What original remark can I make about the queen of contemporary young adult literature, Sarah Dessen? She’s actually won an award for her contributions to young adult literature, for goodness sakes! And I applaud that, truly I do. But I was not all that excited to pick up The Rest of the Story because I knew I would dread writing a review about it. Not because I was counting on the book to be terrible, but because I knew I would be writing the same review I did for a previous Dessen work, Once and For All.
Ms. Dessen’s body of work is, in my experience, similar to Nicholas Sparks; you’ve read one of her books, you’ve basically read all of them. But you hear all her fans touting the same rabid praise, and so, if you hold the smallest ounce of intrigue toward her work, you cannot help your own curiosity about what perfectly contrived teenage fluff she has produced now.
Emma Saylor lost her mother several years back to an opioid addiction, and she is curious to know the rest of the story of her mother’s life (roll credits—for those who watch CinemaSins). One summer, she finds herself in North Lake, the lakeside town where her mother grew up, and where her mother’s family still lives. The more Emma gets to know her family, she begins to realize there is more to her family—and herself—than she ever thought possible…
Long story short, if you’ve read any Sarah Dessen, you have already read this book. You have a compelling, if somewhat stock, cast of characters, and many cheesy lines about life and love and other sentimental things. The main girl will fall in and out of love, and get in trouble. The smallest, most minute details all come into play at some point. All the pieces are in play here, as a matter of fact.
It’s the same paradox of Sarah Dessen: the writing is compelling, so, even though you can predict most of the story beats, you still read on. You wish there would be more surprises, but something still draws you through the rest of the story (dammit, I did it again).
Now, if you enjoy cozy, borderline saccharine teenage summer romances, then this might be a good match. You won’t be kicking yourself for falling for the Dessen formula yet again, but you won’t have fallen in love with Dessen all over again, either.