Book Talk: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Book Talk: The Truth About Forever by Sarah DessenThe Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Published by Viking Juvenile on May 11, 2004
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 374
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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A long, hot summer...

That's what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy's father.

But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister's project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl's world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to question her sheltered life.

Is it really always better to be safe than sorry?

My goal of reading through all of Sarah Dessen’s novels has had its ups and its downs. With This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever, Dessen seems to have really hit her stride. They’re better characterized than her earlier weeks, and shippier too, which is obviously the most important thing. The Truth About Forever is a book about grief, family relationships, and figuring what you really want.

For the first few chapters, I wasn’t a big fan of The Truth About Forever. Macy’s bland and boring, not seeming to care about much aside from her pretentious asshole boyfriend Jason, who’s gone off to smart kids camp. With him gone, she doesn’t really do anything, aside from work Jason’s job at the library information desk, which she hates. She also consistently grumps about being perceived solely as the girl who saw her father die, but she doesn’t interact with anyone or try to move on herself.

However, Macy takes a chance and steps out of her comfort zone during her summer after Jason dumps her for leaning too heavily on him: she gets a second job working for a catering company called Wish. At Wish, everything’s always mid-crisis, but everything always turns out okay in the end. Though initially resistant, Macy begins to open up to her coworkers and makes real friends. As she opens up, her narration becomes more engaged and delightful.

Her father’s death has been a pall over her life. She has been carrying around guilt, unable to process her grief or focus on all of the things she loved about her dad. Instead, she tried to be as perfect and in control as possible, in an attempt to feel safe and to try to keep her mom on an even keel. Her mom, too, went to that “if I work really hard and keep everything perfect, I’ll be safe” place rather than grieving. It was really difficult for me to like her mom, but you realize at the end how similar the two of them really are, and The Truth About Forever is a reminder that shutting off grief shuts down the other emotions too.

The relationship Macy has with her mom is a frustrating one, but it does feel very real. I do like that her mother runs a business in a male-dominated profession (developing homes) and is very successful at it. However, the way her mother exerts such fierce control over her daughter who is really well-behaved is rage-inducing; on the plus side, though, it’s clear that Macy’s mother cares. I love the parallel between the two in the way their relationship resolves at the end, even if it’s total bullshit that her mom accepts Wes not because she trusts her daughter but because she finds out he’s an award-winning artist. Their relationship is messy and believable and well-done. The one thing lacking is that I would have liked to see more of her father brought in, especially with regards to the As Seen on TV stuff; I expected that to be a narrative thread in some way, and it just wasn’t.

The cast of Wish catering is largely charming, though most of them merely form a quirky backdrop to the slow burn romance between Wes and Macy. I found Monica, who everyone calls Monotone and who only ever says about 12 words in the whole book, rather inexplicable. I’d have liked more of both Bert and Kristy, but for the most part they exist to be sounding boards for the heroine and/or comic relief. Still, I do find Wes’ love for Bert touching and Macy getting a real friend in Kristy very touching.

Macy and Wes begin as friends, and I love the evolution of their relationship, even if it does hit some very expected trope points. They do almost all of their bonding over the game of Truth, where they challenge each other to answer personal questions truthfully. They keep this up throughout the novel, even once they get together, and I really love that. Healthy relationships are built on honesty, and that makes me feel like they have a real shot. Plus, it’s also just a freaking cute way to build tension between them. They have a really nice back and forth, and the scenes between them were easily the best in the book.

Despite the rocky start, The Truth About Forever really won me over, and I ended up loving this book.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

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