Author: Sarah Dessen
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Thank you to Viking Juvenile and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Summary: 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.
Why I Loved It: Considering that Along for the Ride is one of my favorite Sarah Dessen's books, I was psyched to find out that her new book was going to take place in Colby. There is something about coming back to a setting with an author that you love. It's a familiar comfort plus there is just a certain quality to Sarah Dessen's writing that is just like curling up to catch up with a distant good friend. It's a type of story that I can truly appreciate.
So back in the beach town of Colby, Emaline *Ms. Dessen has a thing for interesting names* has just graduated high school and is in the summer before college *not unlike in Along for the Ride*. Still, unlike a lot of Ms. Dessen's books, I think this story was a little different. It wasn't really a boy meets girl kind of story with the focus on the love interest. For me, the story revolves around Emaline's relationships in her life and how they relate to her future. It's not my favorite of her books, but I still liked it very much by the time I got to the end.
Considering I never went off to college, I can just imagine how hard that kind of move that would be. The summer before would be incredibly hard. Coming to terms with the impact college is going to have on her life, her family, and her relationship with her father is a huge part of the book. Her friends are also dealing with what's going to happen. Emaline has two best friends: a guy and a girl. And they just so happen to be dating. And they are complete opposites. I'm sure that would be an awkward situation to be in for anyone, but I found that aspect of the book to be really interesting. I thought Ms. Dessen did it well.
The secondary characters, as always, were a great and huge part of what makes the book work well together. Emaline's friends Daisy and Morris, the new-to-town director Ivy, and Emaline's family were all a huge part of the book. They worked really well and added something special to the story.
My absolute favorite part of the book though was how Ms. Dessen brought out the difference between a father and a dad. In the story, Emaline's mom has in her in high school. Emaline's father ends up not playing a role in her life. When Emaline is two, her mother marries. He has two children and so together they form a family. Emaline never remembered a time before her dad came along. When she is ten, due to a school family project, she ends up trying to reconnect with her father to get some answers for her project. Somewhat of a relationship is formed. Still, Emaline recognizes that there is a difference between the names father and dad. Considering that sounds so much like my own life *minus reconnecting with my father*, I really could relate to that part of the story and the way the relationships that are explored. It felt incredibly true to the way life works.
Now I said that the focus was not really on a love interest. There are still some boys in the story. Let me say that I really liked Luke, and I sincerely wished some of the unfortunate events in the beginning didn't happen. I was rooting for them to figure it all out. So then enters Theo. In complete honesty, I really disliked him from the beginning. Maybe it's cause Emaline's father like him. I'm not completely sure. Anyways, there is some romance.
In the end, I did enjoy the book but it lacked the huge tug on my emotions that is normally there in her books. It was still a good read, and it was a good choice for this oncoming summer *that is already here in Texas.*
Low Points: Theo really is an idiot. The story drags a little. I think it could have been a bit shorter, and I would have enjoyed it more.
High Points: Emaline is a great character. There are some awesome secondary characters that really carry a huge chunk of the story. The setting is perfect for a summer read. I really enjoyed how Morris is pulled out and developed in such a deep way throughout the novel.
Who Should Read It: Sarah Dessen fans, light contemporary YA lovers, and those looking for a good summer read.
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