Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

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So, I guess I really have decided to make this “The Summer of Sarah Dessen,” as I’m going to (try to) read all of her books.  Whether this will actually happen is pretty up in the air at this point, though…I’m not always the best at actually keeping the reading goals I set for myself.

Goodreads summary:

Colie expects the worst when she’s sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television informercial, tours Europe.  Always an outcast – first for being fat and then for being “easy” – Colie has no friends at home and doesn’t expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina.  But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship.  Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along.

This book was, unfortunately, a bit of a miss for me.  When I first picked it up, I was really excited about it.  I loved the premise – Colie’s journey towards self-acceptance and empowerment after a significant weight loss, overcoming bullying, etc.  But somehow, it just didn’t live up to the expectations I already find myself having for a Sarah Dessen book.  My experience with her other books, by the time I first put it down, after around 50 or 60 pages, I find myself thinking about the characters, their situations and relationships.  I didn’t feel the same connection to these characters.  While they had all of the quirky attributes that I normally enjoy, I found them to fall sort of flat for me.  And the book’s message, which I would characterize as something along the lines of “girl power,” is certainly one that I could have really enjoyed in the right packaging, but which sort of missed its mark for me in this book.

So, while I can’t NOT recommend this book, especially to well-established fans of Dessen’s work, I would recommend this as an introduction to the author.  Someone Like You would be a much better choice, in my opinion.

That Summer by Sarah Dessen

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So, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit, but, this is my first Sarah Dessen experience.  I know, it’s quite shocking.  I don’t know where I’ve been.  Well, that’s not true.  I abandoned YA novels right around the time that Sarah Dessen’s first book, this one, came out.  You see, I was on to “bigger and better” things.  I was reading ADULT books, and completely neglected the entire YA genre.  I feel like that’s what everyone was doing at that time.  A whole generation of readers who went from reading all about The Baby-Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley, and then skipped right ahead to Jackie Collins, Danielle Steel, and, shockingly of all, Judy Blume’s adult books.

So, now I’m making up for lost time, and reading all of those books that I wish I had discovered when I actually was a young adult, when they would have had the most impact on me.  But I’m settling for the nostalgia I feel as I’m reading them now.

What I liked

The writing.  This is one of those books that sweeps you away and makes you forget about reality for awhile.

I’m going to try to not give too much away, but if you’re really interested in reading this book, maybe skip this part:

I really liked the idea of how we remember things a certain way, but then sometimes the reality of the memory is a bit different from how we remembered it.  I feel like the more scientific way of describing this would be an “unreliable memory.”  I could really relate to Haven’s nostalgia for a certain time in her life, but then realizing later that things weren’t as idyllic as she had romanticized them to be.

What I didn’t like

This book has a TON of character development, but it’s a bit short on plot.  Which is certainly okay, but I was hoping for a bit more to the storyline.  There seemed to be both SO MUCH and NOTHING going on at the same time, if that’s even possible.  Haven’s father has just had an affair and is marrying the woman he cheated with.  Haven’s sister Ashley is getting married and moving out.  Her mother is going through a mid-life crisis of sorts.  And yet, not much happens.  I feel like there could have been much more of a plot than there actually was, which was a tad disappointing.

This book definitely reads as a “debut” novel.  At times it feels as if Dessen is trying to be “writerly,” or “literary.”  Perhaps it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but I don’t like it so much when I can feel the author trying to impress me as a reader, if that makes any sense.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, but perhaps not for a first-time reader of Dessen.  (I feel like I have the authority to say this because I’m almost finished with her second book, Someone Like You, and I think that would have been a much better introduction to her as an author).