Tag Archives: Sarah Dessen

DNF: The Moon and More – Sarah Dessen
Book Reviews
August 27, 2013 posted by Nichole

DNF: The Moon and More – Sarah Dessen

16101126Luke 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.


This month I ended up participating in the Secret Readers, which is an event where a “secret” blogger picks out a book from your TBR shelf and you need to have it read by the end of the month. The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen was chosen for me. This was my first Sarah Dessen book. It’s no secret that I usually avoid contemporary books at all costs, so I did moan and groan a little bit about having this one chosen for me (I really need to create my own TBR shelf and not use our standard Goodreads one.) When The Moon and More first started out, I was hooked. It was light, fluffy, and just really relaxing. However, the book lost its appeal around page 50, and it became boring as hell. I ended up skimming a large portion of this book for several different reasons.

My first complaint is with the characters. Not only was there not one character that I enjoyed, but I hated two of the main characters, Emaline and Theo. Emaline was bland and uptight. Instead of really seeing her and knowing who she was as a character, she was really just words on a page for me. I found Theo to be repulsive and rude. He never knew when to shut up, he was impulsive, he harassed every single person he talked to..I just…I didn’t like him. All of the other characters just sort of blended together and there was just really no one to like.

I have to ask…..WHERE was the story? There was no story. The whole book went like this: Wake up, go to work, fight with one of the boys, fight or argue with family, complain about life, complain, complain, whine, whine, whine, go to work. I’m not just talking about Emaline. I’m including everyone. It was just a hodge podge of a mess and there was really nothing to get excited about. There was no climax to the story, no emotional moments. I pretty much read this book with a bored expression on my face.

Those looking for romance are going to be sorely disappointed. Emaline has relationships with both Theo and Luke, but they both end badly. The Moon and More is really more about family, friendship, and finding oneself. I think that a little bit of romance would have added a bit more spark to this book. And I’m not going to count Emaline and Theo’s…whatever they had, because I hated both of them. I didn’t care about them. And it pretty much ended for them exactly how I thought it would.

Overall, I thought this book was very boring. There was no excitement, the characters sucked, and I just didn’t understand the whole point of it. Yeah, it’s a summer read, but I want at least a little bit of excitement in my books. And I don’t like open ended books that end more realistically. That’s the thing. This book is realistic and people who like that will enjoy it. People who want romance and a finished ending will not enjoy this book. That was me. I wanted more, and I just didn’t like it very much.

Pages: 435

Publication Date: June 4th 2013

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Rating: N/A due to DNF. Would give it about a 1 1/2 based on what I read.


Teaser Quote: “Life is long. Just because you don’t get your change right when you want or expect it doesn’t mean it won’t come. Fate doesn’t punch a time clock or consult a schedule.” 

Waiting on Wednesday (22)
Waiting on Wednesday
December 26, 2012 posted by Nichole

Waiting on Wednesday (22)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.


The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Published by Viking Juvenile

To be released on June 4th, 2013

What Happened to Goodbye – Sarah Dessen
Book Reviews
May 16, 2011 posted by Kiona

What Happened to Goodbye – Sarah Dessen

Another town? Another new school? Mclean really doesn’t mind. In fact, she welcomes the chance to try on a new persona. Ever since her parents’ bitter divorce, she and her father have been on the move, leaving the unhappy past behind them. And each move has brought a fresh opportunity for Mclean to reinvent herself. Perky rah-rah girl. Drama mama. All-round joiner.

But here in Lakeview, for the first time she’s putting down roots, making friends, and just trying to be someone she hasn’t been in a long time: herself. Dave has something to do woith it. He’s the most real person Mclean’s ever met, and he thinks he’s falling in love with the real Mclean. Mclean doesn’t even know who that is anymore, but she wants to find out—before it’s time to move on again.

