This Lullaby- Sarah Dessen

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

This Lullaby take place in the summer after Remy’s summer graduates from high school.  Remy’s mom has been married five times and Remy’s father abandoned her mother before Remy was born (then dies soon after, leaving behind only a song called “This Lullaby” which is about what a terrible father he would be).  Her family history leaves Remy very skeptical about love.  She doesn’t believe love can last or that falling in love is worth the risk of being heartbroken.  When Dexter literally crashes into her world, Remy is forced to decide whether or not love is worth the risk.

This is the first Sarah Dessen book I’ve read and I guess I understand the appeal.  This was an enjoyable read in which the characters learn things and grow as people, but truth be told I didn’t love this book.  I had difficulties with a couple of the characters and wasn’t really invested in the Remy-Dexter relationship.

Remy was a frustrating character a lot of the time, especially as the book kept going and it seemed she was learning nothing.  Remy thinks she has love all figured out, but clearly she doesn’t.  It was frustrating to watch her give up before even trying to sustain a relationship with Dexter.  It was also frustrating to watch her bounce around in casual relationships, as though this is all she deserved.  On the other hand, though, Remy was funny, a caring and loyal friend, and an astute observer of others, even if she had difficulty analyzing her own feelings.  Also, she was bit of a neat freak.  I have a weakness for neat freak characters (and real-life friends, too, I have an abundance of Virgos in my life).

Dexter, though, was sort of blah and I was totally not expecting that given I’d heard much love for the guy.  I mean, I never really understood the attraction to musicians or gangly awkward guys, so maybe he’s just not my type.  Or maybe it was the fact that he sorta kinda reminded me of my brother-in-law, who is in a band and is skinny and offbeat and hipster and cheats at every game he plays (all these things could be said about Dexter, too).  And I like my brother-in-law just fine, but you know, I don’t really want to picture him as the romantic lead in a book I’m reading.

Remy’s mom confused me, too.  As in, the mom we see at the start of the book is irresponsible and immature, but by the end she seems to have her head squarely on her shoulders and gives Remy some really great advice about taking risks in life/love.  I think we were supposed to see Remy’s mother change as Remy’s impression of her mother changes from my-mom-is-the-worst to my-mom-is-pretty-great-despite-her-shortcomings, but what I got was a really confused image of who her mother actually was.

And then there was this little tiny insignificant plot point that really bothered me.  Remy’s first sexual experience was being date-raped while she was drunk.  However, this is mostly glossed over.  Remy deals with the trauma by having sex with a string of meaningless boys.  I suppose some time has passed between that incident and the story, so it wasn’t really a focal point, but either deal with the issue of rape or don’t put it in there in the first place.  Remy’s family life is more than enough for me to believe that she’d have difficulties with love and sex.

The thing is, I bet I would have loved this story as an older teen as I struggled with some of the same conflicts about love that Remy did.  However, as an adult it fell more into the “it wasn’t bad” category.  I know some of you would love quirky Dexter and tough-as-nails Remy, so if hipster musicians are your key to the swoons, try this one.  Avoid this if you are the person who hates that girlfriend who must be constantly reassured that she will someday meet someone and love is real.