Review of The Rest of the Story

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The Rest of the Story

Sarah Dessen

Balzer + Bray

June 4, 2019


BlurbFrom #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah Dessen comes a big-hearted, sweeping novel about a girl who reconnects with a part of her family she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl—and falls in love, all over the course of a magical summer.

Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when Emma was twelve. 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 that 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 also divided into two people. 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—Emma or Saylor—will win out?

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SASCHA DARLINGTON’S REVIEW

What do Sarah Dessen and Fredrik Backman have in common? They are two of my favorite writers and I have read every book they’ve published! (I don’t believe there are any other writers I’ve read every book of. I may have to check. 😉 ) Despite the fact that they might seem on two ends of a spectrum, their beautiful writing, insightful observations, and sense of humor make them closer than you might think.

Sarah Dessen’s latest, The Rest of the Story is a story with a huge heart. It’s about Emma Saylor Payne who goes to her maternal grandmother’s to spend three weeks when her father and his new wife go on their honeymoon and Emma’s original plans fall through. Although initially nervous about staying with people she hasn’t seen since she was four, Emma Saylor finds herself easily falling into and in love with this loud messy family–as I did.

There is so much to love about this story. Sarah Dessen just excels at providing characters, some who might be vilified in other novels, and making you care about them. Case in point, Waverly, Emma Saylor’s mother. We never meet Waverly because she died 5 years earlier from a drug overdose, but she looms larger than life. She was an alcoholic and substance abuser. She had issues. But she was loved. No one forgets about her or tries to paint over who she was. And Emma…Saylor in her grandmother’s home, wants to know about her mother. Even, Saylor’s father admits that he remembers everything about her. She was magical. And, in any other novel, she might not be allowed to be magical. Dessen does not white-wash this, however. Waverly is a cautionary point. The reason why Emma Saylor doesn’t drink, why she tries to be in control.

As is typical in a Dessen world, there are no black and white characters, no good and bad. There are characters who are layered and who we, as readers, grow to care about. I often say that I wish a novel would never end, but this one? Oh, I just wanted to hang out with these people as long as I could even though I read the book in a day. I loved the messy family; hard-working ethical Roo; Bailey, who dreams of a golden life and might be destined to follow in Waverly’s footsteps, except that she just might be more grounded; of vulnerable Gordon, who misses her mom; of prickly, pregnant Trinity; of steadfast Oxford; Steel Magnolia Mimi; Nana.

At the heart of the novel is Emma Saylor who has feet in two worlds. She has her friends Bridget and Ryan, one of whom provides a startling revelation that she tries so hard to react just right to. And she has her new family that she never wants to give up. I loved how she felt so bad about not seeing them mostly because she didn’t really know of their existence.

Dessen just pulls on all of the heartstrings in this novel. Yes, Emma Saylor has a different sense of humor, one I evidently share, as does Roo. She has neuroses but when push comes to shove, she vanquishes those demons.

There’s an unexpectedly dramatic scene near the end that had me wondering what’s going to happen? Frankly, when you’re reading a good writer, anything is possible, and I didn’t know if Dessen might sacrifice someone at the end. I guess you’ll have to read to find out because I’m not spoiling anything.

So. Yep. I loved this book. I highly recommend it.

Will you like this book? Probably. Even if you can’t imagine that you might read a young adult novel, you might like this one. Dessen’s writing is beautiful and frequently poetic. Her characterization is strong. Her plotting and pacing are on target. There was not a single thing about this novel that didn’t ring true for me, that I could criticize.

I borrowed this book from my library.


rating:

5-butterflies

5 out of 5 butterflies


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