Books contemporary fiction Romance Young Adult

Sarah Dessen: “The Truth About Forever”? More like the truth about life

There have been a few authors who I had heard great things about but was a bit slow to read their novels. No particular reason why, it just so happened that other stories took priority at that time. Some of these authors include Colleen Hoover, Ava Dellaira and Bella Forrest. Now that I’ve finally caught up, I wish I read some of these stories a while ago.

The best example of this is Sarah Dessen’s novel The Truth About Forever. Despite all of Dessen’s great reviews, her novels eluded me.  Now, though, I wish I read this novel years ago, because it’s a book that had me laughing, crying and hoping along with the characters. For a young adult novel it had very mature themes and gave readers a lot to think about.

A long, hot summer…

That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.

But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to question her sheltered life.

Is it really always better to be safe than sorry?

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Some stories are packed with so many beautiful messages that you practically learn something new with every turn of the page. The Truth About Forever is one of those stories. It’s clear the Dessen aims to inspire and influence her readers in a positive way, with messages like: the truth about forever is that it’s happening now; everything happens for a reason, even the bad things; things have to go wrong to able to appreciate when they go right; having people to lean on when life feels like an uphill climb can make it that little bit easier…

Thing I really loved about The Truth About Forever, however, was the overarching message about life that Dessen portrayed through Wish, the catering business. The idea that life is messy, we can’t control it, but even when everything seems to be up in the air the world will right itself again, and it will all be ok.

When Macy first started working at Wish, it freaked her out and tore her ego apart a little bit. Here was a girl who wanted to control everything in life because she knew the pain that came when something unexpectedly went wrong, the pain that comes when the world takes something away from you when you weren’t looking, entering a job where nothing goes as expected, where the one thing you can count on is that something will go wrong.

But the fear of something is usually worse than the thing itself, and even though she was terrified of not being in control, she learned that not being in control wasn’t the worst thing, and things usually work out.

In the middle of the novel, Dessen wrote:

All night there’d been one little problem after another, disasters arising, culminating, and then somehow getting solved, all at whiplash speed. I was so used to controlling the unexpected at all costs that I’d felt my stress level rising and falling, reacting constantly. For everyone else, though, this seemed perfectly normal. They honestly seemed to believe that things would just work out. And the weirdest thing was, they did. Somehow. Eventually. Although even when I was standing right there I couldn’t say how.
– Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

Reading this, I felt Dessen wasn’t just talking about the catering business. I think she was using this as a way to explain how each of us goes through life. Small problems arise in life, then they get solved before another small problem pops up, and even though we wonder how on Earth we’re going to get through them all, over time we somehow manage to and suddenly we’re left realising that we got through it. Even if we have no idea, or recollection, of how we did.

A beautiful novel laced with an important message about life, Dessen gave us a story that feels more like real life than fiction, and reminds us that it’s never better to be safe than sorry. Because if we’re sorry, then at least we tried. And that counts for something.

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