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Friday, June 23, 2017

Lefty's Lowdown: Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

Once and for All by Sarah Dessen
Published: June 6, 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
If you didn't know, Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors on the planet and this was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I just knew that with Sarah Dessen comes summer and adorable romance and heaps of self-discovery. And I was not let down! ONCE AND FOR ALL has the typical Sarah Dessen essence, but it also feels different than her previous works. Sweet and poignant and fun, but also relevant to current events.

What really attracted me to the premise of this book is that it deals largely with the wedding planning industry, which I'M FASCINATED BY. Honestly, I watch one episode of Say Yes to the Dress and I've already got three different weddings planned for people who don't exist. But I digress. I just adored the way Dessen showed the behind-the-scenes of the perfect (and usually not-so-perfect) wedding, and the way that shapes Louna, our protagonist.

Something else I really enjoyed while reading was that this book has two different story lines playing out: Louna's past, in which we  follow along as she falls in love for the first time and her whole world crashes around her, and Louna's present, in which she is finally moving on and shedding her cynical ways. I fell in love with the two different narratives, and I was equally engrossed in both of them.

In her past, we meet Ethan, who is sweet and charming and stole her heart instantly. We see their relationship's glorious beginning--one night of pure connection--and my heart was absolutely humming as I read. However, it was also aching, as we know things do not end well between the two of them. If anyone has seen the musical The Last Five Years, I was getting that sort of vibe from it. I was really rooting for their relationship and falling in love right alongside them, despite its tragic conclusion. I've seen some people complain about the insta-love between them, and how their relationship moved much too quickly, but that was sort of the point, in my opinion. Sarah Dessen shows us that while these magnificent connections exist with people, that's not the only love there is.

In her present, Louna meets Ambrose. Now, it took me a while to warm up to him, but again, I think that's the point. He's like a ball of energy and disregard. What I really admire about his character is that Dessen made the love interest annoying. Intentionally. Usually when a romantic prospect is "annoying" it's because he's so arrogant and smug, but this is different. He's a little bit obnoxious and I have mad respect because HOW DO YOU EVEN PULL THAT OFF. You morph into Sarah Dessen, that's how. As the story progressed. he really grew on me. He's more than just his obnoxious behavior. By the end of the novel, I NEEDED him and Louna to get together. Not a want--a need. They both developed so much by the end of the novel and I knew they were right for each other, that they would make each other better and continue to grow.

I do have one complaint. This is the reason that I couldn't give the book 5 stars, despite how incredible it was. And it seems small, but it made a huge difference, and it's simply that I wish we had more MOMENTS between Louna and Ambrose throughout the novel. More unsolicited sexual tension, ya know? I wanted Louna to more actively deny her feelings and I wanted Ambrose to hint at his more than he did.

Really, though, this novel was just lovely. I teared up at the end--not because it was sad, but because it felt like a piece of my heart had just concluded. I have so many thoughts and feelings that aren't even possible to articulate, but once again, Sarah Dessen has blessed us with an emotional gem of a book. I will definitely return to this one in the future.

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