Emma Saylor expected the three weeks following her father’s wedding to be filled with lazy days by the pool with one of her best friends, Gretchen, trying to catch the eye of cute twin-brother lifeguards. But a health emergency in Gretchen’s family leaves Emma and her father scrambling to find somewhere she can stay (their new house is under constructions and her Nana’s apartment is being renovated).
The last place Emma Saylor expected to land was North Lake, the area her mother grew up. Divorced from her father a decade ago and then overdose five years later, Emma has always felt a bit of a hole in her life when it comes to knowing who her mother was and where she came from.
Could three weeks give her some answers or possibly begin to fill in The Rest of the Story?
Sarah Dessen’s latest novel puts the anxiety-plagued Emma (she is afraid of driving due to a minor fender-bender in the parking garage of her Nana’s apartment building) into the life of her sprawling relations at North Lake, reconnecting with that side of her life. She spent a few weeks here when she was four, but can’t recall much of it.
Over the course of three weeks, Emma is caught up in a whirlwind of family and all types of drama — from her pregnant cousin Trinity who cleans room at her Mimi’s motel to the on-again, off-again drama with her cousin Bailey and the cute, rich guy on the other side of the lake. And, of course, there’s a little summer romance blooming for her with Roo, the guy who has five jobs and wants to study journalism when he goes to college.
With a sprawling cast, The Rest of the Story is a light, summertime read that starts off well but becomes frustratingly bland by the middle portion of the novel. Once Emma, who decides to go by the middle name her Nini and mother called her at the Lake, becomes ingrained in the world of Lake North, it feels like things slow down to a glacial pace. It’s only once her father returns and declares she can’t stay any longer that things pick up a bit.
For some reason, I kept expecting there to be more made of the connection between Roo’s father and Emma Saylor’s mother than we get here. Emma’s mother was there the night her father died and the two were best friends, so I kept expecting something more to come of their connection or some deeper truth about the two to emerge. This never really happens, though we do see that Emma is concerned about not becoming her mother or giving into the same demons that haunted and eventually killed her mother.
This may be why I became frustrated with the story in the middle of it. Listening to it as an audiobook may have exacerbated this frustration a bit since it felt like the treading water of the middle third of the novel went on for far too long.
Or maybe it’s just that I’m not the intended audience for these books. Listening to this one while running eventually proved to be a frustrating experience, though things did get back on track in the final few chapter and it felt like the story and characters were building toward something again.