Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

It’s been at least ten years since I last read a Sarah Dessen book – Lock & Key was my first ever one! I remember really enjoying her books, so when I saw that the audiobook for Once and For All had no wait list at my library, needless to say I jumped at the opportunity to revisit her books. Unfortunately, I’m not sure whether my memories were rose tinted, or whether her recent books took a dip in quality, but Once and For All was a pretty bit big let down.

As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

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.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.

My biggest issue with this book was the total lack of a plot. No matter how you swing it, this book is more like a few random events strung together than an actual plotted book. I don’t mind loosely plotted books, but this took it to an extreme. The whole story hinged on the main character’s tragic first relationship and the fallout that it caused in her life (and love life) going forward. This would have been an interesting story, had there been any chemistry or discernible connection between Louna and her ex. Because they didn’t have much of a connection, it was hard to buy into the idea that Louna was permanently affected even more than a year later. The story was told both in the present day and in flashbacks, which really didn’t add much to the story.

Louna (terrible spelling of a great name) is one of the most flat leading ladies that I’ve read in a long time. She had virtually no personality and what personality she did have was aggressively unpleasant. Being prickly to new people can be a great start to a breaking-down-of-walls story-line, but in this case there was no redemption to be found for Louna. She was super one note – she fixated on a guy who she knew for a few hours and texted with to the point of toxic obsession. I honestly think I would have enjoyed a book focusing on her mom more – in the little bit of time that was spent focused on her, she was leagues more interesting than her daughter. Ambrose was also pretty flat. He was a walking stereotype who unfortunately didn’t receive much in the way of character development. His character also wasn’t very consistent which made it hard to follow his intentions, let alone to feel any chemistry between him and Louna.

Poorly plotted, and with little substance, Once and For All was a shell of a novel. Plus, in a book that hinges around the love life of the main character, there was a stark lack of chemistry in any of the relationships. I’d recommend giving this one a pass – maybe check out some of Sarah Dessen’s higher rated books. 2/5

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  1. I haven’t read a Sarah Dessen book in forever, too. I think it’s because I relate her books to my teenage years lol. Reading the synopsis, I got excited and thought I might give this a shot. But I think I’m going to pass after reading your review.

  2. Sorry to hear this one fell flat. I hear this author is very popular.
    Gemma @ Gemma’s Book Nook

  3. I’ve recently been rereading all of SD’s books and I feel this one is one of her weakest. It’s the last book she wrote for Penguin, so I’m thinking she phoned it in to finish up the contract. I usually love her books, but this one was pretty terrible.

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