The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen Review

The story is… I love this book!

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen follows Emma Saylor after her father remarries several years after her mother passed away and he goes on his honeymoon. When Emma’s plans fall through of where to stay for the summer, she ends up at the lake where her mother grew up with family she hasn’t seen since childhood.

The Rest of the Story

Even though I bought this book when it was released, I put off reading it. While I loved Sarah Dessen’s books in high school, I haven’t been impressed with her most recent releases, especially the one before this book, Once and For All. That being said, The Rest of the Story took me back to the classic Sarah Dessen writing that I knew and loved so long ago.

One aspect of a classic Sarah Dessen book is a well-rounded cast of characters and this book was no exception. Emma has a large family in this book, but each character has their own distinct personality, although these personalities may resemble other characters in past Sarah Dessen books. I especially loved getting to know the characters on the North Lake side of the lake because all of these characters were so realistic to the setting where they lived.

Another one of my favorite aspects of Sarah Dessen’s books are they may seem like they are about nothing because the plot is very reflective of someone’s everyday life, but really they are about everything with the metaphors that she creates. Every Sarah Dessen story has some sort of lesson, which may annoy some readers, but I actually enjoy. The message in this book, as well as some aspects of the plot, reminded me a lot of one of my favorite Dessen books, The Truth About Forever.

For me, one of the factors that really sells a book is the emotional connection. Without it, I rarely give a book five stars unless I find it technically well done. With The Rest of the Story, I really related to the main character, Emma Saylor. Young adult books are successful when they capture universal feelings at that time so you can relate to the story no matter when you read it, and for me, Saylor’s actions and feelings reminded me so much of myself, it was hard not to get invested in the story.

One aspect of the book that was a little out of place to me was the ending. Dessen often does a great job of foreshadowing some aspect of the ending and that certainly was there. At the same time, the last big part of the book, which takes place during a storm that comes out of nowhere, felt a little out of place in the novel. I get the purpose that it served in the novel, and I suppose it was briefly foreshadowed at the beginning of the book, but it just seemed so different than the rest of the book to me. However, this was incredibly minor to me and because of all the reasons I mentioned above, it didn’t greatly hinder my reading experience.

As I was reading this book, I didn’t want it to end because I just wanted to stay with these characters longer. I think this is one of those books that I read just at the right time for me. This is definitely one of my favorite books that I read this year so far, so it is no surprise that I am giving it five stars.

Along for the Ride Review

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Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen follows Auden West who decides to visit her father, stepmother, and their new baby at the beach over the summer. Raised by two professor parents, Auden never had the typical high school experience. When Auden takes a job at her stepmother’s boutique, she makes new friends who help her experience all of the high school experiences she missed.

While Along for the Ride isn’t in my top three favorite Sarah Dessen books, it still ranks near the top of my favorite Sarah Dessen list. Along for the Ride is similar to many classic Sarah Dessen books with strong characters, strong themes, and strong relationships. Additionally, it’s the perfect book for the summer time!

I think my favorite aspect of this book would have to be the characters. Each character, whether major or minor, is fully developed and represent part of the theme that Sarah Dessen expresses in this book. In this book, the focus is on people changing. The main character, Auden, changes dramatically in her final summer before college. She learns to make her own opinions, learns to socialize with people her own age, and learns that she doesn’t have to be perfect all the time.

I also appreciated how Sarah Dessen explored what it means to be a girl in this book. Auden’s mom is a cold and driven professor who shuns everything girly, as a result, Auden sees anything considered typically feminine as weak. However, through her friends and other characters in the book, Auden learns this is not the case. Auden’s stepmother, Heidi, own an extremely girl boutique, but she’s also an incredibly smart businesswoman. Auden’s new friend, Maggie, likes fashion and boys, but also is very intelligent and great at riding dirtbikes. I really like how Sarah Dessen conveyed that their isn’t “a right way” to be a girl and that just because someone is traditionally feminine that doesn’t mean that they are also weak.

Overall, Along for the Ride is a fun, but deep summer read. Like Sarah Dessen’s other books, it is extremely relatable and will stay with you after you read it. I give Along for the Ride five out of five stars.

