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The Rest of the Story

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Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?

440 pages, Hardcover

First published June 4, 2019

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Sarah Dessen

96 books46k followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,881 reviews
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.5k followers
October 17, 2019
what can i say about a sarah dessen novel that i havent already said before? nothing, because she is the queen of consistency. i could literally copy and paste my review from any of her other books and it would apply to this one.

i love how her stories are always so family focused. there is no perfect family - each come in different shapes, sizes, and situations - and i love how this story represents that with saylor getting to know her distant relatives.

i also really enjoy how SD tackles hard and serious topics (this one talks about addiction) and yet the story doesnt feel like a downer. it has that quintessential summertime feeling that is light and fun.

the only downside to the dessens consistency is her MCs feel like carbon copies of each other. just like i could swap out my reviews, i could swap out saylor with any other MC and they would fit. not a deal breaker, but i guess that is dessens charm - you know exactly what you are going to get when you pick up one of her books!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,479 reviews19.4k followers
June 25, 2019
This was so very quintessential Sarah Dessen. If you like her books, I can't imagine you won't like this one. If you're not a fan, I doubt this would be the one that would make you fall in love. It was a fun time, but very middle of the road.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,509 reviews29.5k followers
September 30, 2019
I've been a huge YA reader for some time now, and as I have selected books through the years, I've seen Sarah Dessen's name pop up. For some reason I had never read any of her books, although she certainly had been named as an author worth reading. So when her newest book, The Rest of the Story , was released, I figured it was time I remedied my unfamiliarity with Dessen's work.

WTF have I been waiting for? All I know is, if her other books are as good as this one, I am seriously going to have to devour her backlist, stat. It's been a while since a nearly 450-page book left me wanting more when I was finished, wishing it was longer so I could spend more time with the characters and know what happened to them after the story ended. But all of this happened with this book.

"There were lots of ways to love someone, I guessed, both by remembering and forgetting."

Emma Saylor's mother was at times both larger than life and withdrawn. She died five years ago, when Emma was 12, but her parents were divorced much earlier than that, and she lived with her father and grandmother.

While there are many things about her mother that Emma has forgotten, she always remembered the stories her mother used to tell her about the lake community where she grew up and met Emma's father. But while it was one big lake, it was like two separate worlds—her mother grew up in working-class North Lake, while her father worked at the yacht club on the prestigious Lake North side.

When Emma goes to stay with her mother's family for a few weeks one summer, it is the first time she has been back to the lake since she was four or five years old. Her large family—maternal grandmother, aunt, cousins—have never forgotten her, but Emma has little memory of any of it. Yet the more time she spends there, the more she feels like she belongs, the more she learns about her mother's life, her parents' relationship, and the stories that she has never heard.

"The past was always present, in its way, and you can't help but remember. Even if you can't remember at all."

While she was born with two names at birth, Emma Saylor, her mother used to call her Saylor, but it's a name she stopped using years ago. But she realizes that Saylor is just as much a part of her, and since that's the name her new-found family calls her, she feels a connection to her past that she hadn't before. And that bridge between the past and the present is embodied in the relationships she builds with her cousins, and the friendship she rekindles with Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when they were little, and whose spell she can't seem to resist now.

It's hard to be caught between two different worlds, especially when there is so much history that transpired which left those you cared about full of hurt and sadness. Yet Emma is determined to have the life her father wants to give her, while at the same time, she doesn't want to lose her connections to her past, or the people who were such a special part of it. But that won't be easy, and others may get hurt in the process.

I literally was hooked on this book from the very first sentence. Even though there were a few instances in which the foreshadowing was a little too obvious and you knew eventually what would transpire in certain situations, Dessen captured me completely with this story and these characters. Having lost my birth mother at a very young age, I identified with some of the characters a great deal, and it made the story even more poignant and emotional.

I love the way Dessen writes. Her characters aren't too witty and sophisticated that they seem like caricatures or transplants from a John Green novel. And while there might not be a lot of surprises, I just felt right at home in the middle of the story. And as far as I'm concerned, you can't ask for more than that.

So, Dessen fans, which one of her books should I read next?

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2018.html.

