Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: The Moon & More by Sarah Dessen

Title: The Moon and More

Author: Sarah Dessen

Rating: 3.5 Stars

The Moon and More has a lot to love, but it's very different from a typical Dessen novel. I think, by now, we've all come to expect a certain type of book when we hear the name Sarah Dessen. Obviously contemporary with a heavy dose of character development, beautiful settings, and swoon. Not to mention rich secondary characters and always, always, always growth, if not self-discovery. And it's a formula that works, every time. While I am thrilled that Dessen chose to veer off from her usual this time around, I can't say I wholly enjoyed it. Nevertheless, this is perfect for those who are looking for highly realistic young-adult-on-the-cusp-of-new-adult reads.

Emaline is an easy character to love; motivated, kind, and with a readable narration. While she lives by the beach, helping a family business, making out with her boyfriend Luke, and generally enjoyed life in a small town, she yearns for more. Emaline was conceived when her mother was only a young teen and, consequently, her family is a little different from most. While she has her mother, she also has her dad - who married her mother when Emaline was only three - and two step-sisters. And then, of course, is her father whose contact with her is still recent but already unreliable for he was unable to pay for Emaline's tuition into Columbia and refused to attend her graduation. Needless to say, the relationship between them is strained at best. In the midst of all this, though, Emaline's relationship with Luke isn't heading in the direction she planned and now her father is driving down for the summer as well. All in all, this isn't shaping up to be the summer Emaline imagined...not at all.

As always, Dessen excels in building family relationships. Emaline's relationship with her mother is deep and touching, the kind of bond that takes years to build but is so effectively conveyed by Dessen's writing. Furthermore, Emaline's blooming friendship with her half-brother, Benji, is simply adorable, especially as she helps him to cope with his parents - her father's - divorce. In particular, though, Emaline's relationship with her father is most intriguing. It ends on a very realistic note, bittersweet because of the sad admission that people don't always change and yet the hopeful thought that something strong still does exist between them. And their journey there, their awkward encounters through the summer and the curveball they constantly seem to throw at Emaline, are all so richly explored. Classic Dessen: she never disappoints.

And yet, her most compelling point, the romance, seriously fell flat. For one, it should be known that Emaline and Luke are together only for a short time before they break up and Emaline winds up dating Theo, a NYC student in Colby to film a documentary on Clyde Conaway, a local resident and past artist of great merit. On one hand, I really did like Theo - he was different, cute in a nerdy way and very insecure about himself, unable to really believe that the gorgeous Emaline would date him. At the same time, though, he's quite irritating, a pushover when it comes to listening to his boss and ambitious in a round-about manner. Personally, I was impressed that Dessen created an unlikable love interest. I mean, let's face it: most romances in life don't work out and even if they do, not all of them make you swoon. And yet, I will admit that this set-up didn't make for an interesting read. For one, the plot was slow - as is always with case with Dessen's novels but where the romance picks up when the plot lags, here the romance only slowed it down further - and secondly, Theo was just not a character I could get behind. As readers, we don't really know much about Theo beyond what we see on the surface and he remains that way, oscillating between extremes (insecurity and ambition) and generally failing to charm the crowd.

In addition, there was a lack of depth regarding the secondary characters. Dessen can write beautiful sibling relationships, as she proved with this installment, but I felt as if the bonds between step-sisters was forsaken in this novel in favor of the half-brother relationship Emaline sustained with Benji. Sadly, I know Dessen can write multiple sibling relationships well, as in Just Listen, but that aspect was ignored with her latest. Another issue was the fact that Emaline's father got a lot of limelight and thought in this, but not so much her dad. Cashore's Fire explores a similar father/dad situation, but both these figures are fully realized and their relationship with Fire is as well. The Moon and More lacks that clarity.

Nevertheless, despite the flaws this book had, its messages and themes were incredible. Emaline not only comes into her own, realizing what she wants from life, but she also comes to realize that change and disappointment go hand-in-hand with every walk of life. In this summer leading up to her first year as a college student, she grows immensely and in important ways, which was a nice change from the naive heroines whose growth seems so obvious. All in all, despite my qualms with this one, The Moon and More is a solid read and a Dessen novel I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. Only, really, The Truth About Forever and Just Listen are her best and probably will always remain that way.


  1. I'm one of those people who have read a handful of Dessen books and have enjoyed them, but don't obsess over each and every one of them. While I understand the "Dessen Style" of being able to build strong family relationships, having a bit of self-discovery, etc., I actually don't like how every book of hers is so formulaic. So in this case, in The Moon and More, the fact that you mentioned that she veers off of a different path makes me kind of excited to try this one out. Even though the romance dragged along with the slow-paced plot, I'm curious about Emaline and the themes she goes about teaching this time. I'll be picking this one up soon, thanks for the gorgeous review, Keertana!

