Today, our YA contemporary Thursday pick is Sarah Dessen's The Moon and More.
Our Contemporary Thursday series is where we review YA contemporary books which have come out recently. While the majority of our books will be upcoming releases, we may occasionally also review books that we're only recently discovering!
Hardcover, 435 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Viking Juvenile
Format read: Hardcover (owned)
However, despite all of these rave recommendations, I have to confess: I didn’t pick up any of her books until the release of The Moon and More, since I could never get around the fact that I thought her covers looked… young.
But after seeing all of the hoopla for The Moon and More, I figured that it was high time I stopped judging a book by its cover, and bought the book.
This is my first Dessen book, but it definitely won’t be my last. I was charmed by the world of Colby, Emaline and thought this was a perfect summer beach read.
Things that worked:
* The writing
Considering this was my first experience with Dessen’s writing, I was interested to see quickly her writing style would absorb me/attract my interest.
She basically hooked me in from the second page – I was immediately interested in trying to figure out why Emaline was hanging out in a sandbox, talking to customers for the summer.
After that, her writing style was smooth, well paced enough to grab my attention for the rest of the book, and not let go. I especially liked the fact that she tended to have long descriptions and sentences – she built up the world of Colby in a way which felt rich and well-rounded.
From the first chapter, I was really charmed by Emaline. She was sweet, smart, logical and thoughtful.
I loved the fact that she plainly acknowledges from the get-go that her background isn’t perfect, and discusses her mother’s teenage pregnancy with a thoughtful, analytical approach which basically shows that she’s not a drama queen.
And even when she’s struggling emotionally – e.g. after her dust-up with Luke; being repeatedly disappointed by her father – she isn’t a stereotypical YA emo teen about it. She’s angry, she’s emotional, but she’s also still willing to reach out to her friends and family, because she’s emotionally mature enough to realize that they will help her work through it.
(Even if she doesn’t necessarily get along with them sometimes, or is occasionally annoyed by their habits – e.g. invading her room).
Despite my love of Emaline, I did have trouble connecting with the secondary characters. I felt that they either weren’t sketched out well enough, or they were stereotypical representations of those types of characters.
E.g. I felt like I never really learned anything about Daisy or Morris. Yes, I had all of the facts of their background and their relationship with Emaline, but outside of some amusing facts – e.g. Daisy’s penchant for clothes – they didn’t seem real to me.
Similarly, I thought Theo somewhat came off as a stereotypical representation of a NYC hipster. Everything from the descriptions of his clothes, to his Overly Excited Dialogue, made it more difficult for me to connect with him. Instead, I just kept thinking that his descriptors were basically Dessen checking off character/descriptor boxes.
For a book where nothing really exciting happens, Dessen’s plotting is beautiful and masterful.
The book basically takes place across the span of an entire summer, and Dessen charts out Emaline’s progression at a brisk, exciting pace. She includes enough questions at the beginning of the book – e.g. Emaline’s tuition to Columbia – that she slowly unravels throughout the course of the book.
Not once did I feel bored, nor did I want to stop reading at any point.
* The setting/the world-building
Because I haven’t read any of other Dessen’s books, I don’t know how the setting of Colby compares with her previous books. But I absolutely loved what she did with Colby.
I could easily visualize everything that she described, and the entire town came to life for me a way that not a lot of books can accomplish.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
In my personal opinion, there wasn't much of a definitive ending. The narration basically drops off at one point, only to be picked up again several months later.
While I definitely get the rational behind Dessen's plotting choice - she wants to show the reader that Emaline is doing fine at school, and her way of doing things will help her be successful, despite the naysayers - I was left feeing like there wasn't any closure to several of the plotlines that had existed for the majority of the book.
And perhaps that's Dessen's point. You don't always get closure on things that you want. Still, I have to confess: I was disappointed.
I’m probably coming off as very picky, but I honestly couldn’t get behind the romance between Emaline and Theo.
Not only did I find Theo incredibly pretentious and annoying, I felt that Emaline, with all of her innate common sense, should have picked up on that pretension immediately.
Even if she wanted to be in a relationship with someone who represented something outside of Colby, I think Emaline should have been smart enough to realize that Theo isnot that person. The fact that her best friends both didn’t like him, and that still didn’t dissuade her from dating him for most of the summer, did make me question her common sense.
I highly recommend this book for fans of YA contemporary books, and for readers looking for a good summer beach read.