Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Book Review: The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen


Pages: 400
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: June 4, 2019
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.  Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.  When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.  Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.  For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?"

Emma Saylor hasn't lived an easy life by any means despite the fact that she lives in a nice house in a good neighborhood and has many friends.  She lost her mother to addiction and her father has been busy with his career as a dentist.  Also, her Nana has helped raise her, but Emma still suffers from anxiety.  Her father has remarried and is planning on taking a honeymoon this summer.  Emma is ok with this as she will be staying at her best friend's house. But things happen and plans change and now Emma finds herself with no place to go during her dad's honeymoon.  Her Nana suggests she stay with her mother's family who lives in a resort town by North Lake.  Emma hasn't been back there since she was four years old, so this would give her an opportunity to reconnect with family, but it's, well, awkward.  Her mother's family run a motel by the lake and she has a ton of cousins, but she hasn't connected with them in years.  So, Emma agrees to go, because she doesn't want to be the reason her father can't go on a honeymoon. While she is there, Emma learns more about her past, her mother, and finds herself loving a family she never knew she had.  Sarah Dessen's The Rest of the Story tackles that one important summer in a teenager's life. It's going down as one of my favorite Dessen novels.

Emma Saylor is a memorable character and one that I think many people can relate to in The Rest of the Story.  My heart went out to her as she had a lot to deal with regarding her mother and addiction.  Even though she lives in an expensive neighborhood and in a luxurious house, she still has problems that haunt her. When she is uprooted from her cushy life to North Lake, which is a working-class neighborhood, I thought she would struggle. But she takes to family life and working at the motel easily. Once acclimated she really blossomed. I could appreciate Emma's experience as an only child and then having the opportunity to spend time with a larger extended family. I think Dessen captured the dynamics of that very well and the fact that Emma had to be reacquainted with many people from her childhood.

While there, Emma Saylor is reunited with Roo, one of her friends from childhood.  Roo's father was also good friends with Emma's mother, so there was that history too. I absolutely loved their relationship.  I loved the back story, the friendship, and how it evolved and how good Roo is. So often in YA lit, we encounter bad guys or guys who are jerks. It's so nice to come across Roo who is a down to Earth good guy.  He is definitely swoon-worthy in The Rest of the Story.

The dynamics of North Lake and Lake North (the richer resort town) are also well done. It think every lake or beach community has this type of hierarchy and Dessen captures it very well. I enjoyed Emma going on the many adventures by the lake with her cousins and friends.  It was the perfect summertime setting.

There's something that Dessen does very well that no other YA author that I have come across can do. She captures the easy summertime life as a teenager; she lets the story evolve organically. It's not that a whole lot happened in the first half of the book, but she develops the characters to the point where I feel like I know them and could be friends with them. The Rest of the Story is a quiet story that truly resonates and it's going down as not only one of my favorite books of the summer, but also one of my favorite Sarah Dessen novels and if you know me that is saying a lot.

Can we all agree that Sarah Dessen can do no wrong? If you want a summertime read that is memorable, heartwarming and real, pick up The Rest of the Story this summer.


4 comments:

  1. I am really looking forward to this one, glad you enjoyed it!

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    1. Thanks, Michele! I hope you enjoy it as well! Thanks for visiting.

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  2. This sounds like a good summer read, I like the premise of the MC reconnecting with her mother's family.

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    1. It was classic Sarah Dessen! I hope you enjoy it, Angela. Thanks for dropping by.

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