This Lullaby Review

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If this book was a song, I would play it on repeat.

This Lullaby follows Remy Starr, the daughter of a famous romance author as she plans for her mother’s latest wedding. When talking over some of the wedding plans with her soon-to-be stepfather at his car dealership, Remy runs into Dexter, a boy in a band settling in her town for the summer. Remy, however, always sticks to her rules and one big rule is no musicians.

This Lullaby is one of Sarah Dessen’s books that I didn’t enjoy when I read it the first time. I think at the age when I read it, I was a little too younger to understand and appreciate the themes within this book. However, now that I’m older and after rereading the book several times, it ranks in my top three Sarah Dessen books.

Remy is very different than the typical Sarah Dessen main character. Usually, Sarah Dessen’s main characters are wallflowers who go through a summer transformation and discover themselves. While Remy does transform over one summer, she is more take charge and bold than other main characters in Sarah Dessen’s books. Since Sarah Dessen’s books are typically character-driven, it’s nice to have a different perspective in her book. Additionally, this allows for different events and choices from the main character (for example, The Truth About Forever and Saint Anything have very similar plots/characters to me).

Additionally, I think Sarah Dessen created a great love interest with Dexter. Like with Remy, Dexter is very different than some other love interests featured in Sarah Dessen’s books. In most of her books, I feel like the love interest often has more of an edge with some sort of secret in his past. The only other love interest with the same goofy and light-hearted personality for me was Ambrose in her most recent book, Once and For All. I really enjoyed the contrast between Dexter’s bright and happy personality and Remy’s closed off and thorny personality within this book.

While I do enjoy the characters in this book, my favorite aspect of This Lullaby would have to be its relatability. Remy’s been burned quite a few times in her life throughout different relationships (not just romantic relationships). Outside her own life, she’s seen many more relationships fail. As a result, she becomes very cynical. However, after watching several relationships in this book, she develops a better perspective about how relationships grow and change.

The best way that I can describe This Lullaby is classic Sarah Dessen. Like Sarah Dessen’s other stand out works, this book combines well-developed characters and a relatable themes to create a book that sticks with you long after you read it. I give This Lullaby five out of five stars.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Could Re-Read Forever

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is books I could re-read forever. Here are my choices:

  • Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Just Listen

I’ve reread Just Listen at least ten times. This is my favorite young adult book and I always get something new out of it when I read it again. I can see myself rereading this book at least once a year!

  • Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

Love, Life, and the List

I haven’t reread this book (yet), but I can see myself rereading this many times in the future. Currently, this is my favorite Kasie West book. I had so much fun reading it the first time, I can’t wait to see how much more I love it the second time!

  • It’s a Mall World After All by Janette Rallison

It's a Mall World After All

Like Just Listen, I’ve read this book countless time since middle school. Every time, I find myself laughing out loud. I know I will pick this book up again in the future when I’m looking for a little nostalgia.

  • Secret Santa by Sabrina James

Secret Santa

I’ve read this book countless times since high school. I have so much fun reading this book, especially around Christmas. I’m still crossing my fingers that I will eventually see this as a movie!

  • The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)

I loved the Lunar Chronicles when I first read it and I’ve been itching to read the series again. These characters have stuck with me since reading and I can’t wait to revisit their stories.

  • The Winner’s Curse series by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)

Like The Lunar Chronicles, it’s been too long since I’ve read this series. I can’t wait to reread it to remember everything I loved about it the first time around.

  • The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever

Like with Just Listen, I’ve reread this book numerous times since middle school. It’s one of my top three Sarah Dessen books and always picks me out of a reading slump.

  • A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)

I absolutely loved this book! Like with The Lunar Chronicles, the characters in this series really stuck with me and I want to revisit their stories in the future.

  • Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Breathe, Annie, Breathe

Like with Life, Love, and the List, this book is a contemporary I picked up this year but can see myself reading multiple times in the future. This book brought me out of a reading slump and I hope I can count on it to do it again in the future!

  • This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

This Lullaby

This Lullaby rounds out my top three favorite Sarah Dessen novels. I reread this book every year, so I can’t imagine not reading it again in the near future.

