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Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

November 14, 2009

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
published by Penguin Group USA September 1, 1999

Fifteen-year-old Colie Sparks’s life has been defined, in many ways, by not fitting in. After years of moving from one place to another with her struggling single mom, she finally settles down, but she doesn’t find peace. Middle school is torture. Fifty pounds overweight, she is ridiculed for being fat. After she loses the weight, she is branded as a “slut” and is relentlessly harassed by popular girls in her school. Vulnerable and uncomfortable in her own skin, she gets a dye job and a lip piercing that don’t really suit her and tries to shield herself as best she can.

Colie’s mom, once obese, now a born again health guru, is off to Europe to promote her exercise program. Colie is sent to stay with her eccentric aunt Mira on the North Carolina Coast. Overweight and oddly dressed, Mira is the butt of many jokes among the locals. Although Mira seems oblivious to this, Colie finds it excruciating.

Colie takes a job at the Last Chance Bar and Grill and befriends the waitresses, Isabel and Morgan, who have an edgy and volatile relationship but are devoted friends, and gentle, eccentric Norman, a short order cook and gifted artist. Gradually her new friends, along with Aunt Mira, help her gain confidence and self esteem.

This is a lighter novel than Someone Like You, but still rich with human experience. Sarah Dessen’s knack for creating unique, quirky, down-to-earth characters really shines here. I saw shades of one my most beloved authors, Anne Tyler, in her odd, richly developed cast of characters. However, for some reason, I didn’t find the characters in Keeping the Moon quite as compelling as those in Someone Like You, and I didn’t find this novel as difficult to put down.

Nevertheless, I strongly recommend it, and it is a book I would have dearly loved to have had on my shelf when I was a young teen. Colie is easy to relate to and quickly won my affection, and I readily connected to Aunt Mira. This is a story both teens and adults will enjoy.

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