Once and for All
By Sarah Dessen
Narrator: Karissa Vacker
Length: 10 hours & 45 minutes
Genres: Fiction, Young-adult, Contemporary, Romance
Take a Peek: Goodreads | Overdrive | Audible | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Story Rating: 3 Stars
Performance Rating: 4 Stars
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars
*Sighs* Is there anything more comforting than a Sarah Dessen novel? I don’t know what it is about her writing that I find so soothing, but for me, reading one of her books is like snuggling in bed with a cup of tea.
Part of this is probably because I grew up with her novels, starting way back in middle school. But I love that I can count on her to write stories that are heartfelt, and Once and for All is no different.
Louna (I spent the whole audiobook thinking it was Luna. Oops.) is the product of a young, hippie marriage gone wrong. After her dad split when she was just a baby, her mother Natalie was left to fend for herself and support her child. She gives up her hippie lifestyle and gets small jobs wherever she can until she strikes gold at a linen store (I think it’s a linen store. Currently having a hard time remembering specifics. It’s been that kind of week). I know, it doesn’t sound that amazing, but it’s where Natalie meets her future business partner and bff William. Together they start their own wedding planning business that TAKES. OFF. Fast forward to the present and their little business has grown to be the best in the area.
Poor Louna is roped into helping her mom every summer and now that she’s graduated high school, it’s her last before going off to college. After some sobbing bride break-downs and mother-of-the-bride-zillas, Louna dreams of the day she can work some place normal like a supermarket or retail store. One day, a wedding between a middle-aged woman and her tennis partner brings Louna and Ambrose together, a guy she instantly hates. Ambrose is a womanizing date-aholic who just wants to have fun and enjoy life. Something about his carefree, breezy attitude reminds Louna of someone from her past and drudges up painful memories. As her and Ambrose get closer, she fights against it, not ready to let go of her past heartbreak. But sometimes you have to live in the moment, because you just never know what the next moment will bring.
This was such a cute story and I really loved having the wedding planner business as a backdrop. Hearing the banter between Natalie and William after each wedding was amazing and I secretly loved their cynicism. Plus, hearing all the crazy demands from their clients provided endless entertainment that was great for balancing out the heavier emotions. The same goes for Jilly and she had to be my favorite character out of them all. I liked how bright and happy she was with a great sense of humor. What she does in the end is very uncool, but she’s so awesome that it was hard to be mad at her.
Louna was a great character and I loved watching her progression throughout the story. She seemed a tad dull sometimes, especially in scenes with Jilly who’s just so full of life, but I can also understand why. She’s been through a lot and just trying to get through everyday. It was nice seeing her transformation in the end.
And I don’t want to give too much away, but Sarah Dessen tackles school shootings in this novel, which I thought was a bold move. That’s not something I’ve seen in a lot of in YA books and I was little bit worried when it first pops up in the story because it’s such a delicate and emotional issue. I could tell it was handled with great care though, and I thought Dessen did an excellent job. It gave me an added perspective about it that I really appreciated.
To be completely honest, I was not a huge Ambrose fan. From the very beginning his cocky attitude and womanizer tendencies grated on me and by the end I still wasn’t completely sold. He falls in love with Louna and claims he’d be satisfied with only her, but where’s the proof? Why should I trust him when he’s done nothing but date around and two-time other girls?? I’m probably projecting my own issues onto a fictional character. Again. But by the end of the book I still wasn’t completely satisfied. It felt like he didn’t grow at all, then we blinked between the last two chapters, and Ambrose was suddenly a completely different stand-up, reliable guy.
And I’m going to level with you all. When I went on Goodreads to browse around some of the reviews, it felt like a very mixed bag. Most people either loved or hated this book. Part of me scoffed and raged at ratings that were anything less than three stars. Another larger part of me, however, can completely understand why. Sarah Dessen’s books are always a contemporary, heartfelt journey that end on a high note. This is what I like about her writing. I like that I can count on her novels to be well-written gumdrops of love. It’s like watching romantic comedy movies. However, I can definitely see how this would get old for people fast. There’s a kind of predictability in these books that aren’t for everyone.
This was a very cute book that I really enjoyed. Even though it’s not my favorite Sarah Dessen novel, she didn’t let me down and gave me a great story with all the feels.
TALK TO ME
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts about it?
Any other Sarah Dessen favorites?? I’ve always loved This Lullaby!
Anyone have any good weddings stories to share?
Holler at me in the comments!!