Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Review: This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

Title: This Lullaby
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Speak
Publication Date: May 27th, 2002
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

Remy has just graduated from high school and is looking forward to attending Stanford in the fall. As the summer begins, Remy is finishing the planning of her mother’s fourth wedding since her marriage to Remy’s dad. Her musician father died when she was a toddler, before he could even meet her. The only thing he ever gave her was the song, “This Lullaby.” To Remy, the song is a reminder that her father was the first man to let her down. While Remy has had her fair share of boyfriends, she always sticks to her rules about dating, which involve breaking up before she can get hurt. If her mother’s failed marriages have taught her anything, it’s that all relationships are doomed to fail, and Remy believes it’s safer to end things sooner rather than later. When Remy starts dating Dexter, the fearless optimist, she finds herself breaking her own rules for the first time. Dexter is a clumsy musician who is nothing like the boys Remy usually dates. His mother has also had a number of failed marriages, which have had the opposite effect on him. While Remy is cynical and uptight, Dexter has become mellow and easy going from having so many different father figures in his life. In the summer in-between her old life and her new life in college, Remy just wants a fling that doesn’t mean anything. Dexter is the one boy that never fit into Remy’s rules, and he’s also the one boy she might be able to love. Falling in love is a risk that Remy has been avoiding her whole life, and Dexter might be the one person who can help her have faith in relationships.

Earlier this week I went to a book signing for Sarah Dessen in Toronto. One of the questions from the audience was which one of her books was her favourite, and Sarah said that This Lullaby was the most fun to write. This made me very excited to go home and read it, since I already (by chance) had it checked out from the library. So far, this is my favourite of Sarah Dessen’s books. The writing is as good as ever, and despite the slow start I found myself completely absorbed in this book by about page 50. While it’s often a fast paced plot that makes me not want to stop reading, this wasn’t the case in This Lullaby. The book focuses primarily on relationships and the characters, so it isn’t exactly plot heavy. Instead, it was the characters that drew me in. Remy was very different from the other protagonists in the books I’ve read by Sarah Dessen. Her friends call her a “cold and bitter bitch.” She’s recently quit smoking, drinking excessively and sleeping around. She takes control of situations, and she isn’t afraid to stand up to people. The Truth About Forever and Just Listen were both about girls who appear to be perfect, and Remy was a refreshing change from that. I can see why some readers would find her unlikable and difficult, but I found her to be a complex character that is a little rough around the edges. I found myself wanting to know more about her background, such as why she decided to change her life style and quit partying. I also wanted to learn more about her life with her different stepfathers. However, as a whole, I thought she was very real. Before I start talking about Dexter, I should mention that I’m not one of those people who are constantly falling in love with fictional characters. My friends will often read a book and tell me how they wish the male lead was their boyfriend, and I very seldom feel that way. Of course, Dexter seems to be the exception. I love him so much. He’s just so lovely and unlike so many of the boys I read about. I loved Dexter and Remy and their “natural chemistry.” I was really rooting for them to be together. The supporting characters were great, including Dexter’s band mates and Remy’s best friends. I found the characters in this novel to be interesting and realistic. They drew me in, and are a huge part of the reason I loved this book.

When I can’t find anything to read, I know I can always count on one of Sarah Dessen’s novels to be a quick and light read that will always cheer me up. With a simple story that rings true and great characters, her stories always feel relevant to my life, even if on the surface I have little in common with the characters. Dessen’s fans will not be disappointed by This Lullaby, and I’d recommend it to fans of YA romance and chick lit.


“Some things don't last forever, but some things do. Like a good song, or a good book, or a good memory you can take out and unfold in your darkest times, pressing down on the corners and peering in close, hoping you still recognize the person you see there."

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