Thursday, June 29, 2017

Once and For All

Image result for once and for all dessenOnce and For All
Sarah Dessen
Viking, 2017 358 pages
Grades 9-Up

Like her mother and godfather who have raised her, Louna is skeptical about true love. She experienced love the previous year, only to have tragedy strike and her heart broken forever. Now she works for the family business: wedding planning. A spontaneously flirty member of a wedding party must be reined in during the wedding planning process and Mom chooses to hire him to keep him busy and out of the way. Ambrose is truly a ladies' man and exactly the opposite of Louna when it comes to dating. They strike a bet: she has to date many people during the course of the summer, while he must try to maintain a relationship with only one person. Naturally, as the summer progresses, they develop feelings for each other, but can Louna overcome the hurt of her past to take a chance? Alternating chapters slowly reveal Louna's past relationship with a boy named Ethan, that, although long-distance, was pretty intense. A tragedy out of both of their control left Louna unable to give her heart. Meanwhile, love is also found for Mom, the godfather/business partner, and Louna's best friend. Will Louna's hardened heart be softened? Find out in this summer read perfect for the beach.

Reading a Sarah Dessen book feels like being wrapped in a soft blanket. We feel instantly as if we know the "everyone girl" main character and can instantly relate to her. You know the boy will be sweet and quirky and it will take a while for them to get together, but you know it will happen eventually. And they always have an interesting premise the characters are working around. In this case, wedding planning is perfect for a Sarah Dessen novel and I'm surprised she hasn't used it yet. Readers will enjoy the sneak-peak behind the scenes look at weddings. Readers will wonder at the beginning what happened to Louna's first love and Dessen slowly reveals the story of the relationship, ending in a school shooting, making the book socially relevant. This is not the work of great fiction, but will be enjoyed by female teen readers. It reads quickly and never lags. Ambrose adds humor to the story, lightening the intensity of Louna's grief. Secondary characters drive home the message that we are not meant to go through this life alone. Even though Louna is about to leave for college, the ending is happy for all of the characters and the reader walks away confident in second chances.

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