There’s nothing better than starting off your summer with a new Sarah Dessen novel. I had been eagerly anticipating Dessen’s perfect blend of  relatable girl plus troubled boy equals hesitant summer romance. I was surprised to find What Happened to Goodbye veered from Dessen’s norm, but in a good way.

When a heart-wrenching divorce tore her family apart, Mclean sided with her dad and decided to follow him wherever his consulting job took him. This meant a total of four moves in two years. At each new school, Mclean took the opportunity to reinvent herself, which included going be different nicknames: Eliza, Beth, and Lizbet. In the second semester of her senior year of high school, Mclean and her dad find themselves in Lakeview. Mclean is all ready to become “Liz Sweet” until she accidentally finds herself becoming, well, Mclean. And nothing is more terrifying to Mclean than being herself—whoever that is—and letting people get to know the real her, especially when there’s always the risk that she’ll have to uproot again at a moment’s notice. Letting people in and getting attached seems like a surefire way of getting hurt.

The thing about Mclean is she’s been so caught up in being someone else that she really doesn’t know who she is anymore. While I understand where she’s coming from, by the end of the book I still felt like I didn’t really know Mclean either. It’s clear she’s finally forming her true identity and re-learning a lot about herself, but I can’t help feeling like I didn’t get a really strong sense of her personality. This seemed odd to me in light of the fact that she’d cultivated such strong personalities in the past. She had joined the cheerleading team, student council, drama club. At one school, she was that girl everyone either knew or knew about. But from the way she acted in Lakeview, it was hard to believe she’d once made friends that easily or been that outgoing. Sure, she had no trouble approaching people or talking to strangers and she instantly connected with a small group of friends, but it seemed to me like they adopted Mclean out of pity because she was the new girl; she didn’t really have to try at all. And it’s not like people didn’t like Mclean. It’s just more like there was no reason not to like her. She’s perfectly nice, but that’s about it because that’s how she’s survived all the moves – only let people see the surface.

That’s not to say Mclean isn’t likeable. She is and she’s certainly relatable, especially to anyone who’s experienced divorce. Dessen perfectly captures the agony of divorce and its affects on teenagers and families. Though the situation differs for everyone, certain aspects are universal and Mclean’s attitude throughout is completely understandable. I like that Mclean isn’t your typical moody, angsty teenager. She’s rational, opinionated, and thinks before she speaks, which means that all her words hold a certain weight, especially when it comes to talking with her mom. Listening to Mclean articulate her feelings so well was enlightening. And no one was more interested in hearing what she had to say than Dave.

Dave is adorable. He is the cutest, geekiest boy-genius ever, and he just so happens to be Mclean’s neighbor. Interestingly enough, Dave doesn’t play as huge of a role in the book as expected. What Happened to Goodbye focuses less on Mclean’s romantic relationship and more on her personal transformation and self-discovery. But her relationship with Dave and his friends does play a part in this transformation. At first, I didn’t really understand Dave’s attraction to Mclean. Beside the fact that she was the new, interesting girl, they didn’t really know each other well enough for either to develop a crush. Mclean says as much when Dave’s friend, Riley, says Dave likes Mclean. But as they begin to spend more time together, it becomes evident that the two just get each other. They just have compatible personalities and are capable of making the other happy. For a relationship that plays more of a minor role, this is more than enough. Just knowing Mclean and Dave are happy when they’re together already makes their relationship ten times more successful than many of the relationships Mclean’s seen before.

As she has in the past, Dessen interweaves elements from her past books, such as referencing characters and places she’s written about before. I love these references and knowing that somehow, on a larger scale, all of the characters are connected. What Happened to Goodbye is a really interesting commentary on the idea of identity and how important our identities are. And, as always, Dessen writes skillfully and knowledgably about subjects that open our eyes to new worlds; in this case, she covers restaurant life and basketball. It was exciting to learn so much about those who immerse themselves in the restaurant business and I’d always been curious about families who appeared to live and breathe for basketball games. Now, I can kind of understand the appeal. Sarah Dessen fans definitely won’t be disappointed by her newest summer read.