You can follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
Profile Image for Kristen Peppercorn .
558 reviews96 followers
April 23, 2021
6/30/19 - Wow! My very first DNF of a Dessen book. I never thought I'd live to see the day. There wasn't anything bad about this book that turned me off it was just very, very, VERY (did I mention very) slow paced. If you are looking for something fun, fast-paced and excited, this is not the book for you. If, however, you want something that is heavily character oriented and takes its time building up to the action, you will probably love this. This is the kind of book that you have to be in the mood for I guess. I couldn't really make myself care about any of the characters. I do think that the love interest Roo was absolutely adorable though. As a fellow gap-toothed bitch, I love seeing a fellow gappie. lol A shame but I'll be returned this one to the library unfinished. Maybe I'll get back to it one day when I want a real slow to unfold story.

The Queen of YA contemporaries has a new book coming out?
You bet I'm gonna read it. :)
Profile Image for emma.
1,866 reviews54.4k followers
November 19, 2019
Well, this is a weird time to review a Sarah Dessen book.

But if you’re here in the hopes of getting a Hot Take on the recent Twitter drama, you’re in for a sorry surprise. Because one, I rated this book this way three months ago (yes I’m three months behind on reviews leave me alone), and two, if I commented on every piece of drama that occurs on book Twitter I’d never write a book again.

Mostly because there’s a major backlog in the first place, but still.

I tend to find Sarah Dessen books meh, with a few standout exceptions. But because I’m so critical it threatens to ruin my life, this is still auto-buy-author levels of enthusiasm for me.

I have a problem.

So many problems, to be fair.

Anyway, I found this book to be very unrealistic. I had a hard time immersing myself in it for so many reasons: I couldn’t ground myself in the setting; I didn’t connect with any of the characters; it was riddled with tiny errors; the romance and friendships felt like they sprung up fully formed to me; and the family relationships were so angsty and dramatic that I couldn’t believe they existed, let alone immerse myself in them.

Bottom line: This just wasn’t Sarah Dessen’s best work.

(Not the first time someone’s said that this week! Buh dum ch.)


i can always rely on a sarah dessen book being:
- a quick read
- summery
- coming of age-y
- centered around a Topical Social Issue

everything else is up in the air.

this one didn't work as well.

(more of a) review to come / 2.5? stars


if there's a sarah dessen book i wouldn't read, i sure haven't found it yet
Profile Image for ellie.
549 reviews161 followers
Want to read
May 7, 2019
the day sarah dessen writes a gay book, my heart will finally be satisfied
Profile Image for sarah.
404 reviews267 followers
January 6, 2020
Not going to lie, the sole reason I picked up this audiobook was because Rebecca Soler was the narrator and she’s my audiobook queen.

However, what kept me reading was Sarah Dessens addictive writing style. Anything she writes, I will fly through.

My current ranked Sarah Dessen list

1. Just listen
2. Saint anything
3. The rest of the story
4. Along for the ride
5. Once and for all

This book was simply quintessential Sarah Dessen. If you have enjoyed her other stuff, you’ll like this. If not... this might not be your cup of tea.

Something I always love in her novels is the family. They aren’t picture perfect, but they are realistic. Every family has their own issues, but that doesn’t make them lesser. Sarah Dessen does a good job at showing this in this particular book through showing the complicated relationship the MC and her dad had with her mum struggling with addiction.

I loved Roo, our love interest- despite being categorically against him because of that name. You could name him anything, and you decide on Roo. Yes, it came from Kangaroo. Anyway. I was admittedly name-biased, but ended up loving him. Shocker.

So yes, while this isn’t objectively a perfect book- it was exactly what I was looking for at the time. Sweet, Summery and Sarah Dessen. What more could a girl want?
Profile Image for Arlene.
1,164 reviews639 followers
April 16, 2019
You can make life, or life can make you…

The Rest of the Story, by Sarah Dessen, will likely land as one of my favorite reads this year. That’s a bold statement because we haven’t even hit the mid-year mark, and I’ve read over 50 books. However, as my reading buddies can attest to, it hasn’t been a good year. So, thank you Dessen for coming out with a story I can fall right into and feel like I’m walking alongside family and friends. This is such a great book because Dessen does what she’s best at; she creates a novel with relatable characters, dealing with topical situations, exposing their flaws and insecurities, and demonstrating their struggles with family, friends and life in general.

