Publication Date: June 4, 2013Review: If you know me, you know I'm a big Dessen fan. I've yet to encounter one of her books that I loved as much as The Truth About Forever, but Dessen still manages to make me invested in her characters, their story, and how one summer allows for their development.
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Page Count: 435
Synopsis: Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.
Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.
Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?
Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?
Sarah Dessen's devoted fans will welcome this story of romance, yearning, and, finally, empowerment. It could only happen in the summer.
People critique Dessen by saying her books are calculated and formulaic. And, yes, while I'll admit that it's pretty true, The Moon and More kind of throws readers for a loop. While there are still the constant Dessen elements of personal growth, family issues, and romance, it's the last one that is significantly different in this book. It's not as different as in Dreamland (because, let's face it, Rogerson is the opposite of a classic Dessen boy), but neither love interest is like Wes or Dexter or Owen.
First, let's talk about our main character, Emaline. Emaline is a girl who has lived her whole life in Colby. She loves the beach town, but she yearns for something more. Part of her wants to stay with her roots, but another part of her wants to break free and do, see, discover something more than Colby. She's smart on paper (hello, the girl got accepted into Columbia!), but I don't think she really acted all that studious or intelligent. However, I did become fond of her character. She's hardworking, even when she doesn't have to be, and she's nice. She wants to help almost everyone, which sometimes can be annoying on other characters, but I didn't feel that way with Emaline.
Emaline and Luke have been dating since freshman year, which is quite impressive. And in this small town, that's basically like paving the path to marriage. But then Luke does something despicable, and the couple splits. This is where I had a problem. Considering they've been together throughout all of high school, Luke did something to basically end that. It seemed extremely out of character to me. I felt like it was just a catalyst in the plot to create room for the new love interest, Theo. But I digress.
Oh, Theo. This boy drove me up a wall sometimes. Dessen manages to create an unlikable love interest in Theo. And it's not an extreme dislike either, considering he doesn't abuse the main character (Rogerson from Dreamland), nor does he get the main character in a car accident that leaves her hospitalized (Macon from Someone Like You). No, he's just... not likable? He almost has the dorky, nerdy appeal that sometimes gains momentum, but then he'll do something that erases all progress. He is labeled as sophisticated and exciting in the synopsis, but in reality, he's immature, egocentric, and embarrassing. (He's the kind of boyfriend that makes a big show about every. little. thing.)
More on Emaline. I liked her character a lot. She wasn't as passive as some of Dessen's other leads, but she definitely didn't do much whenever Theo did something embarrassing. I wanted Emaline to step up for herself and maybe even do the smallest of things like telling Theo she didn't want to go to an Asian restaurant. But there is one thing that I loved about Emaline: the kind of ex-girlfriend she is. She's not at all one of those catty ex-girlfriends that thinks mean thoughts if her ex has moved on. She doesn't close off all ties with her ex. No. She just acts normally and kindly and it's a breath of fresh air! She acts like a great ex-girlfriend should, which I positively adored.
I feel like Emaline's relationship with her immediate family (including her step-family) was sacrificed for the emphasis with her relationship with her half-brother, Benji, and her father. I understood why it was chosen to put the focus there, and Dessen does include little snippets of a growing relationship between Emaline and her step-sisters, but I kind of wish it was a more well-rounded family development.
All in all, I really enjoyed The Moon and More. If I could fix something, it would be plot. The plot does move pretty slowly, which made it difficult to keep on reading. However, overall, The Moon and More spotlights a teenage girl trying to balance her own growth while strengthening her relationships with the people she cares about. Though I don't think it's Dessen's best novel, I still liked it, and I'd recommend it to other Dessen fans.