 

What books could you re-read forever?

Saint Anything Book Review

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In Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, Sydney has always lived in the shadow of her charismatic brother Peyton, that is, until he is arrested for a drunk driving incident that left a boy paralyzed. After switching schools, Sydney meets the Chatham family who accept her for who she is and make her feel noticed for the first time.

When it comes to Sarah Dessen, I definitely have my top favorites. While I think all of her books are extremely well-written and I would read them again and again, not many of her recent releases have lived up to my favorites. Saint Anything, however, includes a lot of the elements from my favorite Sarah Dessen books and stands out as one of my favorites among her most recent books.

One of my favorite parts of this book was Sydney’s relationship with her family and how her brother’s actions impacted all of their lives. Every character handles the situation in a different way which greatly impacts their family and the plot as a whole. Like Sarah Dessen’s other books, this story is very character-driven and Sarah Dessen does a great job with exploring every character’s emotions and motivations and showing how they grow throughout the book.

Another aspect of this book that I enjoyed were all of the side characters, another hallmark in Sarah Dessen’s work. Layla is a fun and interesting character who is incredibly fleshed out throughout the book. Mac is an adorable love interest and an all-around nice guy which I don’t see as much as I would like to in young adult fiction. Eric is also a character that I wouldn’t normally enjoy for his pretentious attitude, but provided a lot of humor to the book. The only character I wish the author explored more was Irv, who although added some comic relief throughout the book, definitely was the most underdeveloped.

I only have a few mixed feelings towards this book. While I like many of the classic Sarah Dessen elements in this book, some of them are very similar to elements in her other books. As a result, they don’t seem as original to me which makes the book stands out less compared to her other works. For example, Sydney and Layla remind me a lot of Macy and Kristi from The Truth About Forever. While there are definitely differences in their characters, Sydney and Layla don’t seem as dynamic in comparison. Additionally, while I liked the relationship between Sydney and Mac, it wasn’t anything unique or different than several other relationships throughout Sarah Dessen’s works.

 

Just Listen Review

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Don’t think. Don’t judge. Just listen to me when I say that you need to read this book!

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen follows Annabel Greene, a girl returning to high school after a summer of self-imposed isolation following a fall-out with her best friend and a secret she never wants to tell. Then, Annabel meets Owen Armstrong known for his music, anger issues, and always telling the truth. FINISH DESCRIPTION HERE.

There are two authors who defined my high school reading: Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen. I remembered my sister recommended The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen to me, but I went to the library, I picked up Just Listen instead. To this day, Just Listen remains my favorite Sarah Dessen book and one of my favorite books of all time. Every time I reread Just Listen, which I’ve probably done over ten times, I find something else to love about it and something else to connect with in the story line. Since I reread this book recently, I thought I would share all of the reasons that I adore this book.

I think Just Listen is one of Sarah Dessen’s best works because of the layers present throughout the book. Each character deals with a different issue that contributes to a larger theme throughout the book. Sarah Dessen provides so many different perspectives on one theme that it really gives the book a well-rounded feel. I think Sarah Dessen especially handled Annabel’s secret with poise and placed flashbacks to the even well throughout the novel. This book will definitely hit your emotions hard.

Annabel is a complex and deep character that experiences a lot of growth throughout the novel. As a main character, Annabel serves as a positive role model to the target audience of this book by learning how to face issues head-on and to speak up for herself. A lot of the issues Annabel deals with in her own life and her family are extremely relatable to for readers in this book’s target audience and I think this book will give hope to readers in similar situations to Annabel.

I think another standout aspect of this book is the romance. It says a lot about an other when they can take a person with personality traits that you find extremely annoying in real life and spin them into a flawed person that you absolutely love. On the surface, Owen Armstrong is someone that I would not like in real life. He is a music snob and sometimes too brutally honest. However, I love his character in this book and his relationship with Annabel. I like how Owen brings Annabel out of her shell and gives her strategies to cope with her problems in her life, but doesn’t serve as the solution to her problems like many male love interests in young adult literature. Annabel and and Owen definitely earn one of the top spots among my YA OTPs.

