Book Review: Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

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.

If you aren’t aware of my pure love of Sarah Dessen’s work, feel free to check out my essay titled, “Discovering Dessen,” here.

I want to give a huge shout out to my OTSP Secret Sister for sending me an ARC of this book for my birthday, it was SUCH a wonderful surprise, and I read the whole novel in one sitting the night it arrived. Thank you so much!

Okay, now that my “business” is attended to, let’s get to the real reason any of you are here: the review of Dessen’s 13th novel. Her publishing career is officially a teenager! Now I’m embarassed because that was a ridiculous joke, but anyway…

Dessen never dawdles when it comes to kicking off her narratives and the voice of Louna comes to life immediately.  She’s headstrong, levelheaded, and really good at helping her mom out with the family wedding business. We find out rather quickly how cynical she is and how much pain she is in over a lost love, but the exact details about this are told in a very brilliant way.

Dessen weaves together flashbacks (told from most recent to the very beginning of the relationship that Louna had with her first love), and I think it’s absolutely wonderful.  Not only since she’s telling it backwards, kind of, but that there’s flashbacks to showcase the emotions that Louna was feeling and it really puts the reader head first into the same love that Louna felt.  Plus, we get some shoutouts to former characters and places from her books, which I always enjoy.  I know that some people don’t like the use of flashbacks as a narrative device, but I think Dessen’s way of doing it makes it much more fresh and less like an  old storytelling trick.

My Dessen Collection

I applaud Dessen for including a very heavy topic in this book that we haven’t really seen in her work before (don’t get me wrong, she’s had some very emotional topics), and I think she did it respectfully and showed the effect it can have.  It also brought tears to my eyes, but I guess it really wouldn’t be a Sarah Dessen book if I didn’t cry!

The meet cute for Louna and Ambrose is pretty adorable as she has to literally grab him and drag him to his own  mother’s wedding.  This is just a sneak peek of the shenanigans that Ambrose does throughout the whole novel.  In all honesty, he’s probably my favorite male character/love interest that Dessen has written since Dexter in This Lullaby.  Ambrose is witty, clumsy, laid back, and anxious at the same time.  He is fabulous. I do love how Dessen is able to show the reader, through Louna’s point of view, how much he cares for her…without Louna actually realizing it throughout the majority of the novel. It’s awesome.

Also, the secondary characters of Louna’s mom and her business partner are so well rounded in this novel too.  I think the main issue I have with some contemporary novels is that only the main couple characters will be fully fleshed out, but Dessen doesn’t do this in Once and For All.  They made me laugh out loud multiple times.

Keep an eye out for this one, out next week June 6.  You definitely don’t want to miss this.

5 Bards.

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