is such an interesting one...with all sorts of changes coming and opportunities for the future.

Like any author of numerous books, Dessen has had her ups and downs. I've enjoyed some books more than others but I've loved every single one. I thought Saint Anything (which came out in 2015) was a return to some of her best work (think The Truth About Forever and This Lullaby). I was hoping this new one would be as spectacular as the others - and it is - but it's not going to take over the top spot in my ranking of Dessen novels. Don't get me wrong though...this is still a really, really good book.

And just as an aside...I did receive an ARC of this one but I always buy a copy of Sarah Dessen's books. I can't not. I have all of them, plus a UK edition of Keeping the Moon that I found in an indie bookstore in Australia. The one benefit of having an ARC was being able to read a new Sarah Dessen novel, before it even came out. Now that is a great way to spend a birthday. 

Finally - can I make a plea to Penguin Random House Canada to try and get Sarah to Canada for a tour stop? It's been almost six years since she's done a public event here and I'd love to see her again!

Reading a Sarah Dessen novel is one of my all time favourite things. I know I'm going to get a wonderful story with a teenage girl heroine who is really struggling with something, whether it's her parents' divorce, a past love gone wrong, or something more serious, like sexual assault. These girls are real and they're flawed and such a delight to read about. Dessen's books are often categorized as romances but they are so, so much more. Once and for All is another really well done novel and I'm already sad that I've finished it. OK, if we're being honest, I'm sad the second I read the last word. Dessen's books are never going to be long enough for me. If you want a really great read (and who doesn't?) Once and for All should definitely be on your summer reading list.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

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