It’s hard to find words to express all of the reasons that I love this book and why it has remained one of my favorite books for almost ten years now. I recommend this book to anyone, even if you are not typically a fan of contemporary, because it is well-written, relevant, and impacts you long after you finish the final page. I give Just Listen five out of five stars.

#ThrowbackThursday: My Favorite High School/College Back-to-School Books

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve discussed my favorite elementary back-to-school books and my favorite middle school back-to-school books. This week, I’m discussing my favorite high school and college back-to-school books. High school and college back-to-school books involve new classes, new friends, and new relationships. Here are some of my old and new favorite high school and college books (any book with a review will be linked to the title):

P.S. I Like You

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West follows Lily, a high school student stuck in chemistry class. When Lily scribbles song lyrics on a desk and someone responds, she starts a secret pen pal relationship. Kasie West’s books always remind me of my favorite high school movies and I recommend this book for anyone looking for a lighthearted and fun read.

  • Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Just Listen

In Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, Annabel returns to school in the fall after a breakup with her best friend earlier that year and an event that changed her life forever. Just Listen is a well-written book with a memorable story and characters. I recommend this book for anyone looking for a deep young adult novel with a powerful message.

  • Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Catching Jordan

What is high school without Friday night football? In Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally, Jordan is the starting quarterback for her high school football team and determined to play football in college. However, when a new (and very cute) quarterback joins the team, her plans are derailed. This is one of my favorite books in Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series so far because Jordan’s voice and high school experience is so authentic. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a young adult books that mixes sports and romance.

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

On this list, Fangirl is the only book that takes place in college. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowelll follows Cath as she starts her freshman year of college and finishes her fanfiction novel before the release of the last book in her favorite series. Fangirl is a fun book that also deals with serious themes and topics. I recommend this book to any fangirl or person starting college!

Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me

Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin follows Zona Lowell, an American teenager whose life is uprooted when her father moves her to Greece for her sophomore year of high school. In Greece, Zona connects with her mother’s family that she’s never met. Sophomore Year is Greek to Me is the perfect book if you’re looking for a high school book that focuses on another college and emphasizes family over a relationship!

 

What is your favorite high school back-to-school book?

The Truth About Forever Book Review

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You want the truth? I think that I’ll love this book for ever.

The Truth About Forever follows Macy West after her father dies and her boyfriend leaves from Brain Camp for the summer. To maintain her perfect appearance, Macy takes over her boyfriend’s job at the library despite his rude coworkers and spends her night studying for the SATs to please her mother. When Macy meets the crew of Wish Catering and an extraordinary boy named Wes, her summer starts to look up.

I’ve read all of Sarah Dessen’s books and The Truth About Forever is in my top three. I remember in high school my sister recommended this book to me and I’m glad that I listened to her! The Truth About Forever is one of my all-time favorite books and I recommend to anyone, even people who aren’t typically fans of contemporary. Like all of Sarah Dessen’s books, The Truth About Forever hits you right in the heart with its underlying universal themes.

I think one of the main reasons The Truth About Forever stands as one of the most beloved Sarah Dessen novels is the characters. Every character in this book is realistic and complex. Macy is a likable character whose struggle to be perfect will be relatable to many readers. Furthermore, Macy’s relationships with her family and other characters are accurate to every day life. Additionally, the supporting character in this novel all stand out, no matter how little they appear in the book. Kristy’s bold and dramatic personality stands out as one of Sarah Dessen’s most well-developed and favored best friends. Monica’s one-liners and Bert’s quirky personality also provide quality comic relief throughout the novel.

Another one of the reasons this book stands out is the romance. Both Macy and Wes are flawed characters which makes their relationship all the more perfect when they get together. Like Kristy says, Wes definitely has a sa-woon factor and stands out from other ordinary guys in young adult literature. One quality about Sarah Dessen’s love interests that I appreciate is that their caring, funny, and kind without being cookie-cutter or too perfect. Wes is the perfect example: he’s exactly the kind of guy Macy needs, but not in an obvious way.

