When I was in my senior year of high school, I picked up a book titled This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen. I loved the cover of it, and I loved music. I was actively playing bass and writing emo-sap lyrics in one of my since shredded journals and figured it would make for great summer reading. Soon after completing it, I needed more. I purchased all of her books that were available to me at the time, and continued purchasing them as I would anxiously await the next release. Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors. She helped me get reluctant students to read (just ask my former juniors at HHS–Dreamland was a hit!), and I developed numerous unit plans on her novels during my undergrad studies when I was still working with high school and middle school students. Now, years later, in a completely different work and teaching environment, I still come back to her books for the sense of nostalgia and fond memories that her writing provides to me. Her newest release The Moon and More is no exception!
I loved how the protagonist, Emaline grapples with so many changes and new developments in her life. Going to college, changing relationships, and forming new ones, left me with a feeling of comfort as I read. Keith and I are currently moving and making new decisions, and I could relate to Emaline’s conflicts, and, I’m sure, so could many younger readers. Clyde, a local artist, Luke, Emaline’s boyfriend, and the others she interacts with are real and raw. But what affects me the most in Dessen’s novels are her settings.
Many of her texts take place in beach towns which bring me back to a time of innocence and fun. My family used to rent a beach house in Westerly, R.I. each summer and I have so many fond memories that tug at my heartstrings and remind me to be thankful and to always reflect back on the gifts we are given. Each summer, we would pack the car and I would spend time with my cousins, Aunts, Uncles, and run into the ocean fearless. The sand would tickle my feet and kick up my shorts as I ran directly to the waves with my parents watching from the deck. As I got older, I would bring a friend, or boyfriend, and eventually the guest of honor was always Keith. When we talk about some of the best times we’ve shared together, we always go back to that house and those great, carefree, sand and salt-filled vacations where we were barefoot all week and drank wine coolers with breakfast.
Why mention all of that? Because Dessen brings me back to that place in The Moon and More. She brings me back to sitting on the beach the summer before my undergrad career. She takes me to a place where I can remember feeling truly free, and she does this with her ability to weave words that pull you in and don’t let go until that last page. This amazing summer read is great for getting back to what matters and what’s important. As I turned that last page of The Moon and More, I felt bittersweet emotions. Saying goodbye to Emaline (or to any character for a true reader) is hard, but knowing that I am blessed to have a relationship with an author who can bring me back to such a wonderful time in my life keeps me waiting for the next journey Dessen will take me on.