ARC Review | Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

Once and for All by Sarah Dessen
Young Adult / Contemporary
Publication Date | June 6th, 2017
ARC from Netgalley


Book Blurb: 

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

| Review |

I dove into Sarah Dessen’s back list last year, and I have enjoyed some of her books. Most of them have been middle of the road for me, however, and Once and for All was more of the same. There were plenty of things to like about this book – I thought Louna and her mother had a wonderful relationship, as did Louna with her mother’s friend, William. Louna was responsible and someone her friends and family could count on, and I enjoyed her character. Her friend, Jilly, and Jilly’s family were a wonderful addition to the story, and I like that they had so much in common as far as working with their families and shouldering a lot of responsibility went. But this book just felt disjointed and abrupt, and the use of flashbacks here didn’t work for me. While I did enjoy the scenes and Ethan’s character very much, I don’t feel like it added anything to the book. That was due, in part, to the fact that his ‘story’ fell flat. Sarah Dessen has never pushed the envelope, in my opinion, and that’s never bothered me until now. But I feel like her attempt to cover a very serious subject was lame; it was something she flirted with instead of fully committing to, and it showed in the lack of depth to what could have been a stellar storyline.

Present day was a problem for me in that for the first half of the book, Ambrose’s character felt more like a caricature of a young man than a real young man, but then, once the book hit 50%, he did an about face and toned down, with no explanation. I loved him when he was toned down, but it was such a jarring change of character that I wasn’t quite able to buy into it. I also liked Ambrose’s dog, Ira, and how he acquired him, and that Ambrose was so honest and open. It was such a nice change from the game playing I sometimes read in YA. But I didn’t really feel as though anyone changed throughout this story, and that was a problem for me.

Overall, while Once and for All was an OK read for me, it was lacking in character development and consistency, and I’d only recommend this book if you’re a long-time Sarah Dessen fan.

| Rating |


| Favorite Quote |

The dead aren’t the only ones who vanish; you, too, can disappear in plan sight if enough is taken from you.

17 thoughts on “ARC Review | Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

Add yours

  1. I haven’t read Sarah Dessen before but I know tht we have a lot of her books in my house because my daughter likes her writing. Sorry this one wasn’t better than ok for you. Great review!


  2. Sarah Dessen is an author that I feel like I should like, but I wasn’t overly impressed with the one book I’ve read by her. It didn’t make me feel the urge to keep going.


    1. Normally I’d let it go, too, but I feel like this is one author who it’s worth it to read a few books. I wish she was more consistent with her writing, but she has a lot of hits or misses.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: