Review: Once & for All by Sarah Dessen (Spoiler-Free)

Louna may work in the wedding industry – helping out her mother, who’s Lakeview’s top wedding planner – but she’s not so certain about true love, especially since her own first love was so fleeting, and ended so disastrously. Enter Ambrose, the handsome and maddening brother of one of a client, with whom Louna seems to be constantly forced into company, and who can’t take anything seriously… except perhaps Louna?

Another great Sarah Dessen book! 🎊 The story was a wonderful blend of sweet and bittersweet, with a real dash of humour that showed up whenever the book began to get a bit too heavy. Louna made for a great protagonist: cynical, but understandably so, and not so much so that it made her annoying, and watching her grow and overcome her problems was incredible. Ambrose, on the other hand, was a rather unusual love interest; when he first made his appearance, I – like Louna – found him more irritating than charming… but he grew on me a lot as the story progressed, and the kindness and compassion behind his seemingly self-centred actions became more evident.

As a plot device, I wasn’t a huge fan of Louna and Ambrose’s bet, but it did keep the story moving quite effectively, and I felt that it progressed (and eventually derailed) in a way that was true to both characters. I would, however, have liked to have seen a bit more of Ambrose’s side of the story…

The side characters were all great, too: Louna’s family (her mother and her mother’s best friend William) played a huge role in the book, and I found it kind of refreshing to be reading a Sarah Dessen book with a protagonist who had such a great relationship with her family. Her best friend Jilly was a lot of fun, too, though her role seemed to mostly be limited to instigator-of-Louna’s-dates… And then there was Ethan. 💕 I loved Ethan – Louna’s first love – so much; he was my favourite thing about this book, and although he played a huge role, and his influence was felt even in his absence, I wanted more of him. During the flashback chapters, where Louna remembered their short but incredibly cute romance, I kept catching myself thinking, “Oh, I wish this whole book were about Louna and Ethan”, or “I hope Dessen writes a book about Ethan next” (all her books are connected in small ways), and then remembering why it wasn’t, and she probably wouldn’t… 😭

For all their cuteness, Sarah Dessen’s books always seem to have a tinge of something sad to them, and Once & for All is sadder than most, but I’d still recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind that fact – it’s a wonderful book, and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Cameos I spotted: It’s been a while since I last read anything by Dessen, so I probably missed a lot of the more subtle connections between this book and her others, but the big one – in the form of Eli and Auden from Along for the Ride at the pie place where Louna and Ethan stop on their date – was obvious even to me, and made me ridiculously happy; Along for the Ride is probably my second-favourite of Dessen’s books (after Just Listen). 😊

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