Sarah Dessen books have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. They’re young adult romances that are capable of defining adorable and deep all within the same pages.
Take The Truth About Forever, for instance. This book is not unlike her other books, it grows out of two amazing characters who end up falling in love. The accompanying cast is as unique as they are real.
But there’s something darker lurking behind every part in this book.
Macy Queen is struggling to keep up her perfect act in a way that feels all too familiar to anyone who has ever felt like being perfect is the only way to deal with loss. On the surface, she’s got it all down with a boyfriend away at “Brain Camp” and a job at the library, there’s nothing seemingly wrong or out of place.
Inside, however, is a completely different story.
Inside, Macy is scared. She’s kept her fear at bay by being what she thinks she should be and by controlling what she can — herself. Her behavior, her appearance and how others perceive her are all included in an imaginary checklist she carries around, so as long as she checks these off she doesn’t think anyone can see how she’s falling apart.
Throughout the book, Macy is dealing with her father’s death and battling with guilt because to some extent she feel like his death is her fault. He died during a run that Macy thinks she should have been on because that was their tradition — to run together.
But Macy got there too late, and there was nothing she could do.
This book clearly highlights the feelings of denial and anger that many of us who have lost someone completely understand.
Over the years since she lost her father, Macy has become an expert at hiding her grief. She boxed it up inside her and refused to let it out as she continued with her life. She started seeing Jason because he was stable for her, he was perfect. He got good grades, was overly involved, and made her better.
But when Macy stumbles into a job at the hectic Wish Catering, the box is torn open by people who understand where she is coming from.
- Delia: A perfect motherly figure, frazzled and pregnant at the beginning of the book, who acts like a grief Yoda for Macy. Having lost her own sister, she understands Macy in a way Macy isn’t used to being understood. She teaches Macy not to be scared, to not let her father’s death stop her from living.
- Wes: The troubled boy with a rough past, a stint in reform school, and Delia’s nephew. He lost his mother, and lets his grief shine through his artwork.
- Bert: A hilarious 16-year-old boy that the characters all worry about throughout the book. Oh, and he’s obsessed with preparing for the apocalypse.
- Kristy: Despite facing many challenges in life, Kristy is bubbly, vibrant and doesn’t let anything get in her way. Her attitude is electric, and eventually it rubs off on Macy in the best way possible.
- Monica: Kristy’s sister, who is unlike her in many ways. She’s quiet, accident prone and always seems to have her poker-face on. She ends up being one of Macy’s good friends.
These characters provide Macy with a safe place to be herself, to feel things she hasn’t wanted to feel since her father’s death, and to find a way to let go of guilt.
The Truth About Forever also walks us through the relationship between Macy, her sister, Caroline, and her mom. Through them we see how even within a single family unit, grief manifests in very different ways. Caroline takes it upon herself to prove to both her mom and sister that it’s okay to feel and grieve.
This book, like most dealing with subjects like this, come with quotes about grief that I feel extremely compelled to share.
“Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.”
“You never got used to it, the idea of someone being gone. Just when you think it’s reconciled, accepted, someone points it out to you, and it just hits you all over again, that shocking.”
If you want to read The Truth About Forever pick it up here. To read Sarah Dessen’s latest book, Saint Anything, click here.