Review: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Author: Sarah Dessen 
Genre: young-adult
Series: N/A
Pages: 374
Published: May 2004
Source: bought
Rating: 4/5

The Truth About Forever introduces us to another of Dessen's dependable, relatable, well-written main characters: Macy Queen. Macy is a sweet, down-to-earth, easy-to-identify-with kind of girl. She's obedient and good-natured. The books jumps into Macy's life soon after the death of her beloved father before her eyes, Macy shuts down emotionally, becoming an almost passive observer in her own life. Her mother, consumed by her own grief, fails to notice the change and the pain in her daughter: instead, both become totally fixated on jobs and school as means of distraction from the constant ache in their normal lives.

Dessen does an excellent job of showing the grief and the pain Macy endures daily, and silently unwilling to burden her grieving mother. Grief is an isolating emotion, one that is individual and unique to every person, and Dessen excels at making Macy's pain feel engulfing and tangible to the reader. Her sorrow over her father haunts every page when the numerous differences of Macy's life Before and Macy's life After are remarked upon. 

Another strength of the book was the relationship between Macy and her sister Caroline. While their mother buries herself in work instead of her daughter, and Macy's friends and boyfriend are nowhere to be found, it is Macy's overly-dramatic but truly caring sister that fends for and defends her younger sister. Caroline was a breezy of funny air in a novel that was sadder than I had thought it would be. I often looked forward to her critiques of Wes' heart-in-hand creations and snickered every time she did so. 

Complicating Macy's extreme emotional vulnerability is her cold fish of a boyfriend, Jason. Brainy, and so rigid it's a wonder he can manage to bend to tie his shoes, Jason is one of the more repellant characters in all three novels by Dessen that I have read. His utter lack of empathy for his girlfriend of a year and a half after losing her father was infuriating. His response when Macy tells him she loves him? She is "too dependent on him emotionally", and he puts their relationship on hiatus. Because he was so removed, so distant, I actually welcomed the Dreaded YA Triangle when it was introduced with the character of Wes because it meant Jason might get the heave-ho. 

Macy's struggles to connect with people, and with herself after so long, are real and human. Her connection with Wes, because it is based completely on friendship as they're both in compromised relationships with others at the time they meet, flourishes and is allowed to grow naturally into a genuine and caring love. Macy grows as a character; she acts out, tests her mother and finally, truly lets her guard down months after it was needed.  When she does break down her emotional wall, it is a truly heartbreaking and compelling scene. Through the tumultuous and emotional turns of the book, Macy changes from a passive wallflower into a determined and passionate young woman. The evolution of her character was authentic and rewarding; leaving behind her crippling grief but not her father, Macy begins to be able to move on with her life. I loved the ending of this novel, especially the final paragraph; I thought it was written very well and ended things on exactly on the note I had wanted for this book.

"We'd start slow, just like we always did, because the run, and the game could go on for a while. Maybe even forever. That was the thing, you just never knew. Forever was so many different things. It was always changing, it was what everything was really about. It was twenty minutes, or a hundred years, or just this instant, or any instant I wished would last and last. But there is one truth about forever that really mattered, and that was this: it was happening. Right then, as I ran  with Wes into that bright sun, and every moment afterwards. Look there. Now. Now. Now."


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