Once And For All by Sarah DessenOnce And For All by Sarah Dessen

Once And For All

bySarah Dessen

Hardcover | June 6, 2017

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From Sarah Dessen, the beloved New York Times bestselling author of SAINT ANYTHING and JUST LISTEN, comes a new novel set in the world of wedding planning!

Is it really better to have loved and lost?  Louna's summer job is to help brides plan their perfect day, even though she stopped believing in happily-ever-after when her first love ended tragically.  But charming girl-magnet Ambrose isn't about to be discouraged now that he's met the one he really  wants.  Maybe Louna's second chance is standing right in front of her.

 Sarah Dessen’s many fans will adore this latest novel, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story with humor, romance, and an ending that is so much more than happily-ever-after.

Sarah Dessen is the author of twelve previous novels, which include the New York Times bestsellers Saint Anything, The Moon and More, What Happened to Goodbye, Along for the Ride, Lock and Key, Just Listen, The Truth About Forever, and This Lullaby. Her first two books, That Summer and Someone Like You, were made into the movie How to ...
Title:Once And For AllFormat:HardcoverDimensions:368 pages, 8.5 × 5.88 × 1.25 inPublished:June 6, 2017Publisher:Penguin Young Readers GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0425290336

ISBN - 13:9780425290330

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love Sarah Dessen I have always loved Sarah Dessen's books and this was another win for me! I was initially worried that she might have written every storyline in YA Romance, but this story had new fresh ideas and backstories that I absolutely loved! #plumreview
Date published: 2018-08-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Had to try again I started reading and I couldn't get into it. This summer I decided to give it another go after reading most of the other books in my collection. Good plot, I wasn't expecting her back story which could be triggering to some. I have a big problem with books that having open endings, but this one left me satisfied.
Date published: 2018-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nice Plot I read this book about half a year ago and so far it is one of my favourite books. I love the plot of this novel and the twisted up love story creeping up throughout it. I would recommend this book to both family and friends.
Date published: 2018-06-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Sarah Dessen's Slow Return I haven't been a fan of Sarah Dessen's latest works but Once and For All seems like a comeback. The behind the scenes of the wedding industry creates a really entertaining, hectic environment for the characters. I also really liked how we got two love stories instead of one. Not going to lie, I prefer Louna's relationship with Ethan more than her relationship with Ambrose. However, Ambrose and Louna make sense in the way that it proves to Ambrose that he can be a relationship person and it proves to Louna that she can have a fun relationship again after Ethan's passing. Louna and Ambrose aren't something that would last long-term but they're perfect for the time that they're together. The school shooting subplot was underdeveloped but it could have been handled worse.
Date published: 2018-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing story , incredible writing ! Sarah Dessen is an incredible writer able to adhere to young adult as well as new adult fiction. This story is able to relate to every reader no matter what you are going through and able to be read quite quickly. Would recommend to anyone :D
Date published: 2018-04-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love This was a great read. Sarah Dessen is the quintessential YA Romance Author and I just eat up everything that she writes. So good!
Date published: 2018-04-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It's alright I've read a lot of her books, but was a little disappointed by this one. Not her best, but worth a read for teenagers
Date published: 2018-02-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Book I've read every one of Sarah Dessen's books since I was in my mid to late teens and it brings me back every time. Liked the book, but it was missing something that was previously in her older books.
Date published: 2018-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of her best books so far I've read all of Sarah Dessen's books and they keep getting better and better. The characters in this book were intriguing and fun. It was a GREAT read!!
Date published: 2018-01-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok unfortunately, I was just disappointed throughout the whole book.
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from READ THIS REVIEW When I first saw this book at the airport I begged my parents to get it for me because I heard the author is great and the book that she has written. I honestly think this book is overrated, I would've stop reading this book but I had to fnish it for an assinment that I was doing. When I finished it I felt like I just wasted my time. BUT that's just in my opinio it's probably different in urs
Date published: 2018-01-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I loved everything about this book!
Date published: 2017-12-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok Amazing author with great character development.
Date published: 2017-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from an amazing read This book had me very interested from start to finish.
Date published: 2017-10-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really Great, But Something Missing This was another great book by Sarah Dessen. It was just missing something though, that would have pushed it to a 5 star. I just can't figure out what that is though. I just can't pinpoint it. It had a bit of a different feel from some of her previous books. Though it would be hard to beat the amazingness that was Saint Anything. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-10-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from great book! fantastic light read! nice story and good characters, as per usual
