Review: Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

Summary/Cover Image from Publisher's Website
From Sarah Dessen, the beloved New York Times bestselling author of SAINT ANYTHING and JUST LISTEN, comes a new novel set in the world of wedding planning!

Is it really better to have loved and lost? Louna’s summer job is to help brides plan their perfect day, even though she stopped believing in happily-ever-after when her first love ended tragically. But charming girl-magnet Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged now that he’s met the one he really wants. Maybe Louna’s second chance is standing right in front of her.

Sarah Dessen’s many fans will adore this latest novel, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story with humor, romance, and an ending that is so much more than happily-ever-after. 

It's no secret that I love Sarah Dessen books. I've read just about all of them twice, and a few of them are among my favorite books ever. (If you haven't read Just Listen, The Truth About Forever, or This Lullaby yet, you're missing out big time!) Therefore, when I heard she had a new book coming out, I was beyond excited. I couldn't wait to dive into another Dessen contemporary, and I was eager to get my hands on a copy of this come release week. Luckily, Once and for All was everything I hoped it would be and much, much more. Romantic, witty, and featuring characters you can't help but love, Once and for All remind me all the reasons why I fell in love with Sarah Dessen's storytelling in the first place.

Louna's life revolves around weddings thanks to her mom's successful and famous wedding planning business. Louna's seen just about everything when it comes to executing the perfect wedding: the planning, the tears, the break downs, and the occasional drunken rants at the reception. But the picture perfect happily ever after endings with your true love? Louna's not sure if those truly exist, especially after the heartbreak she's experienced. The summer after her senior year of high school, Louna is expecting another ordinary summer: helping her mom at the family business, hanging out with her best friend whilst dodging her desire to be Louna's matchmaker, and preparing for college. Everything changes, however, the moment she's forced to drag Ambrose, an AWOL wedding participant, back to his mother's wedding. Ambrose is everything she tries to avoid in a guy: eccentric, romance driven, and wandering. There's something about Ambrose, though, that Louna likes, no matter how much she pushes it down, and that only becomes more blatant when he ends up working with her. Faced with a summer of possible romance, bets, adventures, and healing, this summer wedding season may be the most chaotic, life changing one yet.

Sarah Dessen books are always character driven, and Once and for All is no different. Louna was a character I instantly liked from the get-go. When the reader is first introduced to her, it's easy to see Louna is lost, no matter how much she tries to push it down. I was instantly intrigued. I wanted to know why she felt lost, and I also wanted her to experience healing. Even with being lost, Louna was a strong, charming, and easily relatable main character. I enjoyed her observations about as well as interactions revolving weddings, her family and friends, Ambrose. All the relationship and experiences she had added depth not only to her character but to the overall plot of the novel as well. Ambrose, though, was the real show stealer in this one. He was the classic Dessen boy protagonist, and that couldn't have made me more happy. I loved every scene that involved him, his behavior while a little obnoxious at first was humorous and with good intentions. His relationship with Louna was one of my favorite parts of the book. It was easy to see how much he cared about her, and how deeply he wanted her to come out of her shell and truly experience living again. 

The plot of this book was also interesting, and kept me committed the whole way through. As mentioned above, I loved the wedding planning aspect of this book. (Side note: why aren't there more books about wedding planning? It has a lot of potential to be a fun, dramatic atmosphere!) The various weddings the business planned throughout the summer were something I enjoyed seeing. It was always fun to see the different quirks that come with each as well as the character building it brought with it. As mentioned before, the romance in this was also a high point for me. It was a consistent will-they-or-won't-they, and there was a little suspense for me in those last few pages if everything would end the way I wanted it. 

Dessen's writing in this was also good. I thought she did a great job of developing the characters and plot while also bringing them into the Sarah Dessen book world she's created throughout her intertwined books. The part of this book, though, that brought it down a notch in my eyes was the shooting subplot. It was an interesting, don't get me wrong, and it served a large purpose in the book and its story. However, it felt a little awkwardly placed at times. 

In all, Once and for All is the ultimate summer read. Full of quirk, romance, and a charming little dog, Once and for All is sure to land on the top of many reader's summer readings lists! 

Grade: A-

*That little Along for the Ride egg in the middle? Perfectly placed!*

Once and for All (Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble) is now out!

Source: Library 

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