The Rest of the Story – Sarah Dessen – Balzer
+Bray – Published 4 June 2019
Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.
Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.
When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.
Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.
The Rest of the Story is the perfect summer read. Or the perfect book to pick up in winter when you are craving summer days at the beach. I’ve always loved Sarah Dessen’s writing and The Rest of the Story was no different. It’s a great blend of summer romance with deeper themes around family, memories and loss. It’s also funny and has a few teen hijinks that will have you craving ice cream, secret parties, and impromptu proms with loads of fairy lights.
Emma Saylor has only a few memories of her mother. When her plans to stay at a friend’s place while her father honeymoons with his new (really nice) wife, Emma volunteers to go and stay with her mother’s family at North Lake. While she visited as a small child, Emma has no recollection of the lake or her maternal family. Her arrival at her grandmother’s house and family-run motel is bumpy. Emma is the city girl who doesn’t know any of the people she’s surrounded with or the lake traditions. But it isn’t long before she is swept up into the big, loud extended family, volunteering at the motel and sharing stories of the past with the intriguing Roo.
Put your feet up, grab your shades and sink into The Rest of the Story. It’s the perfect way to enjoy this sweet summer story. Emma Saylor—Emma to her dad and everyone, Saylor to her mother and now her mother’s family—is an easy character to like. She’s a good girl, a good daughter, a good friend, makes good decisions and tries not to rock the boat. She’s also genuinely nice, so it’s easy to become immersed in her world. Emma also has anxiety, so travelling to a new place surrounded by unfamiliar faces is a challenge. But she finds that she fits at North Lake, fits with the people there and the relaxed vibe, even if she is fighting with her cousin, dodging the wrath of her other cousin’s girlfriend, or trying to get on the good side of her another cousin (it’s a big family).
There is something very easy about this book. Emma still grieves her mother, but it’s been years since her death, so it’s a quiet, soft kind of grieving. She falls in with a Lake North boy, but it’s easy come and go, with no emotional fall out. She is a nice person, so the fights with her cousins are mild. And her relationship with Roo is just so right and easy that it is perfect. They are good friends first, and have so much to share with each other and it just works. There are some exciting moments in the book, a few near misses with security that liven things up, but overall it’s an easy to read, delightful, relaxing book, which I loved.
For all Sarah Dessen fans or for readers of light contemporary novels with a strong heart, The Rest of the Story is the book for you.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Family, belonging, summer, motels, lakes, grief, anxiety, loss, holidays, hurricanes.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, sh** , pi** (9). References to alcohol consumption and drug use, alcohol addictions, drug overdose leading to death.
Published: 4 June 2019 by Balzer +Bray
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. 440 pages.