It’s the summer between high school graduation and the start of college, and Emaline longs for a transformative summer, the kind she imagines many tourists encounter when they visit her small beachfront community of Colby, North Carolina. But it seems hard to have that kind of wild, crazy and carefree summer when her days are filled with handing out towels and checking in renters for the several properties managed by her family’s realty company.

Just when Emaline is convinced that this summer will be just like every other—except for her impending departure to a nearby state university at summer’s end—everything changes. She and her longtime boyfriend, Luke, have hit a rough patch in their relationship. Her birth father—with whom Emaline had a cordial relationship up until a recent betrayal—shows up in Colby with Emaline’s 10-year-old half brother, Benji, in tow. And one of the summer renters, Theo, who is in town from New York to assist with a documentary film project, seems to offer Emaline the kind of different, glamorous, romantic summer she thought she always wanted.

Sarah Dessen is an expert at depicting young women on the verge of big changes, either in their family lives or in their romantic relationships. She also excels at tying story to place, in this case the fictional community of Colby, which has been the setting for several of her novels (readers will appreciate cameo appearances by several of Dessen’s previous characters here). In Emaline’s story, this link between setting and character is particularly strong, as she gradually realizes that she can discover her own identity apart from the place that has always defined her. The Moon and More is the perfect summer read, full of steamy days, romantic nights and life-changing possibilities.

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