My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thank you, Penguin Random House, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I’d had no idea I might be where I was now, on the edge of something with the last person I’d ever expect. —Louna
Once and for All was my second encounter with Sarah Dessen, who’s known as the queen of YA contemporary. Now, I already understand why many people love her books so much. Much like Saint Anything, this book was sweet, light, and pleasantly insightful. I really enjoyed it because it gave me epiphanies about the essence of love, family, and friendship.
Like most of the YA community, I was intrigued by the premise of this book. Louna, the only daughter of a successful wedding planner, harbors a cynical attitude towards true love. For reasons temporarily unknown to readers, she doesn’t believe that it lasts forever. Ambrose, a superficially typical playboy, hopes that he can break down her walls. You might already assume that Louna and Ambrose are endgame. However, there are plot points in this novel that will make you think otherwise. You have been warned. ^^
This book actually caught me off guard because it hit me in the feels so many times. Half of the novel was dedicated to recounting the events that made Louna so reserved and cynical. The said events made my stomach churn with a deep feeling of sympathy. These flashbacks were saddening, but I loved them nonetheless because they really helped me connect with Louna.
I also liked how this book explored the world of wedding planning, which was apparently both fun and stressful. Come to think of it, this book was quite satirical, in a sense that it cleverly depicted how people can be so obsessed with having a perfect and ostentatious wedding, as if it would ensure the success of their marriage. Even in real life, there are couples who spend so much money on wedding planning, only to end up divorced, annulled, or separated after a few weeks, months, or years. Such a high price to pay for a ceremony that affirms a potentially shallow relationship. 😦 Told ya this book was insightful! 😀
Ironically, the last strength of this book was its lack of romance. Essentially, Once and for All had some cheesy scenes, but it was more focused on character development, especially Louna’s. It was inspiring to witness her embrace a new outlook on life and love.
Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like about this book was the rather rushed ending. Louna hurt the feelings of a certain character, and she got away with it so easily. I didn’t want her to suffer, exactly, but I expected that she would experience a more serious consequence.
Overall, I can objectively say that Once and for All is not your typical YA contemporary book. I was pleased by its touching story, as well as its flawed yet well-developed characters. Personally, I will always remember this book because it made me reflect upon society’s misconceptions about weddings/marriage.