Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Review: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Title: The Truth About Forever
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin
Date Published: May 11th, 2004

Description (from the author): Macy’s summer stretches before her, carefully planned and outlined. She will spend her days sitting at the library information desk. She will spend her evenings studying for the SATs. Spare time will be used to help her obsessive mother prepare for the big opening of the townhouse section of her luxury development. But Macy’s plans don’t anticipate a surprising and chaotic job with Wish Catering, a motley crew of new friends, or … Wes. Tattooed, artistic, anything-but-expected Wes. He doesn’t fit Macy’s life at all–so why does she feel so comfortable with him? So … happy? What is it about him that makes her let down her guard and finally talk about how much she misses her father, who died before her eyes the year before? Sarah Dessen delivers a page-turning novel that carries readers on a roller coaster of denial, grief, comfort, and love as we watch a broken but resilient girl pick up the pieces of her life and fit them back together.

Spoiler Alert: The remainder of the review will feature spoilers. 

As I inch further and further away from academics and into the real world of publishing, editing, and all things books, I decided it was in my best interest to expand my horizons and delve into genres that I have little experience in reading. Though I've been on quite the YA kick recently, I had read only one or two YA romances and decided I should explore them a bit more. At the suggestion of my girlfriend, I decided to read Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever, and, once again, her suggestion was terrific.

Before starting, I was expecting a light and fairly quick-moving read, but I was surprised by the richness and depth of the story. The book started off a bit slow, focusing primarily on developing Macy, a character I found incredibly empathetic and real. Macy struggles with loss, control, and the need for perfection throughout the book, and Dessen's strong character building allowed for me to very quickly identify with Macy. The novel's focus on loss and grief was beautifully intertwined with the budding romance between Macy and Wes, as well and Macy's relationship with her mother. Nearly every character struggled with loss and moving on, creating a much heavier read than I was expecting. Still, the novel ended beautifully, seemingly linking Macy's self-discovery with the improving relationship with her mother, as well as the start of a new relationship with Wes.

Indeed, Wes appears to operate as Hope in the novel, and many of the obstacles holding Macy back are cleared away when she finally realizes the way they feel about each other. This, of course, culminates in a beautiful kiss at the end of the book, and Macy's recognition of who she really is.

Yet, the book's slow buildup to the much anticipated kiss left me feeling a bit unbalanced when the novel ended just a few pages later. Despite the strong characterization of Macy, I felt like Wes was underdeveloped, a fact that seemed to take away from the satisfaction of the ending. Many of the book's best scenes were the interactions between Macy and Wes, and I certainly wanted to see greater development with their relationship, especially following the kiss.

Still, Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever was a pleasure to read and certainly impacted one of my upcoming readings. While I would have loved to see more development between Macy and Wes, the novel's excellent treatment of loss and grief combined brilliantly with the romance and made for one of my favorite reads this year.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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