Emma Saylor is on her way to spend a few weeks in North Lake with her estranged family. After the death of her mom, Emma hasn’t been around to see her maternal grandmother, aunt or cousins in many years. During her time there, she becomes reacquainted with Jack, Bailey, Roo and Trinity. The relationships are strained at first because of her time away and the fact that her father, who originally comes from Lake North, which is the affluent side of town, have highlighted how different she is and how sheltered her father has kept her from her mother’s past and family. During her time at North Lake, she uncovers her history and confronts her father with her decision to stay connected with her North Lake family and friends. Emma Saylor is definitely one of Dessen’s more mature and relatable characters. She is extremely loyal to her paternal grandmother and father, as well as, her new step-mom. I loved the way she handled stressful and new situations, especially because there was an under-current of some of her struggles with anxiety. Emma had a quiet strength about her that I loved so much.

There were so many secondary characters that added a meaningful layer of how loyalty, love and support runs deep and is the key to what makes solid friendships and a strong family.

Overall, I have to say that I highly recommend The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen, especially if you’re struggling to find a novel with meaning, depth and soul. This one was a hit in my opinion.
Profile Image for Katharine.
240 reviews
May 3, 2019
Probably more of a 4 star book overall but I had to bump it up to 5 because it made me so damn happy while I was reading it.

Listen, Sarah Dessen is the queen of teen for a reason - she writes solid books. I've probably read all of them and while I didn't love all of them, I at least enjoyed them while I was reading.

But this one.

I don't think I've liked a Sarah Dessen book this much since I read Lock & Key for the first time. And it wasn't just because Emma had major anxiety associated with driving and that is the most #relatable thing I've ever read. Everything was just so well paced and crafted, the characters were so rich and vibrant and I honestly couldn't pick a favourite out of the bunch no matter how hard you pressed me (except that its definitely Gordon). It was a quintessential Sarah Dessen summer romance slash characters discovering themselves while on a lake book and it just checked all my boxes.

The verdict is: I will be Sarah Dessen trash until the day I die, thanks for coming to my ted talk
Profile Image for Noah.
211 reviews81 followers
November 6, 2022
Does it count as a reading slump if it only lasts for like, four days? I spent most of the last week anxiously watching the days I still have on the library hold go down instead of actually reading this book, even though I knew I would probably end up enjoying it. This is my way of segueing into how I found Emma Saylor incredibly relatable because of how her anxiety is portrayed. I was initially worried that this book would have the whole, “love can cure everything,” aspect, and there are some shades of this, but I think the way it’s presented is mostly accurate and respectful.

The story got surprisingly heavy with the family drama and I appreciated how it balanced tackling more serious topics without it being overbearing. Other than that, it reminded me a little of Dan in Real Life (anybody remember that movie?), in that there are like a million extended family members to keep track of. That’s actually the part I didn’t relate to as much; because of the large family and the fact that a lot of them had similar sounding names, I couldn’t really make heads or tails of who’s who until about 60% into the book. I’d still have a hard time naming some of the characters right now, so definitely don’t ask me tomorrow. Also, spending a whole summer with my extended family? Nightmare fuel, really.

(Oh, and also Emma Saylor’s dad is a tool. I know I say that about every YA book dad, but like, he is, and they are!)
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,404 reviews11.7k followers
July 7, 2020
Lukewarm, tepid, dull, safe.

This is my second Dessen novel. I've read another one 10 years ago and vowed never to read any more of her books. But, again, book club made me do it. My opinion about both books is the same. Both are YA versions of low-stakes women's fiction, and definitely not my cup of Hallmark-grade cheese.

I didn't hate The Rest of the Story. In fact, I don't have any strong feelings about it. Because this novel itself doesn't have any strong feelings in it. I need some drama, some tension, passion, dark secrets, traumas in my contemporary YA. Dessen tries to take on subjects of drug addiction, privilege, class differences, anxiety, grief. But she chose the most boring, underwhelming, safe way of handling all of that. There is hardly any conflict in this book. And if you decide to write an inconsequential summer beach read, at least spice it up with some cute romance or humor or memorable characters. None of it is here.

