Title: Once and for All
Author: Sarah Dessen
Date Started: July 31
Date Finished: August 1
Format: Hardcover from my shelf
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.
I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to start this review and I’m really coming out blank. I’ve said before that I really like Sarah Dessen’s work. She is one of the first contemporary novel writers that I fell in love with all the way back in junior high. Almost 14 years later, and her thirteenth novel has stumped me. Don’t get me wrong it was her typical novel – female MC, set during the summer, enter guy who would probably not be female MC’s type until they start to bond, etc. – but there was something different here that wasn’t in Dessen’s previous novels before. And it was a dark underlay. I mean, I’m used to MC’s having some sort of tragedy surrounding them – Annabell in Just Listen, Ruby in Lock and Key – but this one was a little bit too real.
*spoiler alert* Louna’s dark history has to deal with her boyfriend Ethan. The great love of her life – at seventeen – who has made Louna such a cynic and guarded in matters of love. There is a mystery behind what happened to him that takes several chapters and many, many pages to unfold. Ethan and her met at one of the weddings that her mother plans, and they fell for each other hard. In almost a Romeo & Juliet kind of timeline, they’re in love before he leaves by eight the next morning. They communicate regularly even though he lives in New Jersey, until the worst thing happens. Ethan is in the school involved in a mass shooting. Ethan doesn’t survive.
Jeez, at the moment that little fact is thrown out there I couldn’t believe it. I’m used to light and fluffy with maybe a little bit of darkness thrown in every few books or so. Apparently Once and for All was one of those books. And it really shouldn’t have gotten to me like that, but it did and it made the light/fluffy conversations with Ambrose (plus Ambrose’s whole character) seem a little forced. I mean, I get that this book was really about moving on after a situation like that, but yikes.
Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Once the whole school shooting victim is out there, it was actually good to see Louna move past all that with her friendship with Ambrose. Even if at times I found him completely annoying.
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