Dessen Provides Another Warm and Fuzzy Contemporary | Review: The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

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Get ready for the Queen of YA Contemporaries. If you love Sarah Dessen, you're going to adore The Rest of the Story.


Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen 
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Before I get into the review, I want to say I'm a massive Sarah Dessen fan. MASSIVE. Like, for life. Ah. I mean, who my age isn't? And, okay, maybe not everyone is but I think most of us have a nice Dessen collection on our shelves at this point. She's the writer that nudged me into non-fantasy YA, you know? It's fairly obvious why The Rest of the Story was coming in hot on my TBR this past summer.

We all know that it isn't summer without a cozy little sweet read by Dessen.

Like all Dessen novels, it is a contemporary that feels as right as rain. It's about growing up and getting to that place where you're finally discovering pieces of what makes you, well, you. It also takes us down the path of discovering more about your family, tying it into self discovery in a way that feels realistic and smooth.

What I loved most about The Rest of the Story may very well be the most grating trait for others: Emma Saylor, the story's main character, changes between two names often and adapts a seemingly different persona as such. At home, she is simply Emma, and at the lake she is Saylor. Two massive parts of her.

There's this underlying meaning to the different name for different locations--that sometimes, there is a split in each of us and it makes us no less ourselves.

I'm definitely someone who flips between nicknames (my friends at home so rarely call me Jessica, instead, they use an unrelated nickname, my parents sometimes refer to me by a nickname related to my middle name, sometimes people shorten Jessica to Jess and what not) so it was kind of cool to see someone else do the same.

We see the exploration of grief, friendship, family and romance, along with other serious topics, too throughout the course of The Rest of the Story. The novel, of course, has a balance to it that often is lacking in contemporaries. Longtime readers know: Dessen never fails at capturing these real life elements.

Admittedly, The Rest of the Story isn't necessarily Dessen in her strongest form it is still a warm and fuzzy inducing read. All you need is a little sunshine and time, and you'll lose yourself in it. Armed with characters who are genuine and feel like friends rather than fictional characters, its characters are what makes up for its seemingly lackluster pace and plot.

By the end of The Rest of the Story, we feel a sense of accomplishment and truly know the characters as they grow and develop. Much like with every book by Dessen, I closed this book with a smile on my face.

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