Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.
Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.
Emaline’s mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?
Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?
Cover design – Theresa M. Evangelista Interior design – Nancy Brennan Rating – 3/5
Let me go on record by saying that I think the Sarah Dessen redesigns are bland. Yes, they are colorful and attractive, but they are screamingly feminine and her name takes up a 3rd of the cover. True, I automatically buy Dessen’s books without much more than a glance at the summary (if any, because I actually hate the summaries on her books), but I can’t stand when author names are that large. On to this cover specifically, I’m glad the title is in varying weights and on 2 lines. On the other covers, all the titles are in the same font, so I wonder if this font will change when this book comes out in paperback. The picture tells me nothing about the book though. Emaline lives by the beach, sand is repeatedly mentioned as ever-present in her life, so why is the cover filled with grass without a grain of sand in sight? It’s a nice nod to Emaline’s life-balancing efforts that the cover model has her arms out to balance herself…but she’s on a really wide walkway so it bugs me at the same time. I’m glad she’s wearing a bracelet since that ties into the story. Overall though, I think the cover is less than memorable. I would barely be able to say which Sarah Dessen book this is for, or which is which at all if someone took the titles off. I love the idea of unifying the covers, I’m just not a fan of the actual covers.
This is a great book. If you’ve read a Sarah Dessen book, you know what to expect. Each one is like a window into someone’s life – their whole life, not just the important things or the pretty things. You get everything in Emaline’s life – boys, family drama, balancing work and her friends, college anxiety, her love / hate relationship with her touristy hometown – everything. It’s not like there’s one main conflict or one huge decision or one life-altering event – it’s just Emaline’s life the summer after high school. It’s so easy to relate to, and I think this is my favorite Sarah Dessen books of her latest handful of releases.
- Clyde – Clyde is the focus of Theo and Ivy’s documentary, but he is thoroughly unimpressed by them, their theories about his artwork, and fame in general. Every time Clyde is around it’s entertaining because he makes it clear that he thinks Ivy and Theo are ridiculous and snobby. Clyde is like the author of the book you’re being forced to read and over-examine in English class…the person you wish would show up while your teacher goes on about symbolism and tell them that none of it’s that deep and then laugh in their face. While Theo can’t fathom why Clyde would abandon fame and fortune, Clyde doesn’t understand why Theo would look down on Clyde’s simple life by the beach. It’s like a clash between old-fashioned ideas of hard work and earning your living by blood, sweat, and tears; and more recent expectations that if you do something you should be rewarded for it.
- Benji – Emaline’s 10-year-old half-brother, Benji, is really fun to read about. He’s young, curious, and bored out of his skull. Benji’s old enough to know what’s going on with his parents, but young enough to still be wildly enthusiastic about things we typically write off when we get older. Benji’s way of just asking Emaline what he wants to know instead of tiptoeing around awkward situations is great. I liked reading about how Emaline and Benji grew closer over the summer even though she thought things would be weird between them.
- Luke – So, in YA fiction, when a girl starts out a book with a boyfriend, it’s usually a sign that he’s not gonna last long. I really like that, following Luke and Emaline’s breakup, they have to deal with seeing each other around town, and seeing their ex’s parents around town too – it’s just what happens in real life in small towns. You see your ex’s parents at the grocery store, and you have to be polite to them without the buffer of their kid there. Anyway, I love that Luke isn’t painted as just the villain or just the knight in shining armor. He’s more than one thing because things aren’t always so black and white, and he’s not the bad guy because Emaline’s also dealing with bigger things and just doesn’t have time for that. Sometimes, you just have to go on living your life without putting energy into hating or avoiding someone.
- tourist job – I live in a tiny town by the beach, and it is undeniably true that there are these places only tourists go, places you only go to when out-of-town relatives visit, and places only locals go because only locals know about / where to find them. The crazy things Emaline has to put up with because her family’s business is reliant upon tourists are so much fun to read about. Catering to people’s’ needs isn’t something Emaline really enjoys, especially when her sister’s brilliant ideas make it more complicated, but an Excel spreadsheet for towels is just funny.
- Theo – Unnecessary Capitalization of Every Word is one of my pet peeves. If you capitalize a word, it better be important. Theo’s penchant for deeming every date or outing The Best something or other got on my nerves. Why couldn’t he just let things happen instead of planning out every second of his life and time with Emaline? Theo is a bit cocky, and so sure that everything is going to work out in his favor. He spouts theories on Clyde’s art as if he’s an authority on it, instead of having a single genuine discussion with Clyde about the work. Basically, Theo struck me as self-absorbed because he planned his life and assumed everyone else would rearrange their own to go along with his.
- Emaline’s bio-dad – It’s pretty confusing when Emaline refers to her biological dad as her father, and her stepdad as her dad. Yes, both of them are her dads, but I’ve read books about people with same-sex parents that managed to make it not confusing. Anyway, Emaline’s bio-dad Joel is so insecure and self-centered. He sweeps into Colby with practically no warning, doesn’t have time to do anything with Benji, and ducks in and out of Emaline’s life when it suits him. Joel doesn’t take Emaline’s feelings on anything into consideration. In fact, he barely lets her talk about them in his presence. He thinks he can buy his way out of his parental obligation toward her, and sulks when that doesn’t go his way. I’m glad that Sarah Dessen isn’t afraid to acknowledge how awkward some family things are.
- “You kissed a guy you just met in Big Club?” “We were buying a toaster oven,” I said, like this explained everything. She turned to look at me, blowing on the wax, her expression incredulous. “Are you serious?” “It just kind of happened.” – Daisy + Emaline (pg. 202-203)
- “If I get a hernia,” Luke huffed from the step above me, trying to move backwards, “I am suing your entire family.” “Maybe it would help if you took your shirt off,” I suggested. “It seems to work with the pool cleaning, yes?” “Do you want me to drop this?” he asked, nodding at his end of the machine. “Please, God, no,” I said, laughing. “I didn’t think so.” He grunted, going up another step. “So typical. We’re together for a half hour and you’re already trying to get me naked.” “Don’t flatter yourself,” I said. – Luke + Emaline (pg. 367)