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“If life is a journey, wouldn’t you rather be the person behind the wheel than the one just being carried along?”

From the minute we started reading The Rest of the Story we were immediately transported back in time. It’s been some years, pre blog days, since we’ve lived between the pages of a Sarah Dessen book and boy, we’ve missed her. This book felt like coming home, wrapping ourselves up in the sweet, relatable characters synonymous with Sarah Dessen’s stories.

The Rest of the Story follows seventeen-year-old Emma Saylor Payne as she embarks on a summer journey of self-discovery, friendship, family loyalty and love, and it’s a story we embraced wholeheartedly. What starts out as a quick visit to her Mothers family, soon becomes a step back in time, a family history lesson and a gathering of precious moments to be captured and treasured.

“I guess everyone’s afraid of something.”

Following some unexpected circumstances, Emma (Saylor) Payne goes to stay with her Nana Mimi in North Lake while her Dad and stepmother Tracey, head to Greece on their honeymoon. Mimi is her Nan from her Mum Waverly’s side who passed away five years earlier. However, Emma hasn’t been to North Lake since she was four, she doesn’t know her vast family who lives there and has no recollection of her childhood visit, so she’s somewhat hesitant to return.

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

Emma doesn’t know her Mum’s side of the family, as Waverly was a troubled young woman with a drug and alcohol problem – it soon becomes apparent upon arriving in North Lake that Emma didn’t really know her Mum either, and her stay a moment of forming friendships, discovering her Mum, connecting with her family and finding herself.

‘You can make your life, or life can make you. Was it really that simple of a choice?’

The romance factor is very subtle and sweet as Emma befriends Christopher Price (Roo), whose father was best friends with the young, troubled and carefree Waverly and passed away before he was born. Roo knows the stories of Emma’s past as do her cousins and Aunty, and it was beautiful watching each character bring Emma’s history together like adding pieces of a puzzle.

There was much to love about this story and it’s something Sarah Dessen does extremely well. This author takes her time allowing the reader to become a part of the story and connect with the characters.  The core of this story is family and friendship in all it’s complicated, emotional and meaningful glory.


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?

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