The moon and more by Sarah Dessen

cover image

Penguin, 2013.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Luke and Emaline have been together all through high school and Emaline knows that not only is Luke gorgeous, he is kind as well. But when Theo arrives in town with a documentary film maker, she starts to wonder if Luke is the perfect boyfriend. Theo is different and sophisticated and understands just how smart Emaline is. Her absentee father too believes that Emaline should have a larger life than Colby, a seaside town, offers. However she is deeply attached to her mother, stepfather and sisters and somehow must find a balance between the familiar and the inevitable change that going away to college will bring.
Dessen consistently writes stories that are appealing and interesting to read but which explore issues that are very important to her teen protagonists and to her teen readers. In The moon and more Emaline is trying to work out who is the perfect boyfriend - someone that she has known forever, or someone who has seen and done much more than she has. She also has to come to terms with the behaviour of her absentee father, who promised to finance her to a prestigious university but changed his mind without telling her why. Emaline is clever and astute but she has a lot of issues to work through as she uses her organisational skills in the family business.
A keen exploration of the family ties that keep people together, whether it is overbearing siblings or a loving mother and the messy nastiness of divorce and its effects on children provide the background to Emaline's coming of age against a background of small town politics and employment.
Dessen's characters are wholly believable, each with strengths and weaknesses. Her descriptions of Emaline's father and his awful behaviour paint a picture of a man who can only communicate through emails. Her little half brother Benji comes alive on the page, and her best friends, Morris and Daisy are wonderful characters. Theo has moments of real empathy and others of being crass and unfeeling. However it is Emaline's voice that come through really strongly and kept me engrossed in this story set in one summer.
Pat Pledger