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REVIEW: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Dear Ms. Dessen,

book review I don’t normally read YA books but for some reason I began perusing the new offerings in that category at Fictionwise a few weeks ago. And that’s when this book caught my eye. It looked like it was going to deal with some important issues. But still a bit hesitant, I waited until I had a coupon from my local brick and mortar store since they allow returns. Yeah, I was really covering my bets.

Macy’s summer stretches before her, carefully planned and outlined. She will spend her days sitting at the library information desk. She will spend her evenings studying for the SATs. Spare time will be used to help her obsessive mother prepare for the big opening of the townhouse section of her luxury development. But Macy’s plans don’t anticipate a surprising and chaotic job with Wish Catering, a motley crew of new friends, or … Wes. Tattooed, artistic, anything-but-expected Wes. He doesn’t fit Macy’s life at all–so why does she feel so comfortable with him? So … happy? What is it about him that makes her let down her guard and finally talk about how much she misses her father, who died before her eyes the year before?

Like I said, some important issues here. Death of a parent, self expectations, parental stress, peer pressure – there are some weighty ones in this story.

Macy starts out as such a rigid, regimented person. She feels she needs to be in control. Or thinks she does since her mother uses control to deal with her grief for her husband. Macy finally starts breaking free of being “fine, just fine” and allowing herself to grieve for her father while at the same time realizing that being in control and trying to be perfect won’t assure that you’ll never suffer pain or loss.

Unlike Macy, her sister Caroline let her grief out immediately and is therefore more ready to deal with the beach house, more able to move forward in her life, more able to really look towards the future than either Macy or her mother.

Macy and her mother still have their feelings bottled up, haven’t even truly spoken to each other. Deborah panics when Macy begins to change from what she’s known, what she expects. I guess both of them could independently reach the same stage in their grief process at about the same time but it’s very coincidental.

Macy is at first afraid that she’ll end up losing everything of her father since her mother has cleared and cleaned the house of all his things. It’s only the monthly EZ products that keep him alive for Macy. Some won’t let go of anything of a lost one while others can’t bear to be reminded daily of these people.

I like that we learn a great deal about Macy’s father and not just from her. Wes, Bert and Rachel all contribute something to our knowledge of how nice and decent a man and track coach he was. Then there are Macy’s memories of his delight in EZ TV products (love the breathless descriptions of the instructions and pictures and infomercials. “If you buy right now…!”), how he coached her, how he loved the beach and made her mother laugh.

Her boyfriend Jason is unbelievably perfect. Not perfect in the sense that he’s OMG the bestest evah but perfect in that he never makes mistakes and tries to be faultless. His life is lists and plans and life goals that need to match up or he’s lost. At first I thought he was being cruel or at least uncaring of how miserable Macy was at her library job but the poor schmuck really just doesn’t get it. When he finally does fall in love, if he’ll let himself loose long enough, he’s in for a rude shock. I hope he doesn’t settle for another brainiac list maker. But he’s a bit too predictable as the boorish, unthinking twit who just happens to be present when Macy finally shows her true feelings for Wes.

And the two at the library? Bethany and Amanda are two dimensional. They’re almost as rigid as Jason and the only reason I could think for them to be included in the book are as contrasts to the wild Wish crew. I will admit to applauding the exit Macy stages when she’s finally had enough of their nitpicking and frostiness.

Jason might have all the outward signs of success and achievement but Wes is the real deal. He’s dealt with the loss of his father to divorce and mother to cancer. He looks after his younger brother, is dependable help for Delia and accepts Macy for herself instead of in terms of how she lost her father.

However, Wes is just a little too OMG perfect despite his few months stay in a youth center. His crime was a one off, he regretted it, learned his lesson and straightened up immediately and discovered his artistic talent while there. Oh and he now has commissions ahead of what he can produce, has been offered art scholarships, is modest, and wants to break with his old girlfriend before speaking his feelings to Macy. He’s sa-woon worthy but doesn’t notice it. Just too perfect.

The Truth Game that Wes and Macy play is an interesting way for them to reveal their deepest selves to each other but are two teenagers really going to be this honest with each other? Two teenagers of the opposite sex?