Definitely DO NOT pick this for your college-wide read, and read Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption instead.

This is my second and last Sarah Dessen novel. I swear.
Profile Image for Eliza.
596 reviews1,378 followers
July 26, 2019
My second book by Sarah Dessen and yet another 3-star rating. I think, if anything, I’ll only pick another book of hers if I have absolutely nothing else to read — that, or if I’m on the beach somewhere. Her books are that sort: warm and cozy, sometimes a little dull, nostalgic, and common.

The Rest of the Story follows Emma Saylor who goes by both Emma and Saylor. Emma is her back home and Saylor is her on the lake. It’s a big thing in the story, given nearly every chapter she’s asking herself if she is Emma or Saylor. I could relate to her name flip-flopping since I do the same thing myself. I’m constantly picking new names to go by, given I have a long name that allows for so many nicknames: Katherine Elizabeth Theresa.

And while I found Emma/Saylor relatable, I also thought there was nothing unique about her. Typically, the main character has something unique about them, but I couldn’t tell you what Emma/Saylor’s unique trait was. Maybe it's that she was an overall good person? But then there are so many characters like that. I wish there’d been something different to her character.

Roo, the romantic interest, which is clear right from the start (and from the back of the book), is decent as well. Again. He’s really nice, like Emma/Saylor. They both have the same humor and were friends from years before. They almost feel a little too similar. Either way, I thought their relationship was fine. It wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve read, but I enjoyed it.

I wish there was something I could say about this book — something that really stuck out to me; however, this book is simply, well, a simple read. I'd recommend it to younger audiences who need to get out of a reading slump or are looking for a cozy vacation read!
Profile Image for Susan.
1,195 reviews199 followers
August 19, 2019
The Rest of the Story

Sarah Dessen

It's no secret that I'm 56 years old and love to read young adult stories! Sarah Dessen was one of the first YA authors I felt a connection to with her characters. THE REST OF THE STORY is not the first book I've ever read by Sarah Dessen and it definitely won't be the last. The twists and turns keep coming and I had to know how it was going to end! Every time I thought I knew where this story was going, a few pages later, Ms. Dessen threw me for a loop and I knew I was wrong! I'm kicking myself for not reading this wonderful novel sooner. I knew I was going to love this story just by the description. Don't forget your tissues!! Plan on not getting much sleep until you finish this suspenseful story!

THE REST OF THE STORY is a quick read and unputdownable! Emma Saylor doesn't remember her mother very well. She died when Emma was ten years old. Emma's dad has just remarried and Emma finds herself spending part of the summer with her mother's family. She hardly knows them but as the story goes on, she can't imagine being anywhere else. If you are looking for a great story with lots of mystery and heart to pull you out of your book slump, you can’t go wrong with THE REST OF THE STORY. I’m so excited to read more by Sarah Dessen as I have a few of her older books to still read.

The twists and turns in THE REST OF THE STORY are going to keep you up late into the night trying to figure out how this perfect story is going to end. Once you start reading, trust me, you aren't going to be able to stop! If you haven't read Sarah Dessen, you are really missing out! Every single time Sarah Dessen publishes something new, I want to have a celebration. I've read the majority of her books and fell in love with every single word and all of her characters. THE REST OF THE STORY is no different. Hang on tight as you are reading! It's a crazy and thrilling ride. When everything is finally revealed, well, you won't believe it!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading THE REST OF THE STORY. As Roo begins explaining things to Emma, things seem to make more sense to her and have her questioning what really happened to her mom and Roo's dad. There is so much going on in this story, but Ms. Dessen does a wonderful job of weaving all the pieces together. All of the characters will have you feeling sad, then happy, and then yelling on the same page. More than once I wanted to be in North Lake with my new found friends! Once you finish devouring this story, you are going to want to tell everyone you know about this emotional and heartbreaking story!
Profile Image for The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori).
1,187 reviews1,337 followers
July 30, 2019
Full Review on The Candid Cover

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen is a book that I had been eagerly anticipating as I am a big fan of her realistic contemporaries. This one has an interesting setting as well as a realistic main character, albeit the plot is quite slow paced. Even so, I really enjoyed this one, and it is classic Sarah Dessen.

