Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
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? (courtesy of Goodreads.)
Sarah Dessen has mastered the art of crafting a quality contemporary romance / family drama novel. Her books are a mixture of substance and fluff - in a good way. The Moon and More is another solid hit.
I often talk about how much I like Sarah Dessen. In actuality, The Moon and More is only the second book of hers I've read. I've jumped on the Sarah Dessen hype bandwagon. For good reason. Her books are a lot of fun to read. I liked Just Listen better than The Moon and More, but it's still well worth reading.
This isn't a straight-forward romance. It's not really a romance at all. It's more a coming-of-age story. Emaline just finished high school. She's on the verge of making huge changes in her life and is torn between looking forward and cherishing what she has.
The book is full of great characters. Emaline is inherently likable, although not a particularly complex character. I really liked the contrast between Luke and Theo, her old and new love interests. Luke is a good guy, but sometimes even relationships with great people fizzle out. It's clear to the reader that they are fizzling. Theo looks just right. He's a guy I would have jumped for at that age. He thinks Emaline is brilliant and wonderful and tries to help her become more. I really liked the twist that their relationship took, particularly because it's not standard romance fare.
*Spoiler (highlight to read): Theo was a real jerk to Emaline at the end, but he still strikes me as a decent guy. Someone who needs to grow up. I'd like to see how he is around 25 once hopefully his head has deflated a bit.
Family is the heart of this book. Emaline is lucky to have a loving family made up of her mother, grandmother, stepfather, and stepsisters. We see them squabble throughout this book, especially Emaline's snooty older sister Margo, but this is a happy family - something refreshing in the YA world. On the other hand, Emaline's relationship with her mostly absent dad is fraught with dysfunction. But even that is mostly the product of distance and social awkwardness rather than cruelty. The family dynamics on all sides felt nuanced and real. It is the reason to read this book - more than the romance.
There are also well-drawn side characters. Emaline's friends Daisy and Morris. Clyde the artist. Ivy the ambitious, slave-driving, stereotypical New Yorker filmmaker was my favorite. It would have been easy to create a cardboard evil boss, but by the end of this book, Ivy is - not lovable per se, but the reader and Emaline have learned how to handle her.
One thing that did bug me was how many characters, especially Theo and Emaline's dad contrasted East U and Columbia. It was as though Columbia was the Holy Grail and East U was a glorified high school. I went to a state school. I would have loved to go to a private university, but I think that you can get the same quality education at a state university as an Ivy League school if you make an effort. Thankfully, this viewpoint changes as the book goes on.
The Moon and More is a fun, light read. It doesn't break any new ground, but it's fun nonetheless. If you're looking for an epic romance, you should probably go elsewhere. But if you like a character driven novel and strong family plots, this is the book for you.
Rating: 4 / 5
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