The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen | In Which I Fall In Love With Dessen’s Summer Stories Again

Posted August 26, 2019 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Bookish Thoughts, California Here We Come, Reviews / 6 Comments

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen | In Which I Fall In Love With Dessen’s Summer Stories AgainThe Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen
Also by this author: Saint Anything, Just Listen, What Happened to Goodbye, Along for the Ride, Lock and Key, Dreamland, Once and for All, The Moon and More
on June 4, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 400 •Format: E-BookSource: Overdrive

Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?

I think there are few adult readers in the YA communities that didn’t grow up with Sarah Dessen being a staple on their summer reading list. Whether it was set on the shores of the lake in Colby or in the quiet suburban streets of Lakeview, reading her novels are like coming home to one of the best summers of your teenage life. I was, however, a little scared that this magic was starting to wear off when I was terribly underwhelmed with Once and For All and then reread This Lullaby and could not fathom why it was a long time favorite of so many Dessen fans. Was I becoming immune to Dessen’s writing style? Was I outgrowing the charm of her novels? I headed into The Rest of the Story with no small amount of skepticism, but am pleased to report that I absolutely adored it.

The Setting | I was a little hesitant that this was a summer lake story that wasn’t set in Colby, but I LOVED North Lake. I grew up going to the lake and staying in cabins at a resort that feels very similar to Calvander’s and I can tell you, that sense of community that Dessen creates for this story is SO ACCURATE. From the families that rent out the same cabin the same week every year to hanging out on the docks to the picnics and barbecues overlooking the water, the story really captures the essence of a small lake community during the summer. I also love how North Lake was juxtaposed with Lake North, the bougie, upscale resort on the other side of the lake, and the tension and drama that followed the relationships that were formed across lake lines (including that of Harper’s parents).

The Characters | Emma “Saylor” was a typical Dessen protagonist : quiet, observant, always the bridesmaid and never the bride sort of girl who needed to be coaxed out of her shell a bit. But she also has a LOT of baggage and heavy backstory from her addict mother who’s memory hangs over her like a cloud and keeps many from seeing her as an individual at times. The secondary characters, especially Saylor’s relatives and large cast of cousins, were absolute gems. I loved Trinity, Saylor’s very pregnant and very blunt older cousin who tells it like it is and forces Saylor to have a different perspective on a lot of things in life. I loved both of her grandmothers, who were extremely strong women in their own ways, whether they were hard working motel owners or well off family matriarchs holding their family together. Saylor is truly a child of a star crossed romance between North Lake and Lake North, and I loved how she had family on both sides that accepted and supported her.

The Romance | Roo is definitely my #1 Dessen love interest. He works like 5 jobs, is unwaverigly kind, and uniquely attractive with his white blonde hair and lake coordinate tattoos on his legs. He’s undoubtedly a tragic character with his father dying so young and his clear torch he’s held for Saylor for like 13 years, but it’s also impossible to pity him because his personality is such a bright light and his various odd jobs bring such hilarious situations to the story (I particularly loved his stint as a telemarketer selling storm shutters, the conversations that ensued between him and Saylor when he would call her at work were HILARIOUS). My one complaint though is that his journey with Saylor is the epitome of a sloooow burnnnn.

The Family Dynamics | Another thing Dessen always nails are complex family dynamics in her books, especially with parents. Saylor’s dynamic with her parents is especially intriguing because her mother is deceased, yet it’s almost as though she must constantly compete with her mother’s memory, whether it be insisting she won’t make the same mistakes or not being trusted due to her DNA. This especially comes to a boiling point with her father toward the end of the book, who only wants Saylor to embrace her North Lake roots when it’s convenient for HIM (ugh he made me so mad). Luckily, Saylor had wonderful grandmothers on both sides who helped her navigate the fractured family memories and biases that she was up against.

Overall: The Rest of the Story sets the stage for a new era of Dessen novels in a new lake town and I am here for it! It ranks right up there with Along for the Ride, Dreamland and Just Listen as one of my all time favorite Dessen novels!

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6 responses to “The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen | In Which I Fall In Love With Dessen’s Summer Stories Again

  1. My first experience with Dessen was Just Listen (about a decade ago), and I was underwhelmed. Then, on a whim last month, I decided to pick up and read the Truth About Forever, and I ADORED it! I kind of can’t wait to get my hands on another Dessen novel. This one sounds really interesting.

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