The Rest of the Story

Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins/. Jun. 2019. 448p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062933621.
Gr 8 Up–Emma Saylor’s sheltered life is jostled when her summer plans are canceled last minute and her father scrambles to find her lodging before heading out of the country. With no options left, Emma crashes with Mimi, her maternal grandmother, whom she last saw years earlier at her mother’s funeral. Vacationing at Mimi’s lakeside motel with unfamiliar family leads Emma to reconnect with relatives who may be the key to discovering how her mom’s life, and addiction, impacted the whole family’s history as much as her own. Dessen has a vivid way of exploring a character’s features, feelings, and flaws that leaves readers wanting more. Emma’s a deceptively simple narrator whose complex reality is revealed slowly as she uncovers a new side of her family tree. Emma collects stories of her mom’s childhood and her parents’ relationship, leading her to reevaluate all the ways a person can love someone. At the same time, her realistic struggle of how she deals with anxiety is undeniably relatable for teens today. Ultimately, it’s the budding friendship with local boy Roo that pushes Emma to see that understanding your family’s past can make all the difference in accepting the memories and identity of those you hold dear.
VERDICT A beautiful addition to Dessen’s repertoire, and an examination of conflicting social classes, strained familial relationships, and delightfully evolving romance that is unforgettable

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