The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

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The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A finely observed portrait of both the stages of grief and of teen life. Completely absorbing and tremendously warm, it avoids saccharine and manages to touch the surliest of souls although it does waver slightly off course at times.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: May 2008
Publisher: Puffin Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0141322926

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Macy Queen saw her father die. He lay in the street while a passer-by gave him CPR and if only Macy had got out of bed when he woke her, she'd have been with him, not half a mile behind, running faster than she'd ever run, only to arrive when it was too late. Macy's mother can't grieve and neither can Macy. While sister Caroline sobs at the funeral, Macy withdraws from "the look". She can't bear the sympathy. Instead, Macy worries about her mother and tries desperately to allay her mother's pent up grief by becoming perfect. She studies, she gets good grades, her behaviour is exemplary. She's nothing like your average teenage girl. Inside though, she's drowning.

When her equally perfect boyfriend Jason goes away for the summer, Macy fills in at his job at the library. It'll look great on a college application after all. But Jason cuts her free - he wants a break to pursue his "goals" - and Macy meets the Wishes, an arty and chaotic family running a catering business, and gradually her facade begins to crumble.

The Truth About Forever is such a warm book. The writing is personal, rich and evocative and it makes for a tremendously absorbing book. You feel so sorry for Macy, forced into bottling up her feelings. Every time she tries to let them go or to connect with someone on any meaningful basis, her mother reels her in - not for Macy's sake, but for her own. Their household is frozen really, stuck in its grief and a refusal to move on. And the Wishes - particularly Wes, the love interest, who has himself lost a parent - provide a stark contrast. Their forever isn't a moment of grief petrified into a lifetime; their forever is all about new beginnings. One of them, Kristy, was in a car accident as a child, leaving her horrifically scarred but her external scars don't paralyse her as Macy's internal scars do. She grasps life and opportunity.

The central characters are finely observed, as are the relationships between them. The Wishes survive by communicating and the Queens wither through silence. And as Macy plays a deeply revealing game of Truth with Wes, she begins to understand that forever isn't the past; it's the future. However, the secondary characters - the prim and proper boyfriend Jason, Macy's patronising colleagues at the library - are less well-treated. They are so tiresome as to be ridiculous and they lack credibility. Away from its main focus, the narrative does stumble a little because of this. The Truth About Forever is a fairly long book, almost four hundred pages, and I think perhaps it would be better without these secondary detours. They add little.

This, though, is not a huge criticism. The writing is wonderful and the portrait of a girl in transition from grief to maturity and happiness is a warm, understanding and powerful one. It's a recommended read for all teenage girls.

My thanks to the nice people at Puffin for sending the book.

From Where I Stand by Tabitha Suzuma is a very different story about grief for a lost parent, but it's equally absorbing. Younger children could look at Eggs by Jerry Spinelli.

Buy The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen at Amazon.com.


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