Once and for All
by Sarah Dessen
Published on June 6th 2017
by Viking Books for Young Readers
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Length: 10 hours and 41 minutes
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As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen's thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.
Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that's why she's cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm's length. But Ambrose isn't about to be discouraged, now that he's met the one girl he really wants.
Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.
Once upon a time I was an avid reader of Sarah Dessen. My favorites are The Truth About Forever, Just Listen, and Along for the Ride. Unfortunately, I haven’t read her previous three books. When I was offered the opportunity of reading (listening) to Once and for All, I grabbed it with both hands. I started listening on my trip to BEA and finished it shortly after I got back.
Louna has worked with her mom and her partner on their wedding planing business every summer of her life and this is the last summer as she’s getting ready to go to college. She’s getting over a very traumatic and painful experience and she’s kind of putting her life on hold. She’s lost faith that anyone can love as deeply more than once on their lifetime so, why try? Louna is strong, outgoing, organized, but she’s also very stubborn and very sad.
I have to confess that at first I found Ambrose as annoying as everyone else did. However, he quickly grew on me. He is hyper, but he also has a heart of gold. One thing that I didn’t understand is how he went from a womanizer to ‘quitting’ so fast. His good nature, attention, compassion, and his kind thoughts wan Louna’s heart at the end. Their relationship grew into friendship and then to something more, even if Louna kept denying herself any meaningful relationship.
“Everything seemed bright and different after so long in the darkness. Even though most of the businesses were closed, there was one neon sign lit in the window of a narrow storefront. COFFEE AND PIE, it read. Two bikes were parked just outside.”
I loved Louna’s mom and William, her business partner and father figure for Louna. Her mom is neurotic, extremely organized, attentive to detail, and she has dedicated her life to her daughter and to her business. William is funny, easygoing, a great cook and people person. They both love Louna and have her best interest at heart. Other characters worth mentioning are Jilly and all her siblings and Ian, the dog 🙂
“It’s about the courage to go for what you want, not just what you think you need. Sometimes we don’t even know what that is.”
I loved the behind the scenes world of wedding planning! It was a lot of fun, and stress for all involved, but very nice to read. We also get to read small cameos from other Dessen characters and from our favorite beach town of Colby. Her writing is insightful, and she never shies away from the tough subjects. The pace was a bit slow, especially the flashbacks to Louna and Ethan’s story.
Overall, although I enjoyed Once and for All, it’s not my favorite Dessen book (for a list of those, look at the first paragraph). It’s a story of lost, love, fear of both and the strength to overcome the pain and live for more.
Once and for All is the first book that I’ve listen to narrated by Karissa Vacker and I enjoyed it. She has a gentle tone of voice and I was grateful for how distinctive the voice were from each other and for the nice pace of her reading.