The Moon and More is Sarah Dessen’s eleventh novel. I have eagerly anticipated many of their releases, going back to my middle school days. When a person has written eleven books, they can’t all be brilliant. Even Sarah Dessen, one of my favorite young adult writers, has a few books that don’t work for me. I will admit that I was afraid The Moon and More would be one of them.
It was the book’s description that concerned me. Emaline lives in Colby, the beach town featured in several Dessen books, and she seemingly has a charmed life with a long-term boyfriend and supportive mother, stepfather, and sisters. Of course, her biological father thinks that she deserves more, in the form of an Ivy League education. And so does Theo, the boy in town for the summer with a documentary film crew.
Okay, I thought, so what exactly is this girl’s problem? She has a great boyfriend and the chance to go to a great college? Fortunately this plot summary belies a lot of the book’s drama. Emaline’s mother became pregnant as a teenager when her father was spending the summer in Colby. She thinks of her stepfather as her real dad, and her biological father only becomes involved in her life when they can relate in the safe zone of academics. The Moon and More deals with the tension between remembering where you come from and imagining how far you can go. Those themes of family loyalty versus personal achievement certainly resonate with me, and Dessen has crafted a story that explores them beautifully.
One of my favorite aspects of the novel is the parallels Dessen draws between Emaline’s romantic interests and her father figures. Her boyfriend Luke is a working class guy like her stepfather, both good-natured and practical. Theo is a visitor to Colby, just as Emaline’s father was years ago. Dessen picks the perfect details to bring her characters to life, and that skill serves her well in illustrating the similarities and differences between these men.
On her website, Sarah Dessen shares her inspiration for The Moon and More. Plus there’s an adorable video with her daughter playing in the background. I also enjoyed this Slate article where she and her editor discuss—what else?—the editing process. Just when I think I couldn’t love Sarah more, she gives me another reason.