I think I’m becoming a Sarah Dessen fan. 💖 Once and For All was filled with loveable characters, a warm and close family, a heart-wrenching backstory, and sophisticated writing. This book left me squealing with cuteness, sniffling with sadness, and intensely craving wedding cake. 🍰
Sarah Dessen does an amazing job of balancing more serious and sad topics with a light-hearted romance. One minute I was laughing at the cute wedding planning moments and the next I was crying from all the emotions.
Spoiler-free Summary: Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.
This book gets 4/5 stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I actually listened to the audiobook instead of reading the physical book, and it was a wonderful experience. I would definitely recommend it because the voice actor perfectly emphasizes the dramatic scenes while keeping the romance all fluffy. Once and For All is the perfect summertime read! 🌸
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
A big component of this book is the flashbacks. Sarah Dessen weaves flashbacks of Louna’s relationship with Ethan (her last boyfriend) throughout the novel, showcasing how they met to how the relationship ended. Personally, I thought it was done very well. 👌 Some people may think that it interrupts the storyline, but I think Sarah Dessen strategically chooses which part of Louna’s past to reveal to the reader.
Louna. I really love her character. She is such a strong girl who has gone through tough shit, and she still comes off as very likable and relatable. My heart broke so much for her when we learn that her last boyfriend, Ethan, was killed in a school shooting. I knew that this was coming due to Sarah Dessen’s foreshadowing, but my heart still wasn’t ready when she describes the flashbacks of learning that Ethan was dead. 😭💔
From the flashbacks, we can see how much Louna has grown as a person and how her past shaped her to be more guarded of her heart. In present time, we see her begin to open up again once she meets Ambrose. Ambrose. This boy is so happy-go-lucky and glass-half-full. 😂 He’s basically a golden retriever in human form. I think he’s a great opposite to Louna’s personality because he adds a bit of sunshine to each scene that he’s in. I could definitely understand why Louna found him annoying sometimes because I felt the same way, but you can’t stay mad at this puppy! While he is very careless *coughcough stealing a puppy coughcough showing up at his mother’s wedding late coughcough*, he does have a strong conviction to help those around him.
I also really love Louna’s family–her, Natalie (her mom), and William (her godfather). The family interactions made me smile so much!
THIS. BOOK. MADE. ME. CRY. 👏 which is a huge accomplishment because I don’t cry easily while reading. The entire time we were building up to learning about Ethan’s death my heart was so anxious. They were so cute together. 😭Let’s talk about the bet…I sometimes forgot that it existed. We saw Ambrose and his relationship with Lauren, but we didn’t get much of Louna and her required three days a week. I feel like we only saw her interact with Lumberjack Guy and Ben. 🙄 I wish that this was developed more in the plot because it was made to be a big deal for Louna and Ambrose’s relationship to develop.
My other critique is that the ending was somewhat rushed. I would’ve liked to see Louna explain to Ben that she kissed Ambrose (which is not okay and I do not condone) and see Louna and Ambrose’s interactions as a couple.
At first, I was a little skeptical of Louna and Ambrose’s compatibility. I loved them as individual characters, but I wasn’t seeing the spark immediately. For a while, I was like “hmph Ambrose sucks he’s nothing like Ethan 😠“, and then I realized…that was the point.Sarah Dessen wasn’t trying to create an Ethan 2.0 for Louna because that wasn’t what she needed. She needed someone like Ambrose who could get her more positive about love again. At times, I did feel that the developing romance was one-sided and only Ambrose was falling for her, but I think it’s because for Louna, we’re mainly focused on learning about her past relationship with Ethan.
I really love listening to contemporaries on audiobooks. I almost DNF-ed this one because the voice-acting for Julie is extremely annoying. BUT! You just have to power through it. The narration for the dramatic scenes is A++ because it captures the level of intensity and emotion that I wouldn’t have felt just by reading.
While this book is very wonderful and light-hearted, it could also leave you in tears. I definitely recommend picking it up and giving it a read. I also think it has the perfect spring/summertime vibe, so bring it with you on vacation! ☀️
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Have you read Once and For All? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments! 💕