Pages: 402
Publication Date: May 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Challenge: N/A
Rating : ★★★★☆

Teaser Quote: “The name I’d chosen, the girl I’d decided to be here, was poised on the tip of my tongue. But in that place, at that moment, something happened. Like that quick trip below the surface had changed not only the trajectory of my life here, but maybe me, as well.”

The Summer I Turned Pretty – Jenny Han
Book Reviews
April 15, 2010 posted by Katie

The Summer I Turned Pretty – Jenny Han

Everything that happened this past summer, and every summer before it, has all led up to this. To now.

Every year Isabel spends a perfect summer at her family friends’ house. There’s the swimming pool at night, the private stretch of sandy beach…and the two boys. Unavailable, aloof Conrad – who she’s been in love with forever – and friendly, relaxed Jeremiah, the only one who’s every really paid her any attention.

But this year something is different. They seem to have noticed her for the first time. It’s going to be an amazing summer – and one she’ll never forget…

Isabel has been called Belly for as long as she can remember. As long as she has been coming to the beach house for summer. For her mum and Susannah are best friends, and Susannah owns the beach house. The perfect big house, the pool out the back, the beach, the sun, the surf. During the school year, Belly distracts herself thinking about summer and the beach house. It’s the place that she knows exactly what is going to happen, even if it’s not exactly what she wants to happen.

For also at the beach house is Steve, her annoying older brother, Conrad and Jeremiah, Susannah’s two sons. As much as Belly wishes they would include her, she knows it will never happen, not truly included. The only girl in a group of guys? Yea as if they would include her in their adventures. It’s something Belly has gotten used to. Just like she is used to Susannah cooking the same meal on the first night, her midnight swims and being left alone a nights.

Yet this summer, something seems different. For one, the reaction of Conrad and Jeremiah when she gets out of the car is completely not what she expected. Susannah doesn’t come to meet them, running out the door like always. The mood is different, almost as if everyone else knows something that they aren’t telling her.

Then comes the moment that she has been longing for. An invite to the bonfire that she was always considered too young to go to. It is there that she meets Cam. Cam Cameron. Someone different to everyone else. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs and can speak Latin and French, even if technically Latin is a dead language. Finally Belly meets someone that she just might be able to forget Conrad with. Someone who tells her that she is beautiful, someone who actually wants her around.

Yet as the summer draws closer to a close, will this really be enough to Belly to move on? Will she be willing to hurt those she loves, to gain what she needs most?

The Summer I Turned Pretty is the second novel from young adult writer Jenny Han, and the first of her novels that I have read. This story captured me, in a way that reminded me of my first love and my teenage years. Growing up and just waiting for the one guy to notice you. It’s a story that I think a lot of people can relate to, both young and old, either going through it currently or remembering what it was like. The Summer I Turned Pretty captures that journey and adventure to find who you are and to be seen as something different to what everyone thinks you are. Reminding me, in style, of Sarah Dessen’s novel Along For The Ride, the characters in Han’s novel are instantly ones you can recognise and connect with. The characters and their actions is what invests you in this novel. You want the best for them; you want everything to end up okay for them.

Belly is a gem. I find reflections of myself in her actions, and things that I wish I had done when I was her age. She has the strength to keep going, to try for something better because she believes the best in everyone. Her relationships with Conrad and Jeremiah and how she deals with her feelings is something that I think we all go through. The confusion of not knowing exactly what someone else thinks of you. Cam was also another breath of fresh air. I wish we had got to see even more of Cam then what was included. Susannah was the mother you wished you had, and Belly’s own mother is that of a typical mother – doing more that her daughter realised at the time.

An element that I really loved was the chance to go back in Belly’s past and see memories from previous summers, and how they created the person that Belly is now.

A beautifully light reading and feel-good novel.

