The Truth about Forever (by Sarah Dessen)

22 05 2012

OK, OK, I admit it. I was wrong. And although Someone Like You wasn’t actually a bad book, it didn’t exactly urge the cat on to pick up any other Sarah Dessen novels.  So that’s why I’m late to the party. But what a breath of fresh is The Truth About Forever

The truth about forever has everything to make it into a perfect (oh the irony!) contemporary YA romance novel: a well-developed protagonist that you can identify with, a bunch of equally well-written side-characters, a romance that is so understated yet so pervasive, believable family dynamics and… humor!

Ever since Macy Queen’s father died, Macy has claimed that everything is fine. She strives to be perfect, just the way her busy mother wants her to be. In Macy’s world everything is predictably and boringly perfect: her grades (she studies for SATs on a Saturday evening!), her boyfriend (currently at Brain Camp), her attitude (always the good girl, never the rebel). Except of course: striving to be perfect is a nice ideal, but if the main event in your life has been the death of your father, and you’ve basically never recovered from the sense of guilt because you weren’t there to save him and you’re a 16-year-old teenage girl, it doesn’t take a brainiac to figure out that Macy’s urge to control her life so perfectly will falter. She definitely needs something to snap her out of the perfect/guilt bubble she’s been living in the last few years.

Enter the chaotic quirky bunch of Wish Catering. After Jason, Macy’s boyfriend, goes off to Brain Camp, Macy has a long summer in front of her. She has agreed to take over Jason’s job at the library, but from day one it’s clear that his co-workers, the perfect – but  of course completely two-dimensional – Bethany and Amanda hate Macy. When she meets Mega-Pregnant Delia, the chaotic caterer at one of her Mom’s many sale events, she soon starts helping her out and befriends Kristy, Monica, Bert and ‘sa-woon’ Wes.

Macy’s ‘perfect’ romance with Jason starts to fumble when she writes him an email saying she misses him and *gasp* loves him.  Jason writes back suggesting they put their relationship on hold because Macy might “distract him from his goals” (like what 16-year-old teenage boy writes like that?? A socially inept perfect douchebag) . So Macy and Jason are ‘on a break’ until the end of the summer.  Well, since Friends, we all know what ‘on a break’ really means, of course!  Macy finds in Wes’s complete and utter disregard for perfection the remedy for her feelings of guilt. And if she’s been hesitant to reach out to her mother after her father’s death, she finds no fault in telling Wes about her flaws and insecurities in the game of Truth they play over the course of the summer.

If there’s one thing more to love about this novel than the romance story (which is sweet and chaste, but not the number 1 reason why you absolutely have to read this novel), it’s the interesting and believable family dynamics between Macy, her sister Caroline and their mother.  The truth about forever does hold in it one of the most refreshing love stories in YA, but it’s also really a novel about grief and loss and how every person deals with it in a different way. It shows that no matter what, at one point, if you refuse to deal with it, things will catch up with you like a thunderstorm on a hot summer night. Macy’s mom has thrown herself in her real estate job, neglecting to deal, insisting on control and perfection, dragging along Macy. Her mom has more of a relationship with her cell phone and just doesn’t know how to communicate with her daughter. When Macy finds new friends at Wish Catering and decides that the chaos they offer might be more desirable than her perfectly rigid social and family life, her mother is frantic that “she may no longer have the proper goals” and clearly disapproves.

The strength of Sarah Dessen is how ‘light’ she can write about some of the most determining events in a person’s life. In Someone Like You, I saw this as a weakness in her writing, but I was clearly wrong: it is what makes her put her writing hooks in the reader. Once she’s in – and it takes her all of a page – she just doesn’t let go until the end of the book. Dessen also takes her time here: Macy dealing with the loss, Macy standing up to Jason and her mother, Macy and the romance with Wes. It’s not a rush, there’s careful build up and the time is right when the time is right. And yes, you know what the outcome is going to be, but the ride to that outcome is so fabulously done with a wealth of elements to contribute to Dessen’s fine tapestry: the EZ products packages, Wes’s art,  the game of Truth, Gotcha, the beach house renovation, the juxtaposition of order and chaos (in setting and character!), the past and the present, … All nicely woven together so that Macy can figure out the truth about forever.

Overall verdict: never judge an author by just one book! The Truth about Forever is a near-perfect contemporary YA gem[1] and yes, now I am more than just a little bit inclined to read Sarah Dessen’s other books!

[1] For obvious reason, I am not allowed to call this book perfect 😉



5 responses

18 07 2012
This Lullaby (by Sarah Dessen) « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] third Sarah Dessen, and after the initial hiccups of Someone Like You and the absolute eye-opener The Truth About Forever, I have a sneaky suspicion that any Sarah Dessen book will probably feel like coming home from now […]

30 07 2012
Cryer’s Cross (by Lisa McMann) « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] cat has been dead wrong before, judging an author by just one title, but if Lisa McMann’s writing style and plotting in […]

22 12 2012
The 12 of 2012! « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] The Truth about Forever (Sarah Dessen) […]

26 12 2012
Let’s Get Lost (by Sarra Manning) « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] For some reason, Sarra Manning has been flying under the cat’s radar for years… Her2004sophomore book Diary of a Crush 1: French Kiss has been in our library for a while now, it gets checked out regularly, but for superficial reasons, the cat never felt like reading it (1. Title of the book is off-putting, and 2. The cover doesn’t promise a whole lot of good…).  Then suddenly not one, but 2 Sarra Manning books kept on being recommended, and the cat is starting to get the feeling she’s made a mistake the size of the whole Sarah Dessen debacle… […]

7 03 2014
Just Listen (by Sarah Dessen) | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] par – as per usual. Just Listen isn’t the best Sarah Dessen (I’m still very much in love with The Truth About Forever), but it’s Sarah Dessen, you […]

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