According to seventeen-year- old Louna Barrett, “You can’t measure love by time put in, but by the weight of those moments” (115). She had only loved Ethan Caruso for a short time, but he was her “once and for all,” until he wasn’t.
Since losing Ethan, Louna is prickly, antisocial, and somewhat cynical about love. Ethan, whose mother had been married multiple times, had been cynical about marriage, but Louna knows a lot about weddings, after having worked summers at her mother’s wedding planning business. She sees a wedding as a series of special moments, strung together like beads on a chain. A Natalie Barrett Wedding is about making dreams come true; it is about orchestrating a best possible beginning and about whispered wishes, “May you always have the answers to each other’s most important questions” (9).
Despite their knowledge about weddings and creating those best beginnings, both Natalie and her business partner William believe commitment is for crazy people. William, who has been out since he was eight and who prides himself in being a bride whisperer, is hyperaware and always looks serene and flawless. Natalie is wound pretty tight, but the two complement one another and make good business partners, possibly because of their shared belief that real love doesn’t exist.
Louna, who has experienced real love, knows that it does exist and that you can power the world with attention from a significant partner. She remembers the details from the things about Ethan—the gorgeous, funny, and smart boy that she can’t forget. However, she stopped believing in wishes when the only one she wanted to make can never come true.
Lots of people have encouraged Louna to love again, like Jilly Baker, her best friend. And now, there’s Ambrose Little, a cocky, confident in his own charm, bumbler who believes dancing is healing. After he saves Louna from a jugheaded groper, she begins to wonder if Ambrose is more than a compromised attention span. Because he loves dating—the excitement of beginnings without any endings—and Louna is afraid to date, the two engage in a contest for seven weeks: Ambrose has to find a steady girl and Louna has to date as many boys as she can.
Through the contest, Louna discovers that the world is full of surprises, and not just the kind that break your heart. As she dates, she discovers lots of duds, but she also meets some boys with potential, a fact that is both dazzling and terrifying. After all, isn’t that how everything begins? With a night, a love, a once and for all?
In her recent novel, Once and For All, Sarah Dessen writes to answer that question, as she explores what happens when we stop believing in hope, when we allow grief to swallow us, or when we give up on the magic of love.
- Posted by Donna