I’ve read a lot of Sarah Dessen in 2012, and I’ve loved most of it. Keeping the Moon was no exception. It was Dessen’s third book (after That Summer and Someone Like You) and, in my opinion, the best to that point.
The story centers around Nicole “Colie” Sparks, an awkward teenager with very little self-confidence. She gets sent to live with her Aunt Mira (who she barely knows) in the seaside town of Colby (a frequent setting in Dessen’s books) for the summer. She shows up as this girl dressed all in black, with unevenly dyed black hair and a lip ring. And while her exterior changes over the course of the book (including a new hair color and some adventures in eyebrow plucking), her interior changes even more.
Colie unexpectedly gets a job at a local restaurant (Last Chance, also mentioned in many of Dessen’s books), where she gets to know two twentysomething best friends named Morgan and Isabel. These girls reminisce about their own awkward high school years and, while dealing with their own problems, teach Colie how to be “one of the girls.”
Meanwhile, Colie initially pities her eccentric Aunt Mira, who lives in a house full of broken objects, loves to watch wrestling on television, and rides an ancient red bicycle everywhere. At first, Colie is mortified by how the townspeople make fun of Mira—much like how her classmates have always made fun of her. But Mira isn’t bothered by any of it, and Colie eventually catches this attitude and learns, for the first time, to feel comfortable in her own skin.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Sarah Dessen novel without the guy—one of whom the girl is initially skeptical, but once she gets to know him, discovers that he’s exactly right in ways she didn’t even know she needed. In Keeping the Moon, this guy is Norman, an aspiring young hippie artist, who also flips burgers at the Last Chance, does odd jobs for Mira, and takes a more mature view of his estranged relationship with his father than the father does.
Altogether, Keeping the Moon was a delightful read. I think that most teenage girls could easily relate to Colie and her insecurities, love the diamond-in-the-rough Norman, and appreciate Morgan and Isabel's mix of wisdom and mistakes. Keeping the Moon is shorter than some of Sarah Dessen's more recent novels, but captures that same spark that keeps me coming back for more.