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This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

December 3, 2009

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
published by Viking Juvenile May 27, 2002

As soon as Remy started high school — pretty and blond and, well, a girl with a reputation — teachers and guidance counselors had her pegged as average, a student who would never achieve much. She worked hard to prove them wrong, and now she’s graduated and won acceptance to Stanford. She’s also busy planning her mother’s fifth wedding, to a car salesman, and working in a beauty salon. She can’t wait to hop on that plane to California!

Meanwhile Remy has her three best friends, Lissa, Jess and Chloe, and she’s just broken up with Jerk Jonathan, the latest in a string of temporary boyfriends. She is a girl who has no difficulty attracting guys. She’s sexually active, but she never falls in love. Having been abandoned at conception by her father, and having watched her mother navigate four failed marriages, Remy doesn’t believe in love. She never lets herself lose control in relationships, just as she always keeps control over her compulsively tidy, organized life. She has become an expert in enjoying the euphoria of a new relationship, then breaking it off before the glow fades and the couple has to recognize each others’ imperfections, accept one another as multi-dimensional human beings, and commit to the hard work of building a relationship.

Then she meets Dexter, an aspiring musician who is impulsive, forgetful, and messy. Dating him is breaking all of Remy’s carefully ordered rules. But what does it matter? It will end in August, when she leaves for Stanford, if not sooner. It’s not as if he’s going to be a long term boyfriend, right?

On one level, this is a light summer romance, with plenty of wry humor and some laugh-out-loud moments. It is also a story about taking a leap of faith — having the courage to take a risk and allow oneself to fall in love.

It took me a while to warm up to Remy, who has a sharp edge and doesn’t tend to accept others’ weaknesses. However, I was drawn into her character, with its paradoxical mix of disciplined control and promiscuity, of sharp assertiveness and vulnerability. It felt real to me, and I found myself caring about her and rooting for her.

This is an enjoyable novel with fun dialogue and an interesting central character which explores the struggle between wanting love and intimacy and being terrified of it. Does it require more courage, and offer a richer, more wonderful life, when you’re willing to risk loving someone without conditions and come to terms with each others’ imperfections? At times, I felt this message was laid on with a very heavy hand. However, I realize that novels for young adults tend to present themes in a much less subtle way than other novels do. I admired this author for exploring these questions, which are a crucial and difficult part of coming of age.

I also liked the fact that she wasn’t afraid to be honest about teenage sexuality and substance abuse. These adolescent characters aren’t saints; they’re real kids, easing into maturity and trying to make better choices.

I recommend this to mature teens and adults as a good read and a springboard to discussions about divorce as well as love, intimacy, sexuality, trust, and the decisions we make in adolescence.

Check Out More Reviews of This Book:

Teen Book Review

Running for Fiction

Today’s Adventure

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