Publication date: 2010

Pages: 288

Rating:: ★★★½☆

Teaser quote: When it started to get cold, I rubbed my arms, and Cam took off his hoodie and gave it to me. Which, was sort of my dream come true – getting cold and having a guy actually give you his hoodie instead of gloating over how mart he’d been to bring one.

Guest Review by Lili St Crow
Guest Reviews
December 29, 2009 posted by Nikki

Guest Review by Lili St Crow

In case you’ve forgotten, we’ve been featuring Lili St Crow’s Betrayals as our Book of the Month in December. To close off the promo, Lili sat down and penned a review of Sarah Dessen’s Dreamland for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

The first Sarah Dessen book I ever read was Dreamland, and it is to Dessen I owe my reintroduction to the young adult genre. When I was of the age to be marketed to as a “young adult”, I found most of the offerings insipid to say the least, and downright patronizing at worst. I’m glad to say that the genre seems to have undergone something of a revolution in the last five to seven years, and Dessen holds a special place in my heart as the person who introduced me to a new breed of YA books.

Dreamland is about Caitlin O’Koren, a younger sister whose older sister Cass leaves home without a word on Caitlin’s birthday. The reason for her sister’s flight is beautifully shown but never spelled out: their mother’s almost frantic insistence on living her life through one of her children. Both O’Koren parents are flawed but not overly so, doing the best they can.

Caitlin, after living her entire life in Cass’s shadow, suddenly finds herself the focus of her mother’s ambitions. She’s now a stand-in instead of a postscript, and when she meets the appropriately dangerous-seeming Rogerson Briscoe, she makes the first of many abortive attempts at freedom. Unfortunately, Rogerson is a problem in and of himself. He has serious anger-management issues, a bad home life, and is exactly the wrong boyfriend for a vulnerable, uncertain girl.

Unfortunately, many real-life stories start out this way and end tragically.

When I was young enough to be a target audience for YA, the subject of teen dating violence—like so many other subjects—was taboo. I think what grabbed my attention most in Dreamland was Dessen’s unflinching but gentle look at the realities of such a situation. Rogerson is not a villain, he’s a messed-up kid. Caitlin is spoiled, yes, but she’s also loyal to her friends and trying to shoulder her family’s burden as well as she can. Caitlin’s mother is so devastated by her older daughter’s disappearance that her younger daughter becomes a figurehead to her, and Mr. O’Koren is uncomfortable with anything even relating to “girl talk” and prefers concrete action over emotional messes. All these things conspire to make an abyss Caitlin falls into, one she can’t extract herself from without help. She’s not completely a victim, and Rogerson is not completely evil.

I remember finishing Dreamland for the first time and feeling as if Dessen had reached into some of my most secret memories. The shame Caitlin feels, her need to “protect” Rogerson and cover things up, the pressure of her family’s loss, all these things felt familiar. It felt like someone was speaking the truth, and I do not remember the young adult books of my young adulthood ever giving me that frisson. Instead, I graduated early to the “adult” section of the library and didn’t look back—until Dessen.
Dreamland is not perfect. For one thing, the pacing is uneven and Caitlin’s therapy is not given nearly enough room. For another, all Dessen’s heroines start out (even if they haven’t always been) as upper-middle-class. Money is rarely an issue for the kids in her books, and it seems a shame that a writer of Dessen’s talents hasn’t explored that angle. Rogerson Biscoe screams “trouble” so loud, and Caitlin is such a sleepwalker, that occasionally the adult me wanted to shake both of them—as well as Caitlin’s mother. Still, the very strength of my emotional response tells me that these are well-crafted characters. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have fallen so hard into the world of the book, nor would I reread it with my heart in my mouth each time.

I’ve read most, if not all, of Dessen’s other young adult books, and been entertained each time. Dreamland, however, remains something special. Every time I read it, it’s like the author—and Caitlin herself—are speaking directly to me. Which is a feeling to treasure, whether one is seventeen or seventy. Dessen opened up the new world of the young adult genre for me, and I’m glad to note that books for younger readers are not the clichéd swill that was the only thing on offer when I was significantly younger than I am now. Each time I see a new Dessen book, I feel a thrill and reach for my bank card.

