For a long while, I was happily riding along on the Sarah Dessen bandwagon, waving my flag and cheering her on. I recommended her books to my daughter and her friends, and enjoyed reading them myself. And now, I think I’m ready to get off the bandwagon. I’m going to ask the driver to pull over.
I’m confused about why our relationship has cooled.
Maybe its that I’ve just gotten older and can’t relate to her characters anymore.
Maybe I’m annoyed with her about the twitter scandal she was in last year, where she publicly called out someone for criticizing her books and called their words “mean and cruel.”
Or maybe I’m just tired of the formula? Girl lives in North Carolina, near the water. Girl has dysfunctional family, probably only one parent. Girl needs direction. Girl meets perfectly imperfect boy with all the answers and they fall in love, yay.
This book is no different. Emma Saylor (both are her first name) lives with her dad, who has just gotten married. Her mom died a few years back, overdosing after a life-long battle with addiction. Emma (as her dad calls her) hasn’t spent much time with her mom’s side of the family, as her dad prefers to keep those upsetting details away from her.
Her dad goes on his honeymoon and Emma needs somewhere to stay. She ends up going to her maternal grandmother’s house — to see relatives she hasn’t seen since she was four. (?!?!?!). Her grandmother — Mimi — owns a motel at a lake, and her house is filled with noisy cousins and friends. So much different than the quiet and orderly life Emma is used to. Everyone there knows Emma as Saylor, because that’s what her mom always called her.
And so, Emma Saylor tries to figure out how to bring the two pieces of her life — the Emma part and the Saylor part — together. Meanwhile, there’s also a bit of a subplot about class — the side of the lake where Mimi lives and works is decidedly blue collar, but the other side has a yacht club and a 5 star resort. Which side does Emma Saylor truly belong on?
The only thing that surprised me about this book was the ending. (Spoilers?). A huge hurricane hits the lake, while Emma is staying with her dad’s family on the fancy side of the lake. She has been forbidden to visit the other side where her new friends and family live, after breaking curfew, getting drunk, and lying to her dad. The fancy resort totally misjudges the storm, and is more or less destroyed. But Mimi’s family is ready for the storm and everyone works together to make sure everyone is safe and sound. Emma’s dad breaks character (because honestly, he was kind of awful) and drives through the worst of the storm to help some of the new-found cousins who are alone and scared, and is actually sort of heroic about the whole thing.
This wasn’t a bad book, and I enjoyed it more than the last one (because I really, really didn’t like that one), but I don’t think I will be adding these to my must-read list anymore. Sorry, Sarah. It was fun while it lasted, but I think its time for us to go our separate ways.