G. Bianco, 2019
Sarah Dessen bring summer nostalgia and self-identity journey in The Rest of the Story
Bestselling author, Sarah Dessen, returns with her most recent novel about a young girl trying to reconnect with a past she’s never known. Dessen, best known for her young adult fiction/romance novels has captivated readers worldwide with novels like The Truth About Forever, This Lullaby, and Saint Anything. Her newest novel, The Rest of the Story, holds that same charm as her other novels and holds a deeper meaning than first appears on the surface.
Emma Saylor doesn’t remember much about her mother, who died when she was ten years old, but she always remembered stories about her mother growing up at the big lake where her and her dad met. It’s just Emma and her dad now and she doesn’t remember going up to that famous lake. Things change for Emma when she unexpectedly must stay with her grandmother and cousins up at the lake, who she hasn’t seen since she was little. With two vastly different communities living up on North Lake, she realizes while her mother lived on the working class side of the lake, her father would vacation on the North Lake resort side. The more time Emma spends with her mother’s family, she feels like there’s two different sides to her: Emma, who is her father’s daughter, and Saylor, her mother’s daughter. On top of all of this, a boy named Roo, her best friend from childhood, re-enters her life and may hold to key to her mother’s, as well as Saylor’s, past. With her time at North Lake short, Emma must figure out which side of herself she wants to be: Emma or Saylor?
Fans of Dessen’s previous work will fall in love with her all over again after reading Emma’s story. With late-night lake parties, Fourth of July celebrations, and ice cream trucks, Dessen brings this fictional lake town to life and gives readers that nostalgic summer setting that makes this the perfect summer read. However, this story is so much more than kids having fun on the lake. With funny and memorable characters, Dessen perfectly casts the dysfunctional, yet lovable, family; the friendly boy next door; and the snobby boys from across the lake all into one great story, which rounds out the classic summer tale.
The facade of a YA summer book with romance does fades a bit to allow Emma Saylor’s identity journey to come into view. This young girl struggling with the identity she’s known her whole life and the new piece of herself she’s just discovered shines through, and her willingness to fight to keep that part of herself alive is wonderful. The differences between North Lake and Lake North, the two opposite sides of the same lake, parallels Emma Saylor’s mini identity crisis is trying to figure out which side she truly belongs on. The wealthy, put-together picturesque side of Lake North versus the run-down, yet charming middle class side of North Lake go back and forth in Emma’s mind as she tries to reconcile the two within herself and her two sides of the family.
This novel leaves you wanting to continue reading the escapades of Emma Saylor’s North Lake summer, and almost makes time stand still. Quite similar to summer itself, readers won’t want this novel to end and sends the message that leaving your comfort zone can sometimes work out for the best. As the blurb on the back of the book says, “Sometimes you have to leave home to find it...”
One of Book Of The Month’s April Picks and written by acclaimed author Sally Rooney, Normal People tells the story of two young adults trying to find their place in the world while also realizing what the other truly means to them.
In high school, Connell is popular and Marianne is a loner. They are friendly and form a strange connection, but do not hang out in the same social circles. In college, Connell is now a bit of an outcast, while Marianne has finally found her own group of friends. Though they aren't as close as they were, Connell and Marianne are continuously drawn to one another. But with Marianne’s self-destructive tendencies and Connell’s search for meaning in his life, they must each confront how far they would go to save one another.
While I do have a strong appreciation for this novel, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book. I didn’t connect with the characters and frankly didn’t understand half of the reasons for why they did certain things. I got way too frustrated with the lack of communication between Connell and Marianne. I could understand why they were messed up in their own particular ways, but I found myself waiting for the moment when they would connect and share their overall feeling and emotions with one another, and it didn’t happen until the last 20 pages of the novel!
I also felt like I was missing some backstory for certain characters. For example, how did Lorraine get pregnant with Connell? What was her situation like as a single mother? Why was Marianne’s family so abusive towards her? How did Lorraine get to be employed by Marianne’s mother? I felt like there were so many unanswered questions.
I also found the pacing of the novel to be a bit confusing. The chapter breaks were interesting and helped me keep track of what month and year it was, but within the chapters, there was too much back and forth between past and present. I also didn’t like how there were no quotation marks to connote speech. As the reader, you get used to it, but it was a small pet peeve of mine while reading it.
I also didn’t like how broken Marianne was that she let people do whatever they wanted to her, and then as soon as she finally gets together with Connell she thinks “ah yes I can submit and be dependent on him now. And he won’t abuse me!” I was hoping for more of a redemptive arc for her where she realizes that she shouldn’t be so submissive and that Connell truly only wants what’s best for her. I just wish she would’ve realized how unhealthy her mentality going into a new relationship is.
Maybe this kind of contemporary novel just wasn’t for me? There were a lot of underlying psychological themes regarding mental illness (like depression), physical and emotional abuse, toxic/ unhealthy relationships, and self-worth which was interesting to read about. However, I did find it hard to pick up this book after putting it down. It was definitely a book I had to force myself to read in order to get into it again. I think I was also a bit disappointed because it wasn’t as romantic as I was expecting it to be. It wasn’t a bad book, per se, it just wasn’t my absolute favorite.
Hi! My name is Elisa and my bookshelf is quite literally overflowing! Join me in my journey of reading as many books as humanly possible!