Every teen or young adult romance book follows the same outline: the guy and the girl hate each other and, eventually, fall in love. This is exactly what I expected when I picked up Once and For All by Sarah Dessen, and that’s precisely what I received– mostly. While I have nothing against romance books, Once and For All was simply mediocre.
Louna Barrett is the only daughter of the high-in-demand wedding planner Natalie Barrett. Working summers for her mom and William, the best friend, she has seen and dealt with it all. However, there’s no way Louna could have been prepared to meet Ambrose, a charming and troublesome son of the bride. Unfortunately for Louna, who instantly dislikes him, Ambrose isn’t going anywhere fast. Bee, Ambrose’s sister, is planning her wedding with Natalie in the upcoming months. In order to give Bee some space to focus and relax, Natalie hires Ambrose to work with Louna.
The whole book is pretty chich . There are substantial plot twists; nevertheless, Once and For All is terribly predictable. It has the potential to shatter your heart in pieces, but it is all wasted seeing that my heart is perfectly intact. Yes, the book did tug at my heartstrings, but– again– it didn’t produce the throbbing heartache it could have. Despite this, the book is still quite cute.
For a book so centered about love and weddings, I find it interesting that many of the main characters don’t believe in true love to varying extents. While some don’t believe in it all together, Louna believes in a limited amount chances for true love. Even though this is a bit stereotypical for romance books, I love this aspect of it. It makes the idea of love seem more abstract and less common.
Throughout the book, Louna reminisces about her traumatic first love with a boy named Ethan. Louna often muses over the fact that she doesn’t think she will find something like it again. Every few chapters, there is a flashback to her first love, and it slowly fills in Louna and Ethan’s story. Frankly, I was a little surprised by this after reading the first chapter of the book. In Chapter One, so much information is shoved down the reader’s throat. I expected to have Louna and Ethan’s story smashed into a chapter and for that to be it. While the lack of information made certain parts of the story a bit confusing, it worked in Dessen’s favor. Since the plot wasn’t riveting, my need to know more about Louna’s first love kept me reading.
As for Louna’s second love, it could have– and should have– been so much more. Because the story is told from Louna’s perspective, I was hoping her character development and the growing attraction would be showcased. I was severely disappointed; her development isn’t very noticeable. Actually, it is rather abrupt, like flipping a light switch. Louna hates Ambrose, and then all of a sudden, she doesn’t. Louna and Ambrose’s story would have been captivating had it been better planned. Dessen needed to have dropped more hints about Louna falling for Ambrose or have written more moments for the characters to fall for each other in.
Although there were many areas where Dessen lacked, her writing itself is pretty good. The book flowed well and isn’t difficult to follow. Dessen’s cheesy style is perfectly suited to this type of romance novel. Somehow, she manages to keep her chich -ness tasteful. Dessen is clearly talented, yet, her writing isn’t anything extraordinary.
Overall, Once and For All is ordinary. It isn’t unpleasant to read, and I wasn’t drowned in meaningless words written just to fill its 357 pages. But there is nothing to set it apart from the thousands of other books similar to it. The story is barely romantic, and it is lacking in development. So while it is a good read, I don’t know that I’ll be suggesting it to anybody anytime soon.