Published: Viking, 2017
My rating: 4 stars
Description: “Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.
Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.” (Goodreads)
Why I picked it up: I’ve been reading Sarah Dessen since 7th grade and no matter how old I get, I always pick up her new releases ASAP.
Summary: This wasn’t my favorite Dessen novel, or her strongest, but I did enjoy it more than I expected. The characters felt a little flat to me, but the double storyline was unexpected and sad. Other than that, it did pretty much what I expect a Dessen novel to do.
This book takes place in Dessen’s usual world of familiar towns and schools. I’ve always loved that about her novels, because it feels like they’re all taking place in the same time in their own little, quaint universe. I like being able to recognize certain characters or places mentioned in passing, and those things having a whole world of their own in another book. I’m sure there are other authors who do something similar, but this is something I’ve always loved about Dessen books.
As far as the characters, this is what left me a bit disappointed. I read a review that mentioned that the love interest, Ambrose was essentially Dexter 2.0 (This Lullaby) – which I admittedly agree with. I didn’t like Dexter, and I don’t like Ambrose for the same reasons. Many of the characters in this book felt flat or recycled. For a main character, Louna was pretty flat/boring. I couldn’t get much of a feel for her personality except that she was bitter about romance, which wasn’t driving enough. Her best friend, Jilly was, well, pretty annoying. She wasn’t very likable and I didn’t really enjoy scenes with her. However, I did absolutely love Ethan (however heart-wrenching) and wish we had gotten more of him. He was a much more interesting and worthwhile love interest in my opinion. I was also a pretty big fan of her mother’s wedding planning partner, William, who I thought was hilarious. Side characters definitely saved this one for me.
One thing I really liked in this book was the double timeline. It’s unusual for a Dessen novel, which are usually pretty formulaic. The past timeline as unexpectedly heartbreaking and made me ball my eyes out. (I’m getting this review out of the way so I no longer have to dwell on the tragedy of Ethan any longer.) I definitely don’t expect Dessen novels to be sad – I usually reach for them when I want something light and fluffy. However unexpected, it was a nice change. Something I didn’t really vibe with, though, was the Night on the Beach. It seemed a bit unrealistic and far-fetched. Saying “I love you” within twelve hours of meeting each other seemed a bit far-fetched to me so I didn’t quite believe that, but I absolutely loved the wedding planning stuff. I expected the wedding aspect to be super cheesy but it was actually interesting and often hilarious.
As I said, this book, for the most part, follows Dessen’s typical formula: girl meets boy, dislikes him, somehow manages to keep running into him until they become friends and eventually fall in love while girl balances new relationship and friends with an Important Problem – in this case, the effects of gun violence. I’m big into fluffy romance and I love the way that Dessen’s later novels, this one included, balance the fluff with an issue bigger and more profound. They have a much greater affect on me this way. Despite the fact that this isn’t my favorite of Dessen’s novels, it did affect me a lot more than others. It had me crying on the floor and thinking about it weeks after I’d finished it.
“Maybe it was better to barrel through life, breaking fragile things and catching on every jagged edge. Neat or messy, calm or crazy, I still ended up in this same place.”
Recommend for fans of: The Fault in our Stars by John Green (if you wanna cry some more, ya know?), Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
Buy the book: Amazon, Book Depository, Thriftbooks
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