Oh Sarah Dessen, what a curveball you threw me with The Moon and More. I picked up this book, fully expecting a nice, predictable YA book. It was a really hot summer's day and I just wanted a book that was fun and didn't need me to really work to get the story nor really made me think all that much about my own life. My go-to author in those cases? Sarah Dessen. Easy romantic love stories - yes please.
But The Moon and More completely threw me off, in the best way possible. Was it an easy read? Yes. Was it fun? Yes. What is predictable? NO. Was it brainless? NO.
The Moon and More is the story of Emaline (sorry, but just a small note: that's the stupidest name I've ever heard) and her summer before heading off to college. It's obviously a summer full of life deciding moments and as a reader, you get introduced to boyfriend Luke and almost immediately sense that he'll be part of "a life deciding moment". Though not in the way you may expect.
Emaline works for her family's rental company in her small, smalllll beach town, with her two half-sisters, her stepdad (who she just calls dad) and her mother. Her father (note the distinction between "dad" and "father" - something very important to Emaline) conceived her as a part of a summer-gone-bad-teenage-mistake and has been in and (mostly) out of her life since then. Until he reaches out and wants to help her. Again, more "life deciding moments".
This all sounds very predictable and I wasn't surprised at all when Theo appears: hot, from the city and wildly intelligent and ambitious. Cue the drama.
Except, Theo turns out to be the biggest plot twist of this book. Without spoiling it too much, he turns out to be someone you did not expect! And he doesn't go through something traumatic and changes or suddenly shows his true colours - Dessen writes his change in a subtle way. You don't notice he is changing, until suddenly you realise he isn't the Theo of the start of the book anymore. With small actions, he transforms from NYC hottie to... jerk. It's subtle enough to creep up on the reader, but will Emaline notice?
Furthermore, Emaline has to make some important decisions about her future life. As a 24 year old, on the brink of moving to London and starting a new MA and trying to figure out where this website is going, I related to Emaline so much in this aspect. She goes back and forth in her decisions, is unsure whether to follow conventions, ambitions or her heart and surprisingly enough, she kinda doesn't follow any of them at the end. She slowly finds her own way throughout the story in a realistic and reassuring way - we'll all find out what we are supposed to do, where we are supposed to be and who we need for this in our lives.
And that is what makes this book so special - it takes all the cliché elements from a romantic YA novel and turns them completely upside down with the excellent writing of Sarah Dessen. It seems cliché in the beginning, but she drops enough hints and clues for the intelligent reader to pick up where the story is heading early on.
So actually, this book is a nice, easy, beachy YA book, but with a major twist that will actually make you more interested in the story and the characters. Bravo Sarah Dessen.