Review Blog

Jul 12 2019

The rest of the story by Sarah Dessen

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Balzer and Bray, 2019. ISBN: 9780008334390.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Themes: Family, Friendship, Self-perception, Class structure, Anxiety. Sarah Dessen does it again - The rest of the story has all her wonderful hallmarks, beautiful writing that grabs the reader straight away, a feel good look at a difficult family life, a swoon worthy but slow romance and a clever view of class structure and wealth.
When Emma Saylor is sent to spend the holidays at North Lake with her grandmother and cousins, people she hasn't seen since she was a small child, she finds things difficult. Here she is called Saylor, the name given to her by her dead mother, while at home she is called Emma by her father and other family members. There are unknown cousins to become acquainted with and Roo the boy who had been her best friend when she was little. Roo is the key who helps her find out about her mother and her past.
Emma is a character that the reader will immediately identify with. It is easy to relate to her feelings when she arrives at her grandmother's house. She has to navigate family shoals while coming to grips with the fact that there are two communities at North Lake. There is the working class group at North Lake, where her mother grew up and where her grandmother runs a motel, and there is the rich Lake North resort, where the wealthy spend their holidays. There is Roo, the caring boy, who lives on the working class side and the rich boys who stay at the resort. And there are all the stories that she finds out about her mother who died when she was ten and the side of the family that she didn't know about. Who is she - the Emma from the rich family who stay at the resort, or Saylor, the girl who helps her cousins clean the motel? And can she overcome her anxiety especially about driving?
Dessen is one of my favourite authors. I love her characters and even though she often explores complex family and personal situations, she always leaves the reader hopeful of a good outcome and better understandings as her characters grow and develop. Her books are ones that fans will want to revisit and The rest of the story is certainly one that would richly repay a reread.
Pat Pledger

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