This book tells the story of a girl who finds herself in her mother’s hometown for the summer. The town is divided in two: North Lake and the upper-class Lake North, and Emma belongs to both. During her stay, she is reunited with old friends but is torn between the identity of Saylor, the name her mom used to call her, or Emma, her newer self. I enjoyed the setting in the book as the idea of the town being divided creates contrast. As well, Dessen’s classic themes of identity and family are present, and it is interesting how Emma learns more about both herself and her mother while staying in North Lake. My only issue with the plot is that it feels a bit slow paced and drawn-out, and I don’t think the book needed to be as long as it is (440 pages!).


Emma is a realistic main character, and she deals with a lot during her summer. On top of her coping with anxiety and the loss of her mother, she struggles to figure out who she really is. I found Emma to be respectable as she offers to help out at the resort instead of enjoying the relaxing vacation everyone was told to provide her with, and she has a real desire to learn her family’s history. This curiosity and willingness to learn about the past create an interesting character to take the reader around North Lake. Throughout the story, Emma truly transforms and starts to piece together her real self, and by the end of the book, she feels like a well-developed character who I could easily imagine.


The Rest of the Story is a contemporary about identity and family. I loved the divided lake setting as well as the believable main character. As far as Sarah Dessen’s books go, this one is up there with my favourites.
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 9 books399 followers
February 3, 2020
Emma is supposed to stay with her best friend for the summer while her dad (newly remarried) goes on his honeymoon. But due to a family emergency, she gets shipped off to stay in a tourist town on the lake with a grandmother she hasn’t seen since she was four.

Loved the detailed descriptions of summer, the us versus them tension of the working-class kids versus the rich vacationers, and the feels as Emma tries to discover more about her roots. Great beach read.

Please excuse typos/name misspellings. Entered on screen reader.
Profile Image for Fares.
246 reviews314 followers
August 25, 2019
This was just another Saint Anything!
Okay TBH I don't remember a lot about SA but that's kinda my point cuz I'm sure if you ask me about this in a couple of months I won't remember much either.
But here's why I say it's just another Saint Anything, a girl is kinda perfect and follows the rules, has an uptight parent, hangs with friends who drink but she doesn't, and her parent doesn't approve.
This had more family and grief in it, even dealt with addiction in a small way but still at the core it reminded me of SA.

I think if you like Sarah Dessen's books you'll enjoy this but if you're like me and don't know how to place them or even a tiny bit don't like them then I don't think this would be any different for you.
I do like the characters and her writing but sorry to say that both her books that I've read were so unrelatable. Maybe it's me who always tend to side with the parents in almost every book I read but I don't like that these teens always come off as a know it all when they argue with their parents, like they have the world figured out even tho this is the first time experiencing it, even if yes sometimes they are right. Or maybe it's the dorky teen in me who followed rules and had no interest in parties that just don't seem to connect with them.

I enjoyed this but it feels like it's good for only one read. This sounds so harsh, sorry! But it really feels like that, like I care as long as I don't know how it ends but once I do I stop caring.
Again sorry!
Profile Image for cor.
261 reviews66 followers
June 23, 2022

the character growth in this story, the self discovery in this story and just all the characters!!

emma saylor goes from a relatively dumb, entitled brat to a more self-aware and kind girl. i liked her friendship// relationship with Roo because they did have some history and it was cute how he remembered her (and called her as a window sales person). I also loved the lake vibes and the summer feeling. And saylors relationship with her cousins and her self discovery of her family made me happy.

honestly, the worst part was her father. understandably, he didn’t want saylor going down the same path as her mother, but her father kind of prevented her from growing and kept her in a bubble of privilege.
also, i was kind of confused with the random mentionings of her friends in the book i wish it came full circle so her friends saw her growth. and, my life motto is never trust a book without an epilogue, yet i tried this one, and it was good — just wish there was an epilogue!

but that’s just me being picky because i really did enjoy this book!!!!
Profile Image for Mackenzie.
86 reviews
July 31, 2019
Song for summary: Coming Home by Dirty Money

