“Once and For All” – Sarah Dessen

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In Dessen’s latest novel we follow the life of Louna Barrett as she takes on the last summer before college working for her mothers Wedding Planning company. Louna is a bit jaded and more than a little heartbroken after what happened before. She keeps her mind focused on the tasks at hand and chugs along. Her best friend encouraging as always trying to get Louna “back out there”, her mother giving her support and love in her own special way… and then there’s Ambrose. Ladies man and all around pain in the butt. Ambrose wasn’t supposed to be a factor in her summer. He was the son of a client and that was it; when he starts working at the company Louna has to spend a lot more time with him, and her sanity and calm exterior quickly deteriorates. How can she spend a whole summer looking after this guy? Fall can’t come fast enough.

I really enjoyed this book. I’ve read literally every one of Dessen’s books and I always enjoy the way she takes seemingly every day life and makes compelling stories out of it. A friend of mine says that’s my writing style as well and I feel it’s a great compliment. This story went a bit further (though I love, love, love that Colby was in it even though it wasn’t set there). Dessen has dealt with challenging issues before (Eating disorders, death, heart break) but this one I felt hit closer to the collective conscious of the American people. At this troubled time in our society I felt this one brought that extra layer of reality to the novel. At first it’s easy to go “Okay Louna, what do you know about love, you’re 17. Get over it.” but as you learn what happened and as you explore the deeper feelings there your heart breaks with Louna’s. This novel isn’t about Louna and Ambrose. It’s not about a bitter or dramatic young girl. It’s about the very real tragedy of loss.

It is my opinion that there should be more books that deal with real issues like this and in this way; dealing with the aftermath and with the consequences. It’s emotional and depressing but it needs to happen. People need to wake up and be aware and think deeper and more critically. That sounds like a Herculean task but it’s not. Incorporating these kind of powerful prose into young readers lives is so important for our nation to grow and evolve. I applaud authors like Dessen who write real, honest, hard pieces like this.

I say it’s one of Dessen’s better books. While “Lock and Key” will always hold a special place in my heart (and really her entire library is phenomenal) I was not disappointed with her newest addition. Dessen wrote recently that she wasn’t sure she had anything left in her after “Saint Anything” then produced this. I hope Dessen has more in her in the future.

Happy Reading!

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