I received this book for free from Viking Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Once and for All by Sarah Dessen
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 6th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Family, Friendship, Young Adult
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As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen's thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.
Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that's why she's cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm's length. But Ambrose isn't about to be discouraged, now that he's met the one girl he really wants.
Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.
When I think about summer, Sarah Dessen is the quintessential queen of the summer read and has been for 13 books now. Viking Books for Young Readers knows what they’re doing when they release her books during summer. Once and For All is Sarah Dessen’s newest release and something I knew I’d read the second I could. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t even read the synopsis of this. It was Dessen and I knew I’d read it no matter what. This book was good, probably not my favorite Dessen book of all time, but there were some aspects I enjoyed.
Louna comes from a small, tight-knit family consisting of herself, her mother, Natalie, and her mother’s wedding planning partner, William. It had been just the three of them for as long as Louna could remember. Being a part of weddings all the time, and coming from a failed relationship herself, Natalie and William – although I don’t think intentionally – instilled a sense of love not always lasting forever in Louna’s mind. She had a great love once but that relationship is no more. That relationship changed her in so many ways and she’s having a hard time seeing what’s in front of her now.
The synopsis describes Ambrose entering the picture and trying to win over Louna basically from the beginning. I don’t particularly like that. As I mentioned, I didn’t read the summary and I’m actually glad I hadn’t because I kind of feel like that gives the reader all the cards in their hand before the story even starts. When I read it, I saw Ambrose, an almost arrogant, overly self-confident guy enter Louna’s life by chance and then staying only because he had to per his mother’s request. I saw him and Louna get more comfortable around each other, get to be better friends, watch them save each other from bad dates, and slowly, over time I saw Ambrose reveal his feelings unintentionally over time. I kind of had a sneaking suspicion he liked Louna, but it slowly unfolded, to my delight, in front of my unsuspecting eyes.
Louna’s best friend Jilly was one of my favorite parts of the story but unfortunately, I didn’t feel like I got enough of her. She’s an incredibly awesome big sister to a handful of younger siblings. Her parents run a food truck so they’re always busy, leaving Jilly to babysit the kids. She never once protested this. She supported her parents, were willing to part with her plans to watch her siblings, and did so like it was nothing. How many teenagers do you know who would be like this?! I thought it was awesome and spoke volumes about her. Now because of this, we only got to see her here and there and I loved her and Louna’s friendship.
So this brings me to a part of this book I didn’t really like. The majority of the book is centered on Louna working for her mom doing the wedding planning thing. I would say a good 90% of this book is solely focused on that. I thought the details of wedding planning seemed extremely realistic and convincing so I was appreciative of that, but it made Louna’s outside of work life take a backseat. In favor of getting to see Louna go on a bunch of dates (per a bet), spending the rare but quality time with her best friend, getting to see her and Ambrose become better friends, we only got to see her in her prime element of wedding planning. Her life outside work wasn’t shown much. It was sort of just told in passing. Now, maybe this was done completely on purpose and precisely the whole point? She was so focused on her job and going through the motions of life so she couldn’t get hurt again and maybe that’s why her story was so focused on her work. I’m not sure. I get it, but I still would have liked to see more of the outside.
Some aspects of this book were very well done that although this review is getting long, I felt like they needed to be mentioned. Bit by bit we get to see Louna and her previous boyfriend, Ethan’s story unfold. Some of it was probably a little too good to be true but it was still captivating none the less. Dessen started it by just inserting a fleeting thought here or there, then maybe a paragraph, and then eventually we’d get a whole chapter at a time mixed in throughout the book. The chapters of Ethan is where I read excitedly. I wanted to know more. Dessen pieces their story together in a way that I remembered those details way more than I was remembering the details of Louna’s present day. Take that how you will.
By the end of the novel, the story came back around full circle which I always enjoy seeing. There was a pretty terrifying scene towards the end where I had a mini heart attack but again, full circle. I thought it was wrapped up nicely and in true Dessen fashion: maybe not the ending you were expecting or hoping, but the ending that was true to life.
A good book with strong, but not featured enough, secondary characters. I loved how the backstory was delivered in pieces and over time which made it feel more real. An interesting premise with a neat job but I wish we had seen more of Louna’s life outside of work. Wrapped up in true Dessen fashion and something I love to expect from her: a sense of realness when it comes to life.
All right, guys! As an official welcome back present to all of you, I’m giving away a copy of Once and For All by Sarah Dessen !! I feel it’s only right because Viking was super sweet and sent me an ARC of this before I even officially made my comeback so I’m paying it forward 🙂
- One (1) winner will receive Once and For All by Sarah Dessen in format of choice
- International as long as I can get the book to you somehow (i.e. The Book Depository, ebook, etc)
- Ends July 6 at midnight
- Winner will receive an email and must respond within 48 hours.