Review: Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 358
Series: None
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

3 Stars

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Louna’s mom is a famous wedding planner and in the summer, Louna works with her. Seeing so many weddings and the way they seem to end, and the tragic events of her own love life, has turned Louna into a cynic. So when she meets the happy-go-lucky serial dater, Ambrose, she keeps him at arm’s length. But Ambrose has different plans, especially since he’s now her coworker.

Now before I get into all the whining I have planned about how boring the book was, I’d like to take the time to say that a) I love this cover, and b) I like Sarah Dessen. She uses a fairly simple prose and her stories always combine family, love and tragic events. They’re, from what I know, both fun and heavy, some more than others. This was the less heavy variety so obviously, I expected more fun. And I was sort of obliged.

Every scene that Ambrose was in was very entertaining. He has a happy, quirky and honest personality. He’s a bit naive but also kind and good. He takes things one day at a time, it seems, and doesn’t let anything bring him down. His and William’s scenes, who is Louna’s godfather and her mom’s coworker, were the only thing that kept me from falling asleep, because you know what wasn’t entertaining? EVERYTHING ELSE.

Seriously, if it weren’t for these two characters (and maybe Louna’s mom), the book would be a total snore fest. I wouldn’t even have gotten halfway.

For one, Louna is one of the most dull characters I’ve ever encountered. She’s a cynic but in a sad and angry sort of way. Expecting any sort of humour from her would be a mistake. I mean, I get why she’s that way considering what happened to her, but did she really have to be so boring? And her narrative didn’t help because it was just as dull as she was. I was honest-to-God skipping multiple sentences at a time because of the unnecessary details, and the pointless inner monologues that later also included copious amounts of denial.

And that’s not even counting the backstories.

I understand that we needed to know what happened with Louna’s ex. But there were more chapters than necessary that were longer than they were necessary. There wasn’t a need for a fifteen page chapter in which she only meets the guy in the end. It is possible to forgo the details of the wedding.

Don’t get me wrong though, the wedding planning was fun. There were some really great scenes that came from the profession. It’s just, backstories are bad enough as is, don’t make them longer than they need to be. Get to the point, that’s how backstories like this work. Just give us the important stuff, and the pages that are saved by that can be used to maybe explore Ambrose’s character. Maybe an emotional arc for him? And while we’re saving pages, leave the best friend’s multiple siblings out of it. No one cares about them.

Overall, a tedious read that I was relieved to be done with, but one that’s still well-written (though the narrative needed livening up) and has moments of humour and entertainment. I liked the wedding planner plot. Read it if you like (very) mellow reads.

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