I am not usually a fan of YA contemporary, but I am so happy that Penguin Teen sent this book my way because this was one of the more addicting books I have thrown myself into this year. The tag line had me hooked: As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine. The world of wedding planning?! Sign me up, I’m sold.
The main character and narrator of Once and for All, Louana, is graduating high school. Usually I steer clear of high school contemporary reads, but in this book, her age wasn’t as much of a turn off as usual YA contemporary leads tend to be for me. Louana was extremely grounded, wise beyond her years, and has some serious personal growth throughout the story that really drew me to her.
The story alternates between Louana’s first love, and the present summer events. At first I was impatient that it took so long for Louana to reveal to the reader what actually happened with her first, and when she finally did I was…overwhelmed. I think Sarah Dessen does a fantastic job recreating these feelings of youth and love and heartbreak in a totally unexpected way, and the whole story came together really nicely.
My favorite part of this book though, hands down, was the setting. I absolutely loved the backdrop of wedding planning; I thought it was not only fascinating, but it set this fast paced, ironic background for the characters and their development. It was great that other people’s romance took the forefront of the story, rather than Louana’s, and that was something I wasn’t expecting from this read, but was pleasantly surprised by.
The conversations that Louana shares with her friends, family, and wedding clients were all so real and entertaining, I just loved reading it. And of course, her banter with Ambrose never ceased to make me smile. I am a huge sucker for the hate to love relationship development, so I was rooting for them from the beginning. My only issue with the book is there were some events towards the end that seemed so uncharacteristic for all the characters involved that kind of put me off. But the ending was nice, bittersweet, and as complete as I was expecting.
This is my first Sarah Dessen book and it was a wonderful read. While the book isn’t necessarily short, I breezed right through it, and I would highly recommend picking this up for a breath of fresh air! Thank you to Penguin Teen for sending this book my way, and finally forcing me to pick up a Sarah Dessen book, I have a feeling I will look to her in the future when I need a quick break from sci-fi and fantasy!