The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen | Book Review

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Genre: YA Contemporary

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Publication Date: 4th June, 2019

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?

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I often forget how wonderful contemporary YA books can be – there’s just something so nice about being able to pick up a book and not have to think too hard about the world it’s set in, or really having to focus due to super complex writing that sometimes comes with reading fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, fantasy will always be my most favourite genre, but there’s no denying the unique reading experience of a contemporary book. It’s comforting to read something ‘simple’ yet emotionally moving, and that’s what The Rest of the Story delivered.

The thing I loved the most about this book was the way it showed different family dynamics. Main character Saylor finds herself in a situation where she has to go and stay with her late mother’s family, who she hasn’t seen since she was young. I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful, (albeit small) supportive family that mean everything to me, so reading about Saylor reconnecting with this big family that all lived so close and were so involved in each other’s lives was really nice.

‘Part of grieving is letting go of the past. But how can you let go if you never knew it in the first place?’

The Rest of the Story is the first Sarah Dessen book I’ve ever finished reading – I stumbled across a sample of it a week before its release, and those few chapters drew me in so much that I instantly went and preordered it. It turned out to be the perfect summer read that the first chapters promised it to be.

It was so easy to read, and the writing style really drew me in. This year really hasn’t been a good reading year for me – it’s been taking me a long time to get through anything I start, but I flew through this book and didn’t ever want to put it down.

The only kind of negative I have was there’s a certain relationship in this book that I didn’t really see developing – it was mostly told and not shown, and I would’ve liked to have had a couple more scenes just to show the relationship growing, so it was a bit more believable. But this really wasn’t a big issue for me – I liked that the focus of this book was clearly on family.

‘She’d been waiting there for me all this time, and now here I was.’

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The Rest of the Story was such an enjoyable read! It’s got everything a YA contemporary should have – summer sun, a hint of romance, and just a little drama to keep those pages being turned! My pup definitely recommends picking up this book during the summer!

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Content Warning:

  • Loss of a parent
  • Mentions of alcoholism/drug overdose
  • Hurricane

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