Kristy seems real but Monotone Monica – at least after the initial humor of her deadpan reactions – is too bizarre. I didn’t mind the descriptions of each of Kristy’s outfits. It sets who she is and from her comment about how she uses clothes to deflect attention from her facial scars, I can see why she would be flamboyant beyond it just being her style.

I remember going to high school parties, watching my classmates get drunk, pair off, be groped, and get disgusted with the young men at our high school. Can I say, I’m glad I’m grown up now?

All the comments about broken coolers and misplaced equipment and generalized chaos surrounding one of Wish Catering’s jobs would make me hesitant to eat any of their food, delicious meatballs, crabcakes, shrimp or not. Again, the initial fun of reading about each of them didn’t last for the length of the book. Also, Delia can let life dictate how most things will be but she really does need to have that monster pothole fixed. Ruined axles are no fun.

My review ends with a good grade and feeling because Macy does seem like she’s truly learned something by the end of the summer and also come to appreciate who she is and what her feelings are. That she doesn’t have to be perfect, that people will accept her if she isn’t. But it’s tempered by how it’s obvious who Macy will end up with – I mean who would make any other choice? But I do like the openness of the ending. After all, they’re still young and the world has infinite possibilities. B

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in trade paperback from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

12 Comments

  1. Steph
    Oct 08, 2008 @ 18:20:35

    I love Sarah Dessen, but to be quite honest, this wasn’t my favorite. I mean, it’s far ahead of MANY YA books in terms of literary quality and writing, but compared to Sarah’s other books, not the best. I’d suggest going with This Lullaby, Dreamland and Lock & Key before this one. Good review though, Jayne!

  2. Jayne
    Oct 08, 2008 @ 18:33:02

    Thanks Steph. I was kind of wondering what to try next. I’d also noticed on quite a few Amazon reviews that people were saying that her books end up all sounding alike, after you’ve read a few. Would you say that’s true?

  3. Keishon
    Oct 08, 2008 @ 18:53:30

    Well, I loved this book but I am happy you read it, Jayne. This is the only book of hers that I’ve read but I plan to read more. If you’re ever on another YA kick, give Blood and Chocolate a try by Annette Curtis Klause. It should be in ebook as well. Later.

  4. JessicaMcG
    Oct 08, 2008 @ 19:26:33

    I just gave you guys a blog award! Come by my page and check it out. :)

  5. trisha
    Oct 08, 2008 @ 20:05:26

    Jayne – I would say that, yes, Dessen’s books do end up sounding alike after a while. Except for Dreamland, maybe, because it’s heavier than any of her other books. The similarities are mostly in terms of voice and setting and, I would argue, how many of her protagonists have older sisters whose issues have a big impact on the protagonist.

    I’ll second Steph’s recommendation of Dreamland, but my favorite is Just Listen.

  6. Jayne
    Oct 09, 2008 @ 07:04:53

    Keishon, I just read the blurb at Fictionwise for “Blood and Chocolate.” Hmmmmm. YA werewolf heroine debates which she’d rather eat. Her human (meatboy) boyfriend’s blood or chocolate?

    Well….that’s certainly a change from worrying about going to the prom or if you’re a member of the high school cool teens. ;)

  7. Keishon
    Oct 09, 2008 @ 08:17:31

    Yeah but the hero in there is HOT.

  8. Jane
    Oct 09, 2008 @ 08:32:02

    This is my favorite Dessen book. I think she writes with a magical touch. But, in retrospect, this has all the hallmarks of a traditional romance: vulnerable heroine, bad boy hero, massive misunderstanding, and HEA. Could be why I like it so much.

  9. Steph
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 14:10:36

    Ah sorry, forgot to reply! I would go with what Trisha said – yes, after a while her books do show many of the same traits, but like Jane said, Sarah has a sort of magical touch. She’s definitely an author I would recommend for YA :)

    I still think her best book is This Lullaby. That was the one that made her stand out on my radar.

    Steph

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  11. Elizabeth
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 15:43:59

    I love this book, but I am so with you on the two-dimensional (or one-dimensional, in the case of those library coworkers) characters.

  12. Rajvir Atwal
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 17:12:00

    ok well this is a really good book. It’s so good that im doing it for my isu novel (independent study unit) and I just love it. You really write good books Sarah Dessen, I have read all of your books so far :) and this one is really good. I love how you described Wes! He is so hot !

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