Monday, March 2, 2009


Is it my dirty mind? Or is the cover of Sarah Dessen's Keeping the Moon a tad on the racy side? Is that crotch male or female? This is among her earliest novels (1999), just published in audio. It's your standard Sarah Dessen story: Colie is spending the summer with her eccentric aunt at the North Carolina beach while her overachieving aerobic/lifestyle coach mother is touring Europe. Colie and her mother lost weight and got fit together, but Colie still feels like the fat, bullied girl she was. During her summer on the beach, she finds work at the local burger joint, meets two older girls who teach her about self-respect and romance, and connects with an intriguing young man, and -- oh yes -- learns that it's what's inside that counts.

Yes, Dessen does have her formula, but she does it well. Teens gobble them up, I think because she is very successful at creating authentic teenage characters. Their conversations sound like teenagers, and the inner conflict seems natural as well. Like Lock and Key, she is well-matched with her narrator. Stina Nielsen sounds like a teenager too -- both in vocal quality and in her pacing of the dialogue. When the teens were all conversing, she truly made it sound like a conversation. And since Dessen propels her story forward with dialogue, this is an essential skill in a narrator. Like the women who read Lock and Key, she is very adept at burying the many "he saids" so they don't become intrusive. I didn't mind listening to a story I've heard before.

I've got a quibble though, in that the regional setting (which seemed important) was not reflected by the characters' voices. Everyone sounded very upper middle class America. At the same time, it was clearly Nielsen's choice not to create characters except through very subtle voicing, so that's why it's only a quibble.

Also in the quibble department, there is a moment in the text where Colie watches the sun set over the water. Hmmm ... I thought, can the sun set over the water in North Carolina? (As Mary Burkey would say, that pulled me right out of the story.) I guess it can -- on the Outer Banks, but I didn't recollect (which doesn't mean Dessen didn't say it) that Aunt Mira's house was oriented toward the [name of the body of water that separates the Outer Banks from the rest of North Carolina].

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