  2. Dessen is queen of family relationships and cute love interests. That's a definite. Shame it was a bit slow and all, but I'm intrigued!

    Wondeful review, darling! <33

  3. I'm sorry that you had a couple of issues with this book Keertana, I have really seen a lot of mixed reviews for this, so I don't think you're the only one that this book didn't leave a great impression with. I still have to read my first book by Dessen, but I think I will have to check out your other recommendations first before I read this one. Gorgeous review Keertana!

  4. I've actually heard that this wasn't Dessen's strongest title. I feel that with a contemporary novel like this, it's super important to have the secondary characters better fleshed-out, and I think that would bug me. Great honest review though, Keertana! :)

  5. Ooooo, I've heard such great reviews of Sarah Dessen books, but I haven't read a single one. I'm in a major contemporary frenzy at the mo that I think this will be the perfect book for me now. Thank you for a lovely review and putting it on my radar! :)

  6. I haven't read her books yet! Seriously! I have many on my wishlist and I do think you've added this one to it. I like that despite the flaws you loved the message. I do like what it has to say. Brilly review!

  7. I like S. Dessen books but other than This Lullaby (which is my fave), I feel like when you've read one, you've sort of read them all, you know? That sounds pretty bad, but I have never not enjoyed any time I have spent reading her books, especially enjoying her characters and romantic storylines. So I like that you said her latest sort of breaks that classic S. Dessen plot. But I'm disappointed that the swoon isn't there because that is one of my favorite aspects of her books. I'll probably wait until my library stocks this one (and they will, my librarians LOVE her)before reading. Thanks for vetting it for me, K:)

  8. I haven't read many of Dessen's books. I've only read Dreamland and Lock and Key. I enjoyed them a lot, but I'm always apprehensive about starting one of her books. While they are good, unless I'm truly captivated by them then I lose interest. I want to read this one though. Aside from the beautiful cover the reviews are most positive than negative. Lovely review, Keertana! As always.:)

  9. I'm excited to read this one, even though I've seen some so-so reviews similar to yours. Personally, I think Dessen is suffering from writing too many books along the same lines, I would really like to see her try a historical or maybe even an adult book. Something to change it up a bit!

    -Taylor @ Reading is the Thing

  10. That's funny that you think one of Dessen's best books is Just Listen, which I read about a year ago and thought was just decent. That kind of makes me wonder whether that was an instance of a particular book not connecting with me or if I'm just not going to be a fan of any of Dessen's works. Only one way to find out! Lovely review, although I'm sorry this didn't reach the caliber you have come to expect of Dessen.

  11. You're totally right. When someone says Sara Dessen I always have in mind contemporary novel which will end with HEA and great characters. This one sounds different and even though I'm not huge fan of Dessen's books I think she should stick to usual. Great review!

  12. I have yet to read a Sarah Dessen book Keertana! But I was able to snag a copy of this one at BEA, so I'm excited to try it. A bit nervous now though because the romance fell so flat for you and that's always the part I look forward to most in a story. I do love that family is such a focus though, and that she has such a great relationship with her mother and half brother. Wonderful review as always!

  13. I've finished my first Sarah Dessen book just days ago, but I've been told that when you read one, you've pretty much read them all. However, the secondary characters in that one (The Truth About forever) were pretty well developed, so I don't think that's necessarily true.
    I'm glad this wasn't a waste of your time. It sounds very readable and nice.

    Oh, btw, I just finished Bronze Gods 2, Silver Mirrors, and it's awesome! It has pirates!

  14. I started this story but I couldn't get into it. I skimmed a little through it and I was disappointed about the direction of the romance. While Dessen is strong with characterization my favorite parts to her stories are the the romance and this was clearly not going to do it for me. I totally agree with your review, Keertana, Dessen veered a little from her norm. Btw, I think Just Listen is my favorite Dessen, even more than The Truth About Forever. Wonderful review, my dear! :)

  15. I LOVE Sarah Dessen, and have been disappointed the past few years with her books. My favorites are also Just Listen and The Truth About Forever. I'm halfway through Moon and More and this is how i feel. It's lacking, slow, unfocused. The writing style is different. I think Sarah's forgetting what falling in love is.

    I do not like at all how jumped in the relationship with Theo is. I knew it was coming, but i need that uphill climb. Emaline jumped. The whole book is frustrating and I'm only halfway through.

    Not excited to finish, but will. In the mean time, I am picking up Just Listen to compare.

    I think I will post thoughts on my [lacking] review site, the MH Literary Society!

  16. I don't know why Dessen fails to get me excited. The few books I've read by her all seem similar, and don't have enough in them that I LOVE. But I like that this has those growing up, moving out of high school themes, and that the message was a good one.


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