Friday, August 23, 2013

Young Adult Fiction: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

I am glad to have found (although I am still amazed that I did) Sarah Dessen's The Moon and More on a recent trip to Half Price Books. I figured that with it being brand new, and it being a Sarah Dessen book, that I would have to wait much longer for it to show up on any discounted shelves, or that I would have to break down and buy it new. Fortunately I lucked out and didn't need to wait any longer before cracking it open.

The Situation: This is Emaline's last summer at home before heading off to college in the fall. She knows what to expect, mostly. There will be many hours working at the family realty business checking guests into their beach house rentals, delivering extra towels, responding to random problems that may pop us such as a feral cat infestation and broken door knobs, and trying to avoid her oldest stepsister Margo as she attempts to assert herself as the new head of the family business. There is also maneuvering around her own house as her stepdad is perpetually upgrading it, which means her other stepsister, Amber, and her mother are always invading her room in order to escape the noise and fumes. Then there is Luke, Emaline's boyfriend of three years, and his sister's upcoming wedding. And if she gets any spare time, she does her best to catch up with her best friend Daisy, as they are each heading off to separate schools in the fall. There is a lot going on, but it is nothing Emaline's isn't used to. Growing up in the small beach town of Colby means not much changes and things move at a steady but relaxed pace. 

The Problem: Some of the people that decide to visit Colby this summer aren't used to the relaxed pace of beach town life, and their love of bigger things and rushed schedules interrupts Emaline's life, and may make her last summer before college rush by all too quickly. If it wasn't enough that the guests from New York City staying at the nicest rental beach house on the property are a little too demanding and also attempting to reach out to the local reclusive artist who wants nothing to do with them, Emaline's real father has decided to try and contact her after a strained absence, and will eventually be visiting Colby as well. Suddenly Emaline's summer goes from routine to almost overwhelming, and she finds herself in situations she never imagined possible. And while some believe she can do better than Colby, others believe she should stick close to home. And then there is Emaline, who isn't quite sure what she believes yet.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult novel dealing with that all-important transitional time of the summer between high school and college. For the most part, Emaline knows where she is headed in the fall, but she must reconcile her past with the possibilities of the future. Much like in What Happened to Goodbye (and I suspect many other Dessen novels), Dessen uses the fictional towns of Colby and North Reddamene as prominent backdrops for the story. Colby seems to be a typical small beach town with the locals working at the businesses and venues that the tourist come and enjoy for the summer. Themes include the blended family, small town life, beach town life, high school to college transition, and big city attitude, amongst many other things that teenagers face at Emaline's age. Also, anyone who has ever worked in a family business will probably be able to relate to Emaline's frustration and aversion to changing the way things have always been done.

My Verdict: Well, this is my second Sarah Dessen book and I must say that I am now officially a fan. However, I really didn't start to like The Moon and More until I was about 75% into it. For some reason, the entire beginning of the book just didn't work for me. Part of it was that the introduction of the characters seemed choppy and not well thought out. The other issues I seemed to have was how chaotic Emaline's family was, but that was more my issue than the book's. The three daughters just seemed to be able to get away with way too much, so I had a hard time with many scenes where members of Emaline's family had to interact with each other, especially at the family business. But then things seemed to take a turn and the book moved in a direction that seemed to give Emaline some more control over her own life, instead of her just kind if sitting back and having to accept things as they happened. Dessen paints a picture of that time between high school and college and not only how important it is, but how confusing it can be, even if you do have concrete college plans in place. All of the characters have choices to make and Dessen accurately portrays how making them is no small thing.

Favorite Moment: When Emaline's mom begins to actually act like a parent and call her daughter out on her behavior. For most of the book it feels like the daughters have all of the control while the real authorities sit back and mediate.

Favorite Character: I want to say Mrs. Ye, but she really isn't in the story enough. So I pick her daughter, Daisy. Mrs. Ye is a first generation immigrant with her own business that her daughter works at. Daisy is Emaline's best friend and is honest to a fault, which means she is not afraid to tell her friend the harsh truth. The reason I would prefer to pick Mrs. Ye can be explained in this quote: "My mom, battling with my sisters and me throughout middle and high school, once asked Mrs. Ye how she managed to keep her kids so in line. She just looked at her. 'They are children,' she said. 'You are adult.' It was just that simple."

Recommended Reading: I've only ever read one other Sarah Dessen novel, and that is What Happened to Goodbye. I actually like it better than The Moon and More, so I definitely recommend checking it out. 

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