Quick View Review: Overall Rating: ***** (5/5) One Sentence Review: Everything about this book was perfection: it was impossible not to fall in love with the characters, the plot was so complex and beautiful, and, of course, Sarah Dessen’s writing style is just so flawlessly suited to this type of story, making Once and For All my favorite of her novels (of the ones I’ve read) and one of the best contemporaries I’ve ever come across.
Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that's why she's cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm's length. But Ambrose isn't about to be discouraged, now that he's met the one girl he really wants. (Summary from Goodreads) I’m just going to jump right into this and start off by saying this is the best Sarah Dessen book I’ve read up to date. BY. FAR (which is saying a lot ‘cause I REALLY loved The Moon & More). Not only is the cover of this book one of the most gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing covers I’ve ever come across, but the plot was wonderful, the characters were wonderful, Dessen’s writing was wonderful… Basically everything was perfection. I’ve had mixed experiences with Sarah Dessen’s books in the past, so I came into this a little wary but also totally excited because of the setting (WEDDING PLANNING!!). Turns out I had no reason to be wary and all the reasons in the world to be excited because OH MY GOODNESS this book was good. So, so good. I’ll start off with the characters. I loved Louna. She was completely realistic and relatable, and I loved how she developed throughout the story (although I’m not gonna lie, there were definitely times I wanted to jump in the book and yell at her… I may or may not have thrown my ARC across the room at multiple points). Her and Ambrose’s relationship was so much fun to witness (more on that in a minute), and I just adored getting to experience a snapshot of her life through this book. And Ambrose. Ambrose. I’m always so much more impressed when authors manage to create swoon-worthy love interests in contemporaries, because I feel without the necessary complexity of fantasy it’s so easy to just conform to stereotypes and have a character be one-dimensional. This was the first time I’ve really fallen hard for one of Sarah Dessen’s characters, but Ambrose was just what every reader could ever hope for: adorable, hilarious, a tad cocky, and sweet like so many other contemporary love interests, but at the same time so unique. Ambrose had his own individual quirks that just made him so him, and over the course of the story it was impossible not to fall in love with him as Louna does. And now for the plot itself! This was NOT a case of insta-love at all, so it truly is a story in which we witness the relationship development between the characters, which to me is so refreshing to see in the contemporary world. It did make for some VERY frustrating moments (as I mentioned above), but overall made this book the amazing novel it is. Another aspect of this book that only added to the plot’s complexity and how much I loved it was the flashbacks to a relationship in Luna’s past that were alternating with present chapters for the first portion of the book. I’m not going to say much about them because of spoilers, but I’ll just say that they added so, so much to the story and transformed this novel into so much more than just the classic cheesy contemporary. Overall, in my opinion this book represents the epitome of a perfect contemporary. Just the right amount of predictability mixed in with so many different things that set it apart, it’s such a wonderful novel to pick up to kick off the summer. I highly recommend you give it a shot even if you don’t usually enjoy contemporaries, because this is definitely one of the best contemporaries out there (at least, of the ones I’ve read).
Make sure to come back next Wednesday for a new review!
Jordan PS If you’re thinking of picking up this book (which you totally should be), be sure to join my book club Bibliophile Academy’s read-along of it this month! Our Instagram is @bibliophileacademy (www.instagram.com/bibliophileacademy/), and we’ll be hosting a spoiler-free Twitter chat at the end of the month! You can also tag your Instagram photos with #onceandfordessen to let us know you’re joining in, and who knows, we might even feature your photo on our account! ;)