An uplifting read! The characters are endearing, playful, and welcoming while the plot is a nostalgic journey about discovering one's family and the history that comes with it. A beautiful and heartfelt story, Sarah Dessen delivers another stunning YA novel full of family chaos, bittersweet memories, tender moments, and one close-knit community. Readers will remember the animated residents of North Lake long after the last page of Emma Saylor's unforgettable passage home.
Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews345 followers
June 8, 2019
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Teralyn Mitchell

I’ve been a big fan of Sarah Dessen for years now so I was happy that I got the chance to read The Rest of the Story and it was the perfect summer read. It takes place on a lake in the summer, surrounded by family. It’s a coming-of-age story for Emma Saylor who has always been neurotic and cautions about everything and it seemed to escalate after her mother died. She never knew her mother’s side of the family since she hadn’t seen them since she visited for a week when she was four years old. When Emma’s summer plans fall through, she is whisked back to North Lake. It’s awkward and Emma feels out of place at first since it seems all of them know of her but she knows nothing about them. But slowly as the days turn into weeks, Emma starts to relax. She spends her time at her grandmother’s helping clean the motel rooms, hanging with her cousins, getting to know the guy who was her best friend when she was a kid, Roo, and learning about her mother and the past that’s been closed off to her all these years. Emma came into her own as the story progressed and by the end, she had gotten the rest of the story and had her family back.

Emma Saylor was wonderfully awkward and neurotic. I liked how she’d say what she thought most of the time. Her relationship with her dad, Nana, and Tracy, her stepmother, was good. It was nice that she did not have any problems with her father remarrying. She cared for her family and friends. She was such a strong character that I could relate to. I loved Roo as well. He was sweet, considerate, and funny. I thought he and Emma were perfect together and their chemistry was immediate and I loved seeing those two together. Those scenes were some of my favorite along with Emma and Trinity. Trinity could be harsh and complained so much about being pregnant. You could not say anything around her in the complaint without her bringing up the fact that she was a house or had been pregnant for a million years. She cracked me up and her honesty was refreshing. This book had some strong characters—even the side characters, because there was nothing minor about them—and an amazing plot. Bailey was sometimes hard to like because of her obsession with Lake North, the wealthier half of the community, and the people there. She was willing to give a jerk the time of day just because of where he came from but not someone who was clearly into her. Throughout I wanted her to snap out of it because besides that she was a strong character who became good friends with Emma. I adored Gordon, Mimi, Oxford, Jack, Nana, Tracy, Matthew, Ryan, Bridget, April, Taylor, and Vincent. The characters made this story feel so real and I loved the family dynamic.

I come from a big, close-knit family so it’s always nice to see this dynamic in stories. Dessen did a good job of showing how chaotic being in a big family could be. I loved the morning scenes when everyone was waking up and getting ready for work and the day. I could relate to those scenes perfectly. This story delved into more than just family but the importance of knowing where you came from. Emma grew up not knowing much about North Lake, her mother’s family, or really her mother’s childhood. Once she made it to North Lake, stories started coming out that helped Emma understand her mother and her mother’s addictions more. By knowing her past and getting to know her family better, Emma was able to feel more comfortable in her own skin and her quirks weren’t as pronounced. She felt better about herself and seeing her journey to get the rest of the story was inspiring and I loved that aspect of this story.

The Rest of the Story was an endearing story and the perfect read to kick off summer. It was a powerful story about a girl who needed to learn the rest of her story to find out where she belonged. This was another top read for me this year and really pulls on the heartstrings!
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,832 followers
January 27, 2020
so, i generally feel this way about almost all Sarah Dessen book. they're the fun, feel-good, picke-me-up kind of books that you can read and immerse yourself into and get exactly what you expect

there's a plain main character who goes on some sort of adventure and makes new friends and learns new things and then has to face a Big Bad Test and it's hard and takes a lot out of her, but once she overcomes the Big Bad Test and gets a personality along the way, everything falls into place and happily ever afterrrrrrrrr

and it was exactly that. no more, no less.

So, i liked the setting, the family ties, cute summer adventure type, but my issue lies more within the fact that once i put the book down, i feel like the memory of this book just blends in with every other sarah dessen book i've read

the main character is interchangeable with EVERY OTHER SARAH DESSEN MAIN CHARACTER. there is nothing compelling about her, nothing that stands out. same with the love interest, same with the side characters.

it was fun to read but that's pretty much it.