And that, as a reader, is the highest compliment I can give.

Site Updates
August 31, 2009 posted by Nikki

September Bookclub Read

Hi yaReaders,

I’m happy to announce that our Bookclub Read for September, as voted by you, is Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. For those who are unfamiliar with this book, here’s a quick synopsis:

It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.

If you’d like to read our review of Along for the Ride, click here.

If you’d like to join our discussion of Along for the Ride, click here.

Book Reviews
July 12, 2009 posted by Nikki

Along for the Ride – Sarah Dessen

Along for the Ride is Sarah Dessen’s new novel. It follows Auden – a high school graduate living out her summer while she waits for college to start – who teaches us that messed up families come in all shapes and sizes, and that success doesn’t always make you the world greatest, most admirable person.

In a split decision, Auden decides to pack up her car and go and spend the summer at the beach with her dad. Her parents have been separated for a good long while now, and her stepmother just gave birth, so Auden figures this might be a good way to pass the summer days. What she doesn’t expect, though, is how much her summer life changes who she is inside.

For her whole life, Auden has been surrounded by academia. Her dad is a fiction writer and her mother is a literary academic, so it’s no surprise that Auden is highly academic, too. In fact, Auden is nothing but academic. She’s got no friends and no interests outside of her academic realm. Her parents raised her like she was an adult, so Auden has never really had much of a childhood, and cutesy kiddy things never seemed to hold their attention. So, Auden used the one thing she knew would work: academia. She’s spent her whole life studying like a maniac, but for what? Now that high school is over, was it really all worth it?

After spending less than a week at her dad’s place, Auden realises that marriage and a new life with someone else hasn’t changed him at all. He’s still the same selfish old man that he was before. And what about her mother? She’s an entirely different piece of work. It seems that her mother doesn’t have a sympathetic, nice bone in her body. How can Auden feel close to someone like that? How can anyone?

Enter Eli. He’s spent his whole life doing the kiddy stuff that Auden avoided, and he reckons Auden can’t leave her adolescence behind without actually experiencing some of it first. So he sets Auden on a mission: to do all the things one does when they’re young and goofy before the summer is out. The more time she spends with him, the more Auden realises that her view of the world might be a bit skewed, and very closed-minded. Eli seems to be the perfect remedy for that and Auden latches on nice and tight. What Auden doesn’t realise, though, is that Eli has some problems of his own. Problems which, according to everyone else in town, have been a permanent fixture in his life for some time now. Then Auden shows up and Eli starts to heal. Why, then, do the people around her seem so worried about all the time Eli and Auden are spending together? If Eli is getting better, shouldn’t that be a good thing?

People are very complex, but sometimes the solution is really very simple. Sometimes, all you need is a little bit of love.

Auden is a captivating character and being inside her head was a joy. I felt sad for her and at times I even felt angry with her, but most of all I found it all too easy to relate to her. High school is a time for fun, friendship and feeling free, but I think there are more Auden’s in the world than we care to admit, and something tells me that girls all over the world are going to see a little piece of themselves in her.

This, like so many of Sarah Dessen’s novels, is one of those reads where not a lot really happens, but heaps is achieved, if you know what I mean. Dessen’s writing is truly flawless, and in my opinion, she is one of the most understated young adult writers around. She deserves more credit and exposure than she gets. Her books deal with everyday teen issues that often get swept aside and chalked up to adolescent hormones. Dessen validates these issues and brings them to life, sending a message to teens everywhere that they matter, that what they feel matters. She is an asset to the world of young adult literature and someone I’ll never tire of reading. I can see myself very easily becoming obsessed with this book. Along for the Ride is one of the best I’ve read this year and deserves two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

Rating:: ★★★★★