Sarah Dessen’s books will always hold a special place in my heart, but The Truth About Forever is one of her books that stands out from the rest. The Truth About Forver contains everything that I want from a contemporary book: relatable characters, realistic relationships, and a deeper underlying message. I give The Truth About Forever five out of five stars.

 

Once and For All Review

once and for all

I now pronounce Once and For All as the perfect summer wedding book!

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen follows Louna, the cynic daughter of a wedding planner that tragically lost her first love. Amidst a crazy wedding season Louna meets Ambrose, a charming and somewhat annoying player, who joins her mother’s wedding planning team. Louna puts her heart on the line again when she makes a bet with Ambrose that she can go on multiple dates per week and that he can maintain the same girlfriend for seven weeks.

When I saw Sarah Dessen was releasing another book, I couldn’t contain my excitement! I discovered Sarah Dessen’s books and ever since, she’s remained my favorite author. Her books are an auto-buy for me and I pre-ordered this book a few months back. If you’ve seen other posts on my blog, you would know that I purchase most of my books from thrift stores. When I pre-order a book, then I definitely have high expectations. While Once and For All isn’t my favorite Sarah Dessen book, I definitely enjoyed it and would recommend anyone to run out and buy it!

I once saw Sarah Dessen’s books as about nothing, but about everything at the same time and I couldn’t agree more. Nothing truly remarkable happens to the characters in any of her books and any of her character’s stories could happen in real life. However, the messages in her books will resonate with all readers because at once in your life, you’ve probably felt like the characters in her books. Once and For All is no exception. While I can’t relate with every aspect of Louna’s story, I think a lot of readers will relate to opening up your heart again after tragedy and looking at love more positively. Like Sarah Dessen’s other heroines, Louna is extremely relatable and realistic.

Another important aspect of Sarah Dessen’s books are the relationships. While Once and For All doesn’t contain my OTP of Sarah Dessen’s books, I really liked Louna’s love interest in this book. Ambrose is very different from many of the other love interests in Sarah Dessen’s books. He’s a serial dater, smooth talker, and in Louna’s opinion, a “slightly annoying” person. I found myself constantly smiling and laughing at Ambrose throughout the novel and though he complimented Louna well. Ambrose was definitely a highlight of this book!

The final ingredient in a class Sarah Dessen book are the supporting characters. I think out of all the supporting characters in the book, William was my favorite. He was definitely different from Sarah Dessen’s other supporting characters which made him really stand out. Unfortunately, many of the other side characters in this book reminded me too much of characters from other books by Sarah Dessens. For example, Louna’s best friend seemed to be a mash-up of a few other characters, which made her forgettable. However, I did appreciate the bonus chapter on the end of the book which featured many of Sarah Dessen’s past characters!

I really enjoyed Once and For All and thought it was the perfect book to read in preparation for this coming wedding season. I had such high expectations for this book and was not disappointed! I give Once and For All by Sarah Dessen four out of five stars,

June TBR Pile

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Even though I don’t usually make TBR lists since I typically pick up whatever book I feel like reading, there are a few books that I definitely want to read this month. Currently, I’m four books behind on my reading goal, so hopefully I can catch up with some great books in June! Here are five books that I plan to read in June:

  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

I recently read The Sun is Also a Star and loved it, so I’m really excited to read Everything, Everything. This is a book that I want to finish ASAP so I can go see the move in theaters!

  • Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Once and for All

I’ve been waiting for this book ever since it was announced. Since I pre-ordered this book, I’m counting down the days until it arrives on my doorstep. Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors, so I know that I won’t be disappointed!

  • The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite (The Selection, #2)

I read The Selection last month and started a new season of The Bachelorette which has made me excited to continue with this series. I have this book on loan from my local library so I need to read this before the due date.

  • Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Open Road Summer

I purchased this book from a deal on the Kindle Store. It sounds like the perfect summer read so I can’t wait to see if it lives up to my expectations!

  • On the Fence by Kasie West

On the Fence

Kasie West is slowly becoming one of my favorite YA contemporary authors. I know this will be a light and fluffy book that will be a fun way to start my summer reading!

 

What books do you plan to read in June?