“There is always the rest of the story, right? Even if you don’t know right now what it is.”
Profile Image for Laura.
1,401 reviews209 followers
June 5, 2019

3.5 Stars

For me, Sarah Dessen is synonymous with summer. The woman showcases the season on the pages of her books perfectly. And I’m not just talking about the sun, sand, and water. It’s more than that. A Dessen read captures that bright, epic feeling of freedom summer can bring. The feeling that anything can happen. Plus the changes it brings. Summer can mean changes in scenery, routine, and people that surround us every day. Summer can change everything!

Emma Saylor lost her mother as a child, so there is so much she doesn’t know about her life. Like what was she like growing up? Or what did she dream about? But a twist of fate brings Emma face to face with her past. She’s spending a few weeks with her mom’s side of the family in North Lake, the one place she does remember her mom talking about in stories and memories. A place that might just hold the rest of her mom’s story. Can Emma’s estranged grandmother and cousins help her find the missing pieces of her mother?

“Part of grieving is letting go of the past. But how can you let go if you never knew it in the first place?”

I have to start with North Lake itself. This place, this town, this motel will live on in my book memories for quite some time. Emma’s grandmother runs a motel right on the lake and boy-o-boy does it all come to life. The summer is their busy time, so things move pretty fast. Cleaning rooms, checking people in and out, daily upkeep, and more. I can see this motel. It jumps off the pages with color and life. Life is in these pages with all its ups and downs actually. From awkwardness to comfort and misunderstanding to connection. You’ll see all of that in the way this family moves through the summer. Haha…The smell of toast will make me think of this book forever. Most days everyone is running from one job to the next, but the love shines through too. Emma finds a place in the chaos and love. And so did I! I loved spending time here.

This book isn’t perfect. Very few are actually. There were a lot of characters—maybe too many. Some got lost in the shuffle and others deserved more time and development (like Jack). And the story telling was choppy at times. Dessen would pull back all of a sudden and tell us an event or sequence out of order—like Emma was remembering it. But it was something that just happened. Why break up the narrative like that? The style pulled me right of the flow of the story a few times. And I have one “What the hell?” . None of that changes the fact that I rooted and hoped and felt for Emma every step of the way though.

And before I go, I have to mention the boy. :) Cute boys are a Dessen staple and skill. A skill I adore! Roo is adorable. You’ll see his goodness and big heart in everything he does—from dress shopping to photo books. I mean he had me at the cute gap in his smile, but his fear of clowns sealed the deal. The boy speaks the truth on clowns! :D Roo and Emma will make you smile for sure.

I’m thrilled to pieces that my 2019 summer started with a Sarah Dessen world. It just wouldn’t feel like summer without her.

Profile Image for Janine .
715 reviews35 followers
June 16, 2019
I love Sarah Dessen, I really do. But also -- it's possible I might finally be outgrowing her somehow? Which is a weird thing to say about a YA author who I didn't even encounter for the first time until I was an adult.

This book was tricky. I loved it initially. I really liked Emma Saylor as a character, and enjoyed experiencing North Lake and Lake North with her. Navigating the different sides of the lake and all of the family there that she never really knew she had. I found the Calvanders interesting, and wanted to learn more about them just like Saylor did. I felt like some characters weren't as fully developed as I might have wanted them, but there were also a lot of characters.

I think part of my ultimate issue with this book might have been the fact that there were just a lot of different things going on, and ultimately none of them were really done the justice I felt they deserved. I wanted more of Waverly, somehow. Wanted Saylor's dad to be a bit less one-note - which happened a little but not until pretty much right at the end.

I think what really brought this rating down for me was the end.

So, yeah - I did love the setting, and the characters, and a lot of the story. But in the end, it just didn't all come together in a satisfying way for me, which brought my rating down. I still love you Sarah Dessen....
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,051 reviews1,049 followers
August 4, 2021
It's a nice summer read, a little slow but definitely a Sarah Dessen standard plot where nothing much happens and yet you enjoy it just the same. That's honestly a super power. The lake setting, the mild romance, the search for identity, the family drama are the basic ingredients to the author's summer coming-of-age contemporaries and The Rest of the Story is not much different.

