This is the first Sarah Dessen book that I’ve ever read and I bought it without knowing much about it – only that it was written by Sarah Dessen who some consider to be the queen of contemporary. And considering that the woman manages to whip out books like some kind of machine, I just randomly picked this one to be my starting point (I also have Saint Anything, her newest release, to get my teeth into too). It’s safe to say that I think my meaning of life was to discover Sarah Dessen. Everything that I like in a book is basically in every single Sarah Dessen book – or so I’ve heard. This book was filled with romance and amazing characters and a really beautiful and detailed setting. I really liked her writing style – it was really engaging and quick to read and I found myself really getting involved in the story. I did have a couple of issues with the plot, and I did think this book had a few problems with its tone. But, considering this isn’t one of Sarah Dessen’s better known or well loved works, I have high hopes for the rest of her books and I can’t wait to discover the rest of her books.
Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough. Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby. Emaline’s mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?
Firstly, I really loved the characters in this book and I found them all to be really relatable and entertaining. I especially loved Emaline and I really connected with her the most – we share the same perfectionist and slightly ambitious nature- and I really liked seeing her grow more as a character. I also loved the character of Ivy because she was so blunt and frosty – and this made for some hilarious moments – but I also loved seeing her warmer, more caring side when she is away from her work. I loved the dynamic that Emaline had with her mother, step-father and two step-sisters Amber and Margo and I think they made a very relatable family yet all the members of the family were their own individual characters with their own personalities and ambitions. Luke was a really good addition too, and I really liked him and Emaline together, and I strongly believe that if the book continued, then they would definitely end up back together. I really didn’t like Theo really – I found him quite hard to visualise and his personality bordered on annoying quite a lot of the time. The rest of the characters were really fun and enjoyable and I think that one of Sarah Dessen’s strong points is creating intriguing and interesting characters.
I really liked the beach setting that this book had – and I really think this added to my enjoyment of this book as I am currently on my holidays myself in a Welsh coastal town which might not be as sunny but there is definitely sand. Sarah Dessen really created a fantastic backdrop for the events to take place and I loved learning about the town of Colby. I felt like a lot of plot was emotion driven and although I did like the whole aspect to do with Emaline’s father, I think there were quite a few plot-holes especially to do with Theo. Their relationship really didn’t seem realistic and I really don’t think a strong character like Emaline would have gone along with everything that happened. There was also nothing in the plot that really shocked me, everything was sort of predictable. I did love the romance aspects though – more so with Luke than Theo – and I really liked the way how family and friends were incorporated into the story, and I loved how Morris and Daisy managed to influence Emaline’s life. I think this book could also use a little more humour, although there were some funny lines from Emaline.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one and I’m really glad that I’ve delved into the world of Sarah Dessen. I’d give this one a 4 out of 5 stars and I think her books are perfect reads for me as they have everything that I like. If you are looking for a quick, fun romantic read then I would definitely recommend this – and it makes a perfect beach read!