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...”
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