Also by this author: A Heart in a Body in the World, Girl, Unframed
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers on Just 1, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 384 •Format: E-Book •Source: Overdrive
When Charlotte wins a scholarship to a writing workshop in Venice with the charismatic and brilliant Luca Bruni, it’s a dream come true. Writing is her passion, she loves Bruni’s books, and going to that romantic and magical sinking city gives her the chance to solve a long-time family mystery about a Venetian poet deep in their lineage, Isabella Di Angelo, who just might be the real author of a very famous poem.
Bruni’s villa on the eerie island of La Calamita is extravagant—lush beyond belief, and the other students are both inspiring and intimidating. Venice itself is beautiful, charming, and seductive, but so is Luca Bruni. As his behavior becomes increasingly unnerving, and as Charlotte begins to unearth the long-lost work of Isabella with the help of sweet, smart Italian Dante, other things begin to rise, too—secrets about the past, and secrets about the present.
As the events of the summer build to a shattering climax, Charlotte will be forced to confront some dark truths about the history of powerful men—and about the determination of creative girls—in this stunning new novel from award-winning author Deb Caletti.
There’s something about the way Deb Caletti writes that completely transports me. I am taken from my time and place and I am truly IN the protagonist’s mind. So with One Great Lie, I embarked on a dark summer adventure in Venice with protagonist Charlotte as she navigated the cruel, often heartbreaking truths of being a woman in society, both in the past and in the present.
Caletti’s YA novels often seem to tackle current social issues, and One Great Lie is no exception. Charlotte wins an incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in a summer workshop abroad with her writing hero, while also simultaneously researching a long-lost relative from the area who lived centuries ago. While Charlotte is learning about the oppression and misogynism that her relative faced through her research, she’s also being confronted in her own present with the insidious behavior of her literary hero who is leading the summer experience, Luca Bruni, and how over the course of the summer her fellow classmates are one by one targeted by him and disappear from the program. It’s intriguing (and sadly probably realistic) to see how Charlotte is such a warrior in finding the truth about her long-lost relative’s literary works that were stolen by powerful men, and to see that juxtaposed with Charlotte’s growing unease yet desire to rationalize and/or look away at what is happening to her fellow classmates (especially the female ones) in her summer writing program.
As usual, Caletti’s writing really shines through in the building of her atmosphere. I was immersed in the eerie island setting of the writing program (an island rumored to be built on bones and shrouded in mist) and how it was beautiful yet unsettling at the same time- much as Charlotte’s whole summer experience was. I loved Charlotte’s summer romance and complex relationship with the women in her family, and how nothing was easy but there was realism and loyalty and grit in the complexity of her relationships. I appreciated how even though there were times when as a reader, I wanted Charlotte to open her eyes to what was right in front of her so badly, that I could also understand how as an 18 year old it would feel impossible to do so.
Overall: Eerie and haunting, One Great Lie is a topical read in the era of the #MeToo movement. While not my absolute favorite of Caletti’s novels (that honor still goes to A Heart in a Body in the World), I still really enjoyed my time reading this one and found it to have Caletti’s trademark writing voice and skill at addressing social issues.
The Moon and More 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 Rest of the Story
Published by Speak Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary
Pages: 435 •Format: Paperback •Source: Purchased
At first glance, Emaline seems to have it all. A great boyfriend, a close-knot family, an idyllic beach town to call home. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.
Then she meets Theo, an ambitious young New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. He's sophisticated and exciting, and thinks Emaline is destined for bigger things.
Emaline wants the moon and more, but can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?
For some reason, I put off reading The Moon and More for years. It was the only Sarah Dessen book I hadn’t read, but I remember years ago seeing reviews that the book centered on a love triangle that was…not the best. However, I found myself this summer wanting to indulge in a summer vacation type read, and Dessen’s books usually fit that bill perfectly. Therefore I decided to settle in with the rather chunky paperback and read it over the course of several evenings before bed.
First things first- this story was quintessentially Dessen, and in that sense I enjoyed the book. It’s set in Dessen’s vacation town, Colby, that she often uses in her novels (and even includes some cameos from characters from one of my fave Dessen books, Along for the Ride). The story centers on protagonist Emaline’s summer before college, which is spent working in the lakeside town at her family’s vacation rental company. I loved seeing Colby again from a local’s perspective and seeing how things run behind the scenes, and seeing how Emaline was content yet restless with her quiet life at the same time. In traditional Dessen fashion, a healthy dose of drama is added to the serene summer setting when Emmaline’s estranged father returns to town with his new, WASP-y family. The push and pull between Emaline’s two worlds- that of her local mother and New England father- is a running theme throughout almost all elements of the story, from the love triangle to Emaline’s college plans.
Truth be told, I wasn’t really into the romance(s). Typical for me, I enjoyed all of the subtle, more secondary storylines: her relationship with her BFF Morris (that’s crackers), helping her little half brother with his parent’s divorce, seeing the shenanigans some of their renters get into over the summer, the making of the documentary of the eccentric neighbor Clyde, etc. It’s that slow, slice of life summer content that to me is just classic Dessen. Emmaline is the typical copy-and-paste Dessen protagonist, unfortunately, but I was almost surprised at some of the decision making she engaged in, especially when it came to relationships (I never sensed ANY chemistry between her and Theo).
Overall: The Moon and More is your typical Dessen novel, but lacks the unique plot or emotional depth of some of her other novels. For a slow summer read it definitely works, but for me it’s one of Dessen’s most unforgettable novels.