My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Moon and More
There is something magical about the summer between high school graduation and college. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime emotional rollercoaster of a season, when you are saying goodbye to everything that is familiar—your family, friends, maybe your hometown—and looking to your new life with equal amounts of excitement and dread.
Sarah Dessen captures this season beautifully in her latest book, “The Moon and More” (Viking, 2013). Seventeen-year-old Emaline lives in the resort beach town of Colby with her mother, step-dad, and two stepsisters, and works at the family’s busy vacation rental business. Her best friend Daisy is a super-talented clothing designer, and she’s been dating her handsome and sweet boyfriend Luke for what seems like forever—long enough that their relationship feels like an old sweater. Comfortable, but showing signs of wear.
Life isn’t all sun and sand for Emaline, though. The previous year, Emaline’s biological father—a mostly absentee parent for most of her life—encouraged her to look beyond Eastern U. and apply to Ivy League colleges, promising to pay her tuition. When she gets an acceptance letter from Columbia, she’s overjoyed—until he withdraws his offer and quits answering her emails. It’s Eastern U. for Emaline, where she has a full ride. She’s fine with that—it’s her father’s broken promises and mysterious silence that bother her.
Things get awkward when her father arrives in Colby, with her half-brother Benji in tow. Emaline develops a tender, caring relationship with the boy, a sweet little kid who just craves love and attention. As for her father? Well, he’s a little more problematic.
Throw into the mix the new tenants of her family’s most expensive rental property: a tightly wound documentary filmmaker named Ivy, and her ambitious assistant, a college student named Theo. They are in town to film a documentary about a local artist so reclusive that most of the community has no idea he was once a big-shot in the art world.
Theo’s worldly and sophisticated. You know how this goes. Before you know it, Emaline has ditched Luke (not without some blame on his part) and entered Theo’s frenetic world.
“The Moon and More” goes beyond the love triangle or the bittersweet feelings about leaving behind the familiar for the new. Dessen is a master at detailing the experiences of everyday life, relationships, and the connection to place. Being a permanent resident in a place that many people come to only for a short vacation leads to interesting questions about what it means to belong, and what it means to leave, in that journey to adulthood.
Sara Latta is a science writer and author of 18 books for children and young adults. You can learn more about her work and link to past reviews at http://www.saralatta.com.
This review originally appeared in the Sunday, September 22, 2013 edition of The News-Gazette.
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