by Sarah Dessen
This is my third Sarah Dessen book, and like the first two, The Truth About Forever (3/5) and Just Listen (4/5), I was pretty much satisfied with how it turned out.
Fresh out of high school and gearing to attend Stanford University in the fall, Remy is the epitome of jaded. Her writer-mother, Barbara, is preparing to marry her fifth husband, and her father, a one-hit-wonder musician, had died before she even turned one, leaving her, her brother Chris and their mother to fend for themselves. All through her teenage life, Remy had to live through the subsequent string of partners that her mother brought home; eventually, she had to endure having the men around as her stepfathers, one after the other. At such a young age, Remy is therefore cynical about love, preferring not to invest feelings on a particular boy at any particular time.
Enter Dexter. (Of course, love interest enters at this point.) Just a few adjectives for Dexter: musician, charming, irresponsible, emotionally mature. He pursues Remy despite her commitment issues, but b*tchy Remy
And there's where the conflict lies.
I buddy-read this with a few bookish friends in time for the love month - some were able to finish it way ahead of the reading schedule, some could only manage to squeeze in a few pages per day because of their very hectic schedules, thus (understandably) lagging behind. As for me, I faithfully kept to the reading plan and finished only the requisite two chapters per day. (I'm kind of OC like that. Heee.) The buddy-read culminates today, Valentine's Day. Perfect time to be writing my notes about the book, yes?
It was so easy to dislike Remy. And I did dislike her, at first. Her commitment issues seemed too melodramatic, when it comes down to it. God, it wasn't as though she was being asked to marry every boy she fell in love with! But no, she had to hold every one of them at arm's length, shoving (hard) if anyone came too emotionally close, turning away at the first sign of love.
But then, I realized that it wasn't a conscious effort on her part to push these guys away. Her mother's marital history has unwittingly made her who she was - the failures of her mother's marriages to work made Remy lose her faith in love. Who could blame her for being so cynical when she practically saw her mother's relationships disintegrate right before her very eyes?
Dexter wasn't dreamy, really. If I were a teenager and someone like Dexter would come along, I'm uncertain over whether I would give him the time of day - he just doesn't fit the bill, for me. But for Remy, he was perfect: equally unrelenting, persistent, sincere. "When it works, love is pretty amazing." It may sound like he's been through so much to utter those words, but hey, it makes perfect sense. Qualified, yes, but true. And it just may be what Remy needed in order to be convinced to give love a try.
What I like about Dessen's works so far is her penchant for choosing themes that are relevant to her target audience. For This Lullaby, I particularly appreciated the mother-daughter relationship of Remy and Barbara, notwithstanding the fact that the latter appeared to be, at the outset, a poor role model for her daughter. Initially, I was under the impression that there was a reversal of roles involved: Remy seemed to be acting like the parent, while Barbara was the one behaving like a kid. Further delving into story, however, I realized that there was so much more beneath the surface, and to judge them hastily was most unfair.
The novel also showed how different people naturally react when faced with the same situation. Chris, Remy's older brother, had to also endure their mother's history, but he wasn't as skeptical as Remy was. In fact, he was quite the opposite - or was it just because of Jennifer Anne, his girlfriend, that he embraced love in all its gorgeous glory? In any case, pre-Jennifer Anne, Chris was depicted as a happy-go-lucky person, but not necessarily cynical or frightened of commitment.
And then there's the ending, which I found that I liked very much. It was full of hope, of understanding, and of thoughts of a future filled with all things good.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
Recommended by: Tina
Book Details: My own, trade paperback