The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
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?
Sarah Dessen's devoted fans will welcome this story of romance, yearning, and, finally, empowerment. It could only happen in the summer.
Before you read any further, I must warn you that Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors ever. I'm obsessed with her books, she's my writing hero, and she's the entire reason I read Young Adult books and love writing. I think everything she writes is amazing by default, so I'm incredibly biased and will automatically love anything she writes. Clearly, this is not going to be a negative review.
Now that we've established the fact that I'm not going to have anything bad to say about this book, let's move on. :)
The Moon and More is about a girl named Emaline who works at the family realty business, renting out homes to tourists in her beach hometown. Those familiar with Sarah Dessen's other novels will recognize the town of Colby as the setting of a few of her other books. In those books, the characters come to Colby as tourists. But Emaline lives in Colby full-time and the tourists are her clients. This provides an entirely different perspective of Colby that readers haven't seen in any of Sarah Dessen's other books. I thought it was fascinating to see how Emaline's view of Colby is so wildly different from the views of other characters in other Dessen books. Growing up in Colby and watching countless tourists vacationing for short periods of time, visiting but never staying, makes Emaline feel like she is watching other people have the time of their lives, while her life stays the same. All these tourists get to experience all the magical transformations that come with being on vacation, but Emaline always feels like she's living in "someone else's summer." She's just the realty employee, part of the backdrop, instead of being the main character in her own life. I think most books would show the story from the perspective of the people on vacation, so it was fascinating to experience the book from the perspective of the employees, the permanent fixtures.
My favorite thing about The Moon and More is Emaline. I think she's a great main character, and I believe she might even be my new favorite Dessen main character. She's smart and focused and easy to relate to, and while she does make plenty of mistakes, they're realistic mistakes that make sense in the story. I never found myself wanting to reach into the book and shake her like I have with some of Sarah Dessen's other main characters, so I think that's a pretty good sign. Emaline just feels real, and I liked reading about her life.
Another thing I love about The Moon and More is the family. I've had a hard time liking the families in many of Sarah Dessen's books, but I think Emaline's family is easy to like. Emaline has good relationships with her mom, dad, and sisters, as well as her grandmother. Emaline's sisters get on her nerves at times and they all bicker and fight, but they love each other. I think Emaline's relationship with her sisters is a realistic portrayal of what having sisters is like. (I would know, since I have two myself. :D)
I've noticed in many of Sarah Dessen's books that the protagonist's mom is usually a really unlikable character, but that's not the case in The Moon and More. I love Emaline's mom. The two of them don't always get along, but I like that her mom lets her have some space to make her own mistakes and learn from them. They have their differences and disagreements, but they're really close and supportive of each other.
Morris is another great character. He's Emaline's best friend, and while it took me awhile to start liking him, by the end of the book I absolutely adored him. I also love Emaline's relationship with her half-brother, Benji. The two of them didn't know each other very well at the beginning of the book, so it was interesting to read about them getting to know each other throughout the novel.
I actually don't have that many things to say about the boys, Luke and Theo, other than they aren't what I expected. I was pleasantly surprised with the way things turned about between both Emaline/Luke and Emaline/Theo. Each boy is portrayed not as a swoon-worthy love interest, but as a real teenage/young adult guy with plenty of flaws.
The Moon and More feels different from Sarah Dessen's other books. It's hard to say exactly what it is, but I think it feels more mature, in a way. Emaline is the oldest character Sarah Dessen has yet to write, and she's not dealing with high school issues anymore. Emaline is an adult, with struggles that a young woman faces. Also, while many of Sarah Dessen's books have adorable romances that you can't help but hope end in happily ever afters, The Moon and More has more realistic relationships that are messy and don't work out in the end. I think these differences show that Sarah Dessen has grown and changed as a writer, and while I don't think either one of her writing styles is better than the other, it's nice to see that she can surprise readers.
I apologize for the lengthy ramble, but I can't help but fangirl over one of my favorite authors. :) If you're a fan of Sarah Dessen's other books, then I think The Moon and More will surprise you, in a good way. If you've never read a Sarah Dessen book before, I think The Moon and More is a good place to start.