Book Review: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Title: The Moon and More
Author: Sarah Dessen
Page Count: 435
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Contemporary YA

Rating: 8/10

Goodreads Summary:

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?

This book was not what I was expecting. I thought it would be a book about her struggle to decide which guy she likes better, her familiar boyfriend or the new guy from New York. But that’s not what it was at all.

The Good:
Family relationships. Dessen is great at writing family relationships. Real families fight. They do things just to piss each other off. They disappoint each other. But at the end of the day, they’re still there for one another, and Dessen captures that perfectly. The characters all feel realistic and have their individual quirks.

The side characters all felt very real, as well. This is one of the reason I love Sarah Dessen’s books: she doesn’t just throw characters in to fill up space, at least not characters who appear in more than two scenes. Daisy seems like a really awesome friend to have. I have to admit that I sort of hated Morris at first, but he definitely grew on me as time went on.

Really, there were only two characters that I didn’t really like. The first was Emaline’s father, whom she first met when she was ten years old. He lets her down when she needed him most, and he doesn’t even really seem to care all that much. He’s definitely not going to win any awards for world’s greatest dad, but he has enough personality to make him not a totally flat character, which is really all you can ask for. His and Emmaline’s relationship was definitely flawed, but it seemed realistic.

The second person I disliked was Theo. He was awkward and arrogant, a combination I’m not really used to reading about. He was an interesting character, I guess, and I have to give Dessen props for creating such a realistically annoying character. He’s embarrassing, but you can understand why Emaline puts up with him, at least at first. I’m actually a little glad that he wasn’t what I thought he was going to be when I first picked up this book. I’ve read so many books where the girl leaves her boyfriend and ends up with this super amazing guy and – while I absolutely love those books when done right – I enjoyed reading something different.

I enjoyed that this book wasn’t just about her relationships with boys. Emaline had a lot of family issues to deal with, not to mention the fact that this is her last summer before she goes away for college. She has a lot of things to deal with that summer, and Luke/Theo is only one of them.

The Not So Good
Maybe it’s just because I recently read about how horrible exposition is, but I found myself getting a bit bored with some of the large flashbacks and background information, particularly in the beginning. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was something I noticed with this book that I hadn’t noticed with others. I’m not sure if this book just isn’t as good or if I’m being more critical than normal, but it was something I noticed.

The second thing is more personal, but it’s still something that annoyed me. This book had a definite “Us vs. Them” theme, one that Emaline comments on several times. It’s the New York City tourists vs. the Colby locals, and it’s obvious whom we’re supposed to like and dislike. I’m always sort of annoyed at the whole “New Yorkers are rude and snobby” thing. I mean, I’d be okay with being rude and snobby if there were redeeming qualities, as well, or if they could show the benefits to being rude and snobby (I, personally, would take honest but rude over the two-faced fake-niceness I’ve experienced here in the south).

I guess I should also mention that I’m from New York. I’ve never lived in the city, but I really wanted to. I also would have loved to go to NYU or Columbia, and I disliked the implication in this book that there’s something wrong with Theo because he doesn’t understand how Emaline could just walk away from that. I’m sorry, but that really is a good school, and it’s understandable that he didn’t understand.

It seems like there’s this constant battle between big city, pretentious snobs and small-town, laid-back people. Okay, I sort of dropped the comparison there, but the point still stands. Just once I would like people with “pretentious” tastes to be the good guys. But that’s a pet peeve of mine, and I guess it’s not entirely fair to blame Sarah Dessen for that. Of course, that won’t stop me from blaming her a little bit.

Overall: This book wasn’t what I expected, but I liked that it surprised me. Fans of Sarah Dessen will probably enjoy her newest release. If you’re still on the fence about Sarah Dessen, I might start with a different book.

Posted on July 26, 2013, in 52in52, Reading and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. That’s interesting. As someone who grew up in a beach town, there is definitely a very flagrant us-versus-them dynamic, especially on the beach itself. While cliche, the snobby cityslicker tourist is a very real thing. It gets really boring, especially in literature, but it is so, so real. I won’t say it’s a northern/southern thing, because when you’re on the Gulf Coast even Atlanta/Birmingham/Tennessee is northern. It’s just a ‘I’m here to do nothing and you’re here to serve me (lol you backwards hick)’ thing.

    Did the book mention “If It’s Tourist Season Why Can’t We Shoot Them” bumper stickers, by any chance? 😉

    • Haha. No bumper stickers, but that would have been funny!

      And I definitely know the us-vs-them dynamic exists. I mean, I’ve never noticed it myself, but I’ve never lived in a touristy area, so I’ve never really looked for it either. But I completely understand how that’s a thing.

      I guess I’m just sick of the whole “small town=good,” “big city=bad” idea. There are good things about the city, and there are good things about small towns. It would have been nice to the see the us-vs-them storyline and come away from it understanding both sides. Of course, it’s also entirely possible that had the “bad guys” been from any other city besides NYC, I might not have cared as much. 😀

  2. Paulina Czarnecki

    I like Sarah Dessen, so I’ll give this book a try. Thanks for the review! (:

  3. (JUST WANT TO MENTION THAT THERE ARE HUGE SPOILERS SO IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK DON’T READ THIS COMMENT… sorry for the all-caps, I just dislike having books spoiled for me, so I want to give everyone proper warning)

    Hm… first off, this book took me by surprise too – I also was expecting the story to be more about Luke v. Theo, but it was much more than that, thankfully. Furthermore, I agree with you so so so much about Sarah Dessen doesn’t just throw in side characters to fill up space. Definitely one of her trademark strengths.

    I somewhat see what you’re saying about the in v. them element within the story, though I do think Emaline had good reason for tossing Theo out, besides him being pretentious. I don’t think it was JUST because he was pretentious, but that he was so blinded by his own perspective that he didn’t bother trying to understand Emaline’s point of view. He ONLY saw Columbia as her saving grace and he never “got” why Emaline loved Colby so much, even with its faults. He was so caught up in always getting ahead to bigger and brighter things that he never appreciated what he had then, there, and now. Still, Dessen was smart in making both of the guys in this book flawed, because that’s how life is – and people are – sometimes. A realistic book to the very end.

    • I totally understand warning for spoilers! And I definitely understand why she broke up with Theo. I didn’t like him, either. But you’re absolutely right about it being realistic. That’s one of the things I loved about this book. She could have gone the “everyone makes up and has a great relationship” way, but she didn’t, which was great. Thanks for commenting!

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