Book Review: ‘The Rest of the Story’

The Rest of the Story” by Sarah Dessen

Source: Book of the Month YA

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary


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?

Sarah Dessen’s books aren’t revolutionary. They are slice of life novels where our protagonist is going through a change (school, family, moving, etc.) and is finding her way in this world. I find them ultimately comforting because some things never change. I slip into this world just as easily as I did with The Truth About Forever as a teenager.

Found (or reacquainted) family is a delightful trope for me. My extended family has always been a state away so I’ve never been particularly close to them. I was able to live vicariously though books like this. Saylor is able to navigate this new-to-her world in a realistic manner. She feels awkward and out of place but also like she fits in.

The pacing is slow and the story isn’t ultimately ‘exciting’ but it worked for this story. Summers are meant to be slow paced and savored. So much of life will just pass you by that you need to sit and enjoy yourself. The Rest of the Story embodies that feeling.

Having read quite a few Sarah Dessen books over the last year or so, I was able to connect with the characters much more than I did in past novels. I felt like I got to know and slowly love them like Saylor did. Keeping track of the family tree was tricky though. I am sincerely disappointed that they didn’t add the family tree that Saylor was working on. I would have found it very helpful.

Tiny thing that I really loved: Saylor’s anxiety about driving. I too have driving anxiety. I know it sounds ridiculous and I see the looks on faces when people hear about it. It was just nice to see something about myself featured in a book.

Wonderful Summer story to get lost in.

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