The first time I read The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen was back in 2013. Although I distinctly remember liking it because of the ending (which I will spoil in this review, so be warned!), I didn’t really remember much of the rest of the plot when I picked it up a second time this summer. I wasn’t sure what my reaction to this book would be six years later. Since then I had graduated high school, graduated college, and actually had some forays into romance of my own. Would I still like it as much as I did back in high school?
The answer, surprisingly, is yes.
My reasoning for this is twofold: 1) my personal circumstances this summer were strangely similar to those of Emaline, the main character, and 2) the plot and character development are so much more satisfying than in other Sarah Dessen books.
In The Moon and More, Emaline is in a summer of transition. Her high school boyfriend of three years cheats on her, resulting in a break up; she meets a guy from New York City (very different from her little coastal hometown Colby) and has a summer fling; her biological father is in town with her half-brother as they attempt to hide their divorce from the ten-year-old boy; and Emaline just graduated from high school, meaning that she’s excitedly and nervously awaiting her big move to college. Likewise, I also went through a break up at the beginning of this summer, just graduated (college) and am awaiting my big move to my next educational step (law school). Because of these similarities, aspects of this book that seemed distant back in high school now really resonate with me. Sometimes timing for a book is everything, and this was one of those rare circumstances where so many elements of a character’s story seemed to line up with my own life.
The plot was just so refreshing. How often do you read about a girl ending up single in YA fiction? After going through two different relationships? Sarah Dessen could have easily made Emaline get back with Luke at the end when they both went to the same college, but I love that she decided to just make them friends instead. I also really liked that Theo wasn’t the magic Band-Aid for all of Emaline’s problems. And that her relationship with her biological father didn’t suddenly improve. It might sound like I’m wishing the worst for Emaline, but that’s not the case: I’m just happy to see a teenage character finally find peace and confidence in herself rather than finding it through dependence on a guy. Although I adore Sarah Dessen, this personal growth isn’t always the outcome of her novels.
Perhaps my favorite part was when Emaline tries to approach her biological father about the fact that he ghosted her after saying he could no longer pay for her to go to Columbia. He refuses to talk about it because he views it as a personal failure that she’s berating him for by bringing it up again and again.
He bit his lip, but didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. Because right then, suddenly, irrevocably, I understood. All this time, from the day at Igor’s when he’d first brought up the subject of college, I’d thought this was about what he wanted for my life, my future. But it was never about me.
My mom had taught me a lot of things. But one of the big ones was that if you made a mistake, you owned up to it, learned from it. My father, I saw now, wasn’t able to do this; he couldn’t even get past trying to fix it. That was his problem, though. No matter what he thought, I wasn’t a problem or a mistake. I was his daughter. And despite all of this, and him, I was going to be just fine. (Dessen 354)
This quote is from one of the handful of pages that I dog-eared while reading. Wow, I love this scene! Emaline’s realization that her father views her as a mistake he must fix is heartbreaking and infuriating, and so well written. Sarah Dessen doesn’t reduce Emaline’s response to a single feeling: after this argument she is simultaneously angry and sad and relieved that she no longer has to hope so desperately that someday their relationship would magically blossom into a strong bond. Part of growing up is realizing that there isn’t just one way to react to something, that you don’t have to take a single strong stance on everything that you experience. Sarah Dessen captures that challenging realization so effectively in this scene.
Overall, I’m happy to report that The Moon and More remains my favorite Sarah Dessen book even after rereading it six years later. I’m still shook by how perfect this book was for me this summer. How does Sarah always know?
What are your thoughts on The Moon and More? Which Sarah Dessen book should I reread next? Let me know in the comments section below!