Once and for all by Sarah Dessen

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Penguin, 2017. ISBN 9780141386690
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Adolescent. Feel good book. Resilience. I am a fan of Sarah Dessen's novels and Once and for all did not disappoint. Louna is the daughter of a wedding planner and helps out at the wedding functions that are held in all sorts of places - on the beach, in fancy hotels and in lovely gardens. She has seen all types of brides, from the tearful to the pushy and is rather cynical about happy ever after endings especially as she has had a tragic love affair. Ambrose, a happy go lucky young man who dates different girls all the time, comes to work with the team and Louna is determined to keep him at bay as she tries to overcome her grief about her former romance. She ends up having a bet with Ambrose: for 7 weeks he has to stick with one girl and she has to date multiple guys.
As the story progresses, the reader is taken back in time showing the heart breaking journey that Louna has taken with her first love, Ben. Telling what happened would spoil the story but it is journey that gives Once and for all so much depth and poignancy. The reader gains a deep insight into Louna's feelings about romance and love and aches for her as she gradually come alive and begins to open herself to a new romance. Ambrose too has to come to grips with his butterfly approach to dating and gradually he becomes aware of the meaning of love. Dessen has surrounded Louna with a supportive mother and business partner, William, who both have to come to grips with their need for partners and her friend Jilly is a great character.
Insight into the wedding planning business and flashes of humour round out what is a most appealing story that will remain with the reader, as they ponder first loves and the moments that are most important.
Pat Pledger