Perhaps that's just my slight complaint, that it felt a bit too standard and that it doesn't offer anything new. But if you're someone who hasn't read a Sarah Dessen book yet, this is a good place to start. But I'm still sticking with Just Listen and This Lullaby as my favorites by the author in case anyone asks.
Profile Image for ✨Emily.
287 reviews81 followers
January 31, 2020
3.5/5 stars

This was a fun and entertaining coming-of-age story filled with family, friends and finding yourself.The Rest of the Story follows Emma Saylor as she reconnects with her estrange relatives from her mother's side, and navigates the tight-knit community of North Lake. An unplanned vacation with family she never knew she had may just be what she needs to rekindle the memories of her mother and find the courage to be the driver in her life.

First off, I had a great time listening to the story and it made for a great summer read. Emma was an anxious teen who was content with just being an observer. She cared deeply for her family and was a dependable and responsible person. She reminds me of me in those aspects. I really enjoyed seeing her become more active in her life and really be more assertive. I enjoyed her friends-to-lovers romance and overall felt satisfied with the ending. These are things that I enjoy from Sarah Dessen's books; the familial centric nature of her stories, the gradual development of relationships and the fact that in the end they are not just a love story.

Though, I have to say I had some pacing/time jump issues. There were parts where the story jumped around in parts in that there were scenes where Emma was recalling something and then we're back in the present. This left me rewinding those moments to get my bearings straight again. I just wished there were smoother transitions from one scene to another or a more linear story arc. Moreover, I feel like we didn't get to really spend enough time with her lake family which is what I was really looking forward to when I picked it up. I kinda wish it just focused solely on that side of the family. Lastly, I would love it if there was more diversity to her stories such as, more POC, LGBT+ and disability representation, and they don't have to be the main characters. I just want more contemporaries to be reflective of our diverse world.

Overall, I enjoyed the story but it definitely has some areas to improve. The familial relationships were great and healthy, and the romance was sweet and I'm biased when it comes to the friends-to-lovers trope. I'd still recommend this as a quick summer read since we all need that once and a while.

Profile Image for Mackenzie Lane.
235 reviews2,096 followers
August 11, 2019
What a charming book!

Very standard, quintessential Sarah Dessen. Definitely focuses more on the characters than anything else, which I always like! It’s a slower moving story, but I enjoyed getting to know Emma Saylor’s extended family & the differences between North Lake and Lake North.

Despite a couple plot inconsistencies, I definitely liked this book more than her last novel, Once and For All, which depicted one of the worst cases of instalove I’ve ever had to bear witness to 🥴. But the love interest in this book, Roo, was such a sweetheart, and so responsible for being a seventeen year-old kid! I envy his work ethic 😅

Oddly enough, I feel like this is a book I don’t think I would’ve appreciated if I’d read this as a teenager. It’s light on the romance (it’s still there though!), and mainly revolves around Emma learning more about her mom, who died five years before the story takes place. I liked that Emma was so eager to get to know her family, most of them she’d never met/didn’t remember ever meeting.

Would recommend, obvi 💁🏼
Profile Image for Zemira Warner.
1,569 reviews1,042 followers
April 2, 2019
It's always a good idea to read one of Sarah Dessen's books. They always bring a smile to my face and make me feel like everything will be okay.

One of the things Dessen excels in is writing about different family dynamics. I kind of wish we got to find out more about the family members because I was more invested into that storyline. Romance was...you know...predictable.
Profile Image for Linda Hart.
733 reviews140 followers
October 19, 2021
This is a light, contemporary young adult novel with themes of family and belonging. It is an enjoyable summer read with believable teen characters, a family crisis, a moral dilemma, a summer setting, and a budding romance, a typical Sarah Dessen novel.
Profile Image for Jen Ryland.
1,549 reviews912 followers
June 13, 2019
Aw, loved this. Classic Dessen featuring some of her most beloved and familiar themes and a new setting - if you want my complete break-down, check out my review here on Jen Ryland Reviews!

Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy for review!

Read more of my reviews on JenRyland.com! Check out my Bookstagram!
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