Date published: 2017-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect!!! Somehow Sarah Dessen manages to write books that i fall in love with overtime!
Date published: 2017-10-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok This was an interesting read full of life lessons learned through experiencing a terrible loss. Reading this provides insight into the grieving mind along with strategies to support someone experiencing los
Date published: 2017-10-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok was hyped for this book, and was somewhat pleased, but not entirely. Good for a quick read, but will not match your highest expectations.
Date published: 2017-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from wow this gives me all the butterflies. it's the perfect summer read!
Date published: 2017-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved This Missed reading Sarah Dessen novels so I was very excited for this book. It did not disappoint. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-10-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from And She's Back... After a few somewhat disappointing novels, Sarah Dessen has finally done it again. I finally feel like she's tapped into that magic that she had and weaved through her older work. I'm looking forward to what else she has next for her readers.
Date published: 2017-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great book loved it, super easy read, great for the summer
Date published: 2017-09-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from perfect summer read This is the perfect romantic summer read. It’s lovely inside and out. I received a copy of this book yesterday morning and began reading it the same evening. I tried to resist, as I already have eight other books lined up, just patiently waiting their turn to woo me, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off this beauty. (Bonus: it smells really good.) And guess what? I read it in one sitting. I haven’t done that in quite some time, if you don’t count graphic novels, which don’t take long to finish. This is a 360-page novel that I read and read and read without taking any breaks. That’s crazy when you think about it, since I read on average one page per minute, meaning that I spent 6 hours straight reading this. Oh my. Must get a life. But I couldn’t not do that. It’s fantastic. It’s definitely not a story with happy-go-lucky kind of characters and an extremely light atmosphere. It’s pretty intense, actually. Louna’s past has some tragedy in it and the wedding planning business is a source of stress for everyone. Even I felt stressed out when something went wrong. Oh but I expected that. This is my 5th book from the talented Sarah Dessen. I knew to anticipate a love story weaved into a family and friendship-centered plot with tons of lessons to learn from and inspirational quotes to ponder. Though I think this is the first time I like the secondary (however quite present) characters—Louna’s mother and her business partner—as much as I do the main ones. Ambrose, the love interest, is the type of guy who lives life one day at a time. He is kind and funny as well as fun. You can’t get bored when he’s around. He pays attention and cares for others. Louna is not interested in a relationship after what happened to her ex-boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean she’s an Ice Queen. She’s open to friendship. Their relationship evolves very realistically. In the beginning Louna misjudges Ambrose and finds him incredibly annoying. He’s a womanizer, that’s true, but he’s respectful and claims he can change his ways. He’s warming up to Louna by the day, though I must say I enjoyed their fights as much as I did their sweet moments. A must-read for romance lovers and even those who only want a pleasant summer beach read.
Date published: 2017-09-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from yes quite insightful and overall enjoyable.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointing Sarah Dessen Read Once and For All made me expect that I would finally, FINALLY rate a Sarah Dessen book five stars once and for all. (Well - I did a few times in the past, but her recent books have been boring.) I liked this one, don't get me wrong, however, it was kind of boring and meaningless, if you know what I mean. I didn't feel much of a reaction once it was over, nothing tugged me to go back and read all of her past stories. It was between a hit and a miss. I can see why many people would fall in love with this kind of story — it does have to kind of do with weddings and love, after all, but I find it too cheesy and unbelievable for my liking. If only falling in love could be THIS easy. I only find myself liking contemporary novels when I can actually imagine it happening in real life. This was unimaginable. Sure, Dessen's writing is quite detailed and provides a nice image in my mind, however, I felt that everything occurred too quickly. From Ambrose and Louna's relationship, to Louna getting over all of the grief she endured, it seemed... crazy. I did enjoy how unique the story was, though, in terms of Louna being the daughter of wedding planners, and the fact that fate "puts her in the situation" of falling in love with a client's brother. This is definitely a book for the pre-Nicholas Sparks readers. It's cheesiness galore. "Weddings were like truth serum, or so my mom always said. Whatever your personality, it would come out in spades" (122). It all doesn't require much explaining, in terms of the plot. This is about a girl, who seems so ordinary, and a boy, who is wild and a total player, and how they're put together, initially hating each other. If this book had another base to it, more depth to it, perhaps I would have adored it. It was okay, in all honesty. I loved Louna's kick-butt character, and how much she just wanted to revive from her dark days, and