negative book review of the moon and more by sarah dessen

Magan: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

negative book review of the moon and more by sarah dessenThe Moon and More by Sarah Dessen ( web| tweet )
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Pages: 435
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: making college plans, family struggles, love triangle
Format read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Previous books reviewed by author: Along for the Ride, Lock and Key, This Lullaby (E), This Lullaby (M)

Summary: Post-graduation, Emaline finds herself struggling with what to do with her life. Does she attend the Ivy League school her biological father thinks she ought to attend or does she go to the state school where her boyfriend Luke will be?

I’m going to mix things up a little bit for this review because I have so, so many thoughts about The Moon and More. 

Pluses:

+ The family dynamic is really strong from the details of Emaline’s biological father’s lack of responsibility to her stepdad’s strong involvement in her life and the craziness that is the family realty business. Her sisters, Amber and Margo, are polar opposites but are awesome minor characters that really added character depth to the story. Oh, and there’s also Beji, Emaline’s half-brother, who is ten years old and idolizes his older sister; he’s also extremely analytical and quite brilliant at solving problems.

+ Emaline was a very strong main character. She’s a smart, level-headed character that’s very driven (to an extent). Confusion creeps into her life when she begins to question what she wants to do with her life. Her biological father and the new city boy in town, Theo, want Emaline to expect more for herself, but she doesn’t want to grow out of Colby by going to some fancy school that will separate her from her family and lead her to have tons of debt.

+ Revisiting Colby was a delight, even though I felt I should have remembered more details than I did from Along for the Ride than I did. Maybe a re-read of that would have gotten me in the right frame of mind and I would have felt even more connected to the story.

Minuses:

– I really struggled with the timeline and sequence of events. There were areas that felt really bumpy to me and I felt they could have used a bit more finessing. (Disclaimer: I did read an ARC for The Moon and More so some things could have been changed in the final print version.)

– The language. One thing I’ve noticed about Dessen’s writing is that no matter the character, she uses the same dialect and phrasing for every. single. one of her characters. Every one. I almost started circling the repetitious parts so I could visually see if I had a plausible reason to be upset. In the end, I realized (sadly) that if someone had read The Moon and More to me in a monotoned voice with zero inflection or character changes, there would have been moments I would not have noticed who was speaking because the characters were indistinguishable.

– The length. The sequence of events in the beginning occur pretty rapidly. BAM BAM BAM — Emaline breaks up with her boyfriend Luke and begins dating Theo. And then things began to creep along for me. While I love following characters around and having a sense of what their real lives are like, there was just a bit too much of that for me. So much that it made the rest of the story drag and the end resolution felt a bit rushed and anticlimactic.

– While I mentioned how much I loved the inclusion of all the family members, I felt there were maybe too many characters to focus on here. There’s a whole storyline about a local artist, the crazy woman who is trying to film a documentary about him, Emaline’s best friend Morris (who I never really got), and so on. This was definitely a story that focused primarily on Emaline’s life and moving forward, but some things (like the kind of love-triangle) weighed the story down.

My book-loving-heart was so full of hope going in to The Moon and More, but I wish I felt a bit more satisfied after finishing it. In the future, I hope Dessen pushes herself to emphasize the important elements of the story, maintain focus, and to become a more diverse writer by breaking the mold and creating unique characters and language.

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book cover for And Then Things Fall Apart

Magan: And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky

book cover for And Then Things Fall Apart

And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky

Pages: 254
Release Date: July 6, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover borrowed from the library.
How I heard about it: The pretty cover attracted me.

Summary
: Keek’s life does a complete 180 when she is diagnosed with the chicken pox (at 15?!), her dad is caught cheating on her mom, she has to move in with her grandmother, her boyfriend doesn’t check in to make sure she’s not dying, and her mom flees to California. Everything falls apart at the same time; what a great summer it’s going to be for Keek.

I was so hopeful that And Then Things Fall Apart was going to be a sweet, fun read. It sounded like Keek was going through a lot and I was ready to go all Jersey Shore with a fist pump in celebration of another contemporary young adult book. I wish I could say that And Then Things Fell Apart lived up to my expectations.

Keek was a whiny fifteen-year-old character. She complained about absolutely everything. In the beginning, I gave her a lot of leeway because I understood she was dealing with tons of drama (i.e. a cheating dad, a runaway mother, and the chicken pox). And let’s face it – some (if not most) fifteen-year-olds are self-centered and annoying. Keek thought her world was ending because she’d gotten the chicken pox and she was upset her boyfriend hadn’t called her. She was hallucinating because of the fevers and often didn’t make much sense. She repeated herself endlessly. I sometimes found myself skipping over bits of text because she was saying the. exact. same. thing. again.

Keek is obsessed with two things, both of which I didn’t understand one bit. She is crazy about Sylvia Plath’s book The Bell Jar. She reads it constantly, references it multiple times on nearly every other page, and compares her situation to the characters. For someone who wasn’t familiar with the book, it was hard to care about that portion of the story. A lot of explaining was necessary to draw the parallel between Plath’s book and Keek’s life, but it didn’t really seem fitting when such an immature character was explaining the depths of Plath’s work.

Her second obsession: losing her virginity. I didn’t grasp why she “just wanted to get it over with.” This was where I felt most disconnected — Keek seemed so childish and young in many ways, but she was absorbed with Plath’s work and wanting to lose her virginity. Her actions and behavior didn’t convince me she was mature enough to understand or even begin to comprehend either of those two things. Her father had also just been outed for cheating on her mom; I didn’t believe someone in her position would treat something like their virginity so flippantly after finding out such devastating news.

The reader is very much inside Keek’s mind during the entire book. She’s solitary and alone because she’s sick, has few friends, and her boyfriend is MIA. Although I thought the concept for the book was fun, I found that there was only so much development that Tibensky could do with a sick character. She has rare conversations with her grandmother and she doesn’t communicate with her mom or dad. Due to the lack of dialogue, the story progressed slowly. I found it less believable that Keek would have matured in the ways that she did because she didn’t have anyone to guide her to a better understanding of all that was happening.

One of my least favorite parts of the book was the poetry. Keek is learning how to type and chooses to write poems. I didn’t feel like they blended into the story well. They didn’t add anything that gave me insight into Keek’s character and ultimately, I didn’t find they were necessary. I skipped over the poetry toward the end of the book because I felt like much of it became a filler.

Overall, I didn’t love And Then Things Fall Apart. I was on such a roll for great 2012 books, but this one didn’t cut it for me.

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