Years ago, I read Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, and what I remember most about it is how mediocre I thought the story was, and after reading through summaries of her other novels, largely formulaic:
- Girl experiences some kind of hardship and withdraws from the world
- Girl falls in with a new crowd
- Girl meets handsome teenage boy and starts to feel human again
- Girl and boy have a misunderstanding and experience a falling out
- Girl and boy make up at the end and live happily ever after
So, considering my previous experience with this author, it’s strange that by the end of my first library visit in months, one of the books I borrowed was The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. And even more surprising? I devoured the book in just a few sittings.
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Published May 11, 2004
Penguin Group, Inc.
Add to Goodreads
A long, hot summer…
That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.
But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to question her sheltered life.
Is it really always better to be safe than sorry?
I appreciated reading about Macy’s journey. She is grieving the loss of her father and with the help of her boyfriend, Jason, she has established a very strict routine. One that includes working at the library information desk, studying for the SAT, and ironing and starching her clothes to perfection. It helps keep her mind from dwelling on her father’s death, and it shows people that she’s carrying on with life and everything is fine, just fine. But, her routine is threatened when her boyfriend goes away to Brain Camp. And worse, wants to take a break so he can focus on his future.
Then comes along a new job opportunity and a group of new and ragtag co-workers, who turn her life even more topsy-turvy. They draw her out of her shell, they introduce her to the chaos and imperfections of catering and of high school parties, and most importantly, they allow her the opportunity to be vulnerable without judgement— a stark contrast to her boyfriend.
But, while enjoyable, The Truth About Forever doesn’t deviate far from the plot structure outlined above. The Truth About Forever doesn’t introduce anything new to Contemporary YA. It doesn’t even attempt to put a clever twist on any of the genre tropes. But, I don’t think that’s why people reach for novels by Sarah Dessen. Dessen has been around for a while. A long while. Like, she was writing YA back when I was… YA. She’s a constant in this genre, so many people reach for her novels for the comfort of likable characters, the familiar summertime settings in North Carolina, specifically the fictional town of Colby, and a plot that is…well, predictable— one where despite all the hardships, all the characters end up okay at the end. At least, that’s why I reached for The Truth About Forever; and that’s why I’m inclined to continue picking up other books by Dessen in the future.
The Truth About Forever takes place during the summertime in the south, and only one thing comes to mind— sweet, iced tea! Stereotypically Lipton, sweet iced tea, but I’m choosing Ceylon Sonata Cold Brew from Adagio Teas instead. Adagio’s Ceylon Sonata is a black tea that comes from the Kenilworth Estate in Sri Lanka. It is a medium bodied, black tea with bright citrus notes.
It’s balanced and refreshing, and it’s one of those teas that makes me break my no-caffeine-after-3PM bans because it’s so, so good. This is exactly the kind of iced tea I think the characters in Dessen’s fictional town of Colby, North Carolina would sip on during summer vacations.
What is your favorite Sarah Dessen book? Do you have a favorite Contemporary YA author you reach for when you’re looking for comfort?