A Review of The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
Viking Juvenile, 2013
by REBECCA, September 11, 2013
“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?”
The Moon and More is Sarah Dessen’s long-awaited twenty-thousandth novel and I was kind of looking forward to it, hoping it would be in the vein of my favorite Dessens, Just Listen, The Truth About Forever, and Lock and Key.
Sadly, The Moon and More retreads the most familiar (and least compelling) of Sarah Dessen territory. As with all her books, it’s a well-written, well-woven slice-of-life. Unlike her better books, though, The Moon and More‘s characters are, for the most part, bland and unlikeable. Our protag, Emaline is bland, uninsightful, and I didn’t care about her at all. She doesn’t have any interests, really—doesn’t seem to read, care about movies or politics or sports or . . . anything. Her only charming moments were when she interacted with her little brother. Theo, the geeky and impassioned urbanite who Emaline dates after Luke, is annoying, selfish, and snobby, and Dessen doesn’t make any attempt to hide it, which made me like Emaline even less for being interested in him.
Every Sarah Dessen book has a theme—a takeaway message. The better books, like Just Listen and The Truth About Forever, have subtle and intricate themes that drive the books forward. The theme of The Moon and More, as you can guess from the title, is balancing expectations of grandeur with those of moderation. Emaline’s Not From Here father and boyfriend think that anything that isn’t everything is nothing, but Emaline is happy with more more modest goals. I think this is a theme that a lot of readers can identify with and I applaud Dessen for writing a protagonist who isn’t consumed by being superlative (even if she does renege a bit at the end). As a theme, however, it’s . . . well, boring. Moderation, sadly, does not make for a dynamic narrative.
The Moon and More has it’s funny lines and its charming moments. Summer jobs, always a Dessen feature, loom large here, and the scenes of Emaline’s job working for her family’s realty company are detailed and interesting. The split between the locals and tourists in this small beach town are, as always, well-drawn. Really, though, I read the first 200 pages of The Moon and More wondering when it was going to start and the next 200 wondering when it was going to end. The Moon and More reads, more than anything, like a dull Sarah Dessen knockoff—as predictable and formulaic as her books’ covers.