Colby, a small town of beach houses, tourists, and seafood, is home to protagonist, soon-to-be college student Emaline in the novel The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen. Everything suddenly changes in the span of a summer (yes, it’s one of THOSE books).
As the book opens, we peek into Emaline’s family life. Her mom was pregnant with her while still in high school. Even though her parents and the boy’s parents did not want her to keep the baby, she did so anyway. Once out of high school, her mom began working at Colby Realty. Emaline’s mom married a widow when Emaline was two years old. She refers to her stepfather as “Dad” and her biological male parent as “Father,” to distinguish the emotional detachment.
Emaline suddenly receives a call from her father, even though they had not communicated for months. Earlier in the year, she had been corresponding to her father via email. They connected over literature, and her father offered to pay her tuition to Columbia University if she got in. However, when she did, her father withdrew his offer without much explanation, and their emails ceased. She is hesitant to revive the relationship when her father when he comes to Colby from New York, but begins to develop her relationship with her ten year old step brother Benji.
Like all summer coming-to-age novels, there must be two boys: one the protagonist has been together with for an extended period of time and the other the new person in town. The Moon and More is no exception.
The new boy in town, Theo, is a college student working as an assistant to a documentary maker is in Colby find out more about Clyde, a local modern artist. Emaline becomes increasingly involved with him and the project (reluctantly).
Although there are common elements to other teenage novels (e.g. the dramatic change over a summer and the boyfriends), Dessen makes this book unique by creating interesting conflicts and dimensional characters. She weaves together different problems, making it all come together in the end, and moments of joy, sadness, and frustration in between.
It also overlaps with her other books (her stories all take place in the same world, with characters from other novels making brief appearances). The reader can connect to the characters in her highly realistic yet imaginary world.
Overall, The Moon and More is a novel worth reading, and I would especially recommend it to Dessen fans.