5 out of 5 stars!
Format: Library Hardback - YA contemporary-romance - Goodreads Summary
"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?"
This book was everything I'd been hoping for! A thought-provoking, teen romance that was more about the character's growth than the shiny, new boyfriend. Though I wish there had been more kissing... One of the most fun things about this book was how the author weaved in her other world from The Moon And More. There are mentions of Colby (the beach town where TMAM takes place) and talk of a contractor/handyman who helps Macy's family renovate their beach house (I'm secretly hoping it's Emaline's Dad! Though it never says it outright). I didn't mind some of the one-dimensional characters (Jason, Monica, Bert) because it made sense for them. 16yo Bert is obsessed with the end of the world, but he lost his mom when he was younger and was raised by his aunt and older brother. So it makes sense that he would be obsessively interested in something where everyone dies at once and no one is left behind to mourn.
Macy's and Wes's budding relationship was SO believable, and I've been missing this from my past couple of books lately. It felt natural, and I could clearly picture every moment in my head. They were adorable and my only critique would be where was all the kissing? There's like one kiss, and it's magical, but I wanted like a closing-credits kiss. There's also a realistic look at perfectionism, what it is, how it can weigh on people (teens and adults), and the consequences of having to be "perfect," both when you place that expectation on yourself and when you place it on others.
Most impressive was the author's exploration of grief. That, too, felt incredibly realistic. As a therapist, I'm oddly versed in how others grieve, and the author brought an authentic look into how different people adjust to new normals after losing a loved one. Most everyone in the book (save for pretentious Jason- seriously, get a life!) had lost someone close to them. Wes/Bert and Aunt Delia lost their mom or sister, and Macy/Caroline and Deborah lost their dad or husband. It was really interesting and eye-opening to glimpse how they all dealt with it. That's not to say I was TOTALLY frustrated by Mom's reaction and how she treated others around her (she was the dive-into-work type of griever), but at least I could recognize it and almost give her a pass.
Overall, a wonderful book and I almost wish I'd read this Sarah Dessen book first. I'm a huge fan and will definitely be seeking out her other works.