Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Review: Sarah Dessen, The Truth about Forever
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Penguin (Speak)
Pub date: April 6, 2006
There were some things I really liked about this book, and there were a few I didn't.
Our heroine Macy is kind of a rigid goody-two-shoes when this book starts. On the outside, she's basically perfect (read: boring)...dating the most brilliant boy in school, deeply involved in about eight hundred save-the-world extracurricular activities (stuff like Habitat for Humanity), and spends the majority of her spare time studying for the SAT. Internally, she's a mess. Her dad died suddenly a year and a half ago, and she has a lot of guilt and repressed sadness. Mostly she just feels horribly out of control and detached from the world, but is desperate to make sure everyone thinks she's "fine." When she meets Wes, a tattooed sculptor/ex convict--who happens to be the first person since her dad's death that sees beyond the "perfect" facade (and likes what he sees)--she finally starts to open up and allow herself to grieve properly...and thus move forward.
Macy's grief for her dad, a year and a half out, is a heavy weight she carries, and she is determined to carry it alone. Her grief is raw and powerful. Dessen does an excellent job of writing it. I found myself tearing up only a few pages into the book...which is pretty shocking. Either I'm turning into a complete marshmallow (possible) or Sarah Dessen really knows what she's talking about (more likely).
I also loved the funky members of the Wish Catering service that Macy sort of stumbles into. They're just really imaginative characters...from Bert with his passion for doomsday theory to Kristy with her scarred face and ridiculous outfits. The only person I had some issues with was Monica, whose vocab consists of three phrases, uttered in monotone: "Donnevan" (don't even), "Mmmmm-hmmm," and "bettaquit" (better quit). Frankly, she seemed brain damaged. I kept thinking there would be some big revelation about Monica. Kristy (her sister) claims that Monica is actually a very deep-feeling person that just shuts down whenever she gets emotional...but we never find out if this is true or not. She remains an unsolved mystery. Is there a sequel I don't know about?
The other character I found disappointing was Macy's ex-ish boyfriend, the brilliant, tightly controlled, annoyingly ambitious Jason. This guy just did not seem even remotely realistic. He breaks up with Macy because he doesn't feel she's taking her part time summer job at the info desk of the library seriously enough. When they're talking about getting back together, he proposes they create a list of goals they have for their relationship; that way if they encounter problems down the road they can simply return to the list, see what went wrong, and quickly fix it. I really thought at some point in the novel we would see that there was more to Jason than the one-dimensional, unfeeling control freak...but no, he's never developed at all.
Finally, I just wasn't really feeling the chemistry between Macy and Wes. The "truth" game they played was certainly interesting, as all such games are for hormone-ridden adolescents, but...hmm...I don't know. The banter just wasn't really up to par. It seemed their attraction was more of a telling than a showing thing. Sure, they have in common the fact that they both lost a parent recently. And Wes is described as very physically attractive. He's also got the brooding artist with a dark, dangerous past thing going for him. But the relationship just never seemed to take off the ground for me, the way that some other famous YA couples do (like Britney and Alex in Perfect Chemistry).
That said, I more or less enjoyed the book. It's a quick, enjoyable, interesting read, just fine for the summer. The ending came a little too quickly for my taste...but other than that I thought the pacing was good.
(I initially gave this 3.5 stars, but I've decided to downgrade it to 3, after thinking more about my disappointment with the connection between Macy and Wes.)