how she wanted to fall in love again. I kept feeling this beautiful, youthful vibe from her, which, in reality, is what I was supposed to feel, as this is a YA novel after all. Now, Ambrose was cute too. He's the love interest, and I cannot even call that a spoiler because it was meant to be. We all can see it coming from the summary of the story. He's your typical, girl-crazy guy who I fell in love with a little. I just didn't appreciate the relationship of the two characters, as to me... they didn't quite fit. It felt forced, unlike the chemistry Dessen's other fictional relationships had. Once and For All was a nice, summer read. It took me waaay too long to read it, when I think about it, but that's because I felt like I knew what would happen. And it did. Nothing "special" occurred, which I really would have appreciated. I will still be reading Dessen's future books as they are a nice break from mysteries and thrillers that I tend to turn to. *A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*
Date published: 2017-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from love sarah dessen this book is so relatable and romantic. loved everything about it
Date published: 2017-08-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Such a cute and quick read.
Date published: 2017-08-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from eh i cant into any of sarah dessen's books for some reason
Date published: 2017-08-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Laugh, Cry and Love Guarantee I read my first Sarah Dessen book when I was twelve years old. A friend gifted me Along for the Ride for my birthday and the very next morning I was halfway into it. From twelve to almost nineteen, Sarah Dessen’s books are ones I’ve cried over and laughed and fallen in love with as I got to know, time and again, Auden, Eli, Remy, Dexter, Annabel, Owen, Macy, Wes, Ruby and all these other couples that taught me so much. I remember myself over the last seven years through Sarah Dessen’s book, and it’s truly a magical feeling. Which is why, among the BOX FULL OF BOOKS that Penguin India sent me last week, the one I was most excited for was Once and for All. To Sum It Up: Once and for All was the heart wrenching journey of a girl brought up by cynics who are waiting to be proven wrong and trying to figure out if putting your heart out there is worth the risk while managing chaotic weddings and bad first dates. Long Story Short: I LOVED IT. This was definitely one of my top five Sarah Dessen books! Let’s break it Down: WRITING: Sarah has this distinctive, subtle form of writing that I’ve loved since book one that all of a sudden throws these beautiful and true lines at you. I’ve loved this BRILLIANT author’s BRILLIANT writing since I was 12 and I don’t think it’ll ever change. PLOT: The one thing I love about Dessen’s books is that NONE of them are JUST Boy Meets Girl. There is always more to the story that just one romance, often involving a heart breaking personal journey from the girl’s side and it’s ALWAYS SO REAL. It makes me connect with all of her characters in a way I usually don’t and I love it. CHARACTERS: I loved Louna from chapter one. I’m probably like her, a cynic until proven otherwise, scared to let what I’m feeling show. I loved her narration, her story and her fears. I felt, by the first quarter of this book, like I really knew this girl. I also ADORED Jilly, Louna’s best friend, and her whole family. I feel like she deserves her own book. Her story with Ethan broke my heart. It was this romance that just doesn’t happen anymore and BUT IT DID and it was so perfect while not being unreal and GOSH I ALMOST CRIED. My one problem with this book was the romance between Ambrose and Louna. I LOVED THEM AS FRIENDS and also as people but their romance and the “love” between them seemed SO FORCED. CONCLUSION: This book is about Louna moving on from a broken heart and finding a way to give it to someone else AND it’s set with a wedding planning business in the background which gives off its own form of hilarity. I LOVED THIS BOOK YOU GUYS. It will make you laugh and cry and fall in love like only Sarah Dessen can. 4 stars.
Date published: 2017-08-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I loved it!! Sarah's novels is the reason I started reading and this book really brought me back into her world. I absolutely loved it. It definitely brought me back to my high school days :)
Date published: 2017-08-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another great book from Sarah Dessen! Sarah Dessen has done it again! This book touches on an issue that's unfortunately very prevalent in our society. I love how relevant it is and how she's brought believable, real-life issues into this novel. Once again, I've fallen in love with her characters, and I found Louna's progression to be realistic and well-thought out. While it's not my favourite Dessen book (I've read them all, and Lock and Key and The Truth About Forever will always be my favourites), it's another Dessen novel I'm so happy to have read.
Date published: 2017-08-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Decent It was definitely interesting to read and I enjoyed it, however, some of the plot points seemed a little farfetched...
Date published: 2017-08-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Classic Dessen So wonderful to go back to Dessen's world. A great read as always
Date published: 2017-08-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great summer read! I thought this book was so cute! Ive never read any of her other books so I wasn't sure what to expect however I was really impressed :) It had me smiling, crying and it really makes you think about life that just because you have loved once doesn't mean you cant love again. Every love story has a different beginning and a different ending! <3
Date published: 2017-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow Great addition to my memorabilia collection.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A refreshing, perfectly-summer-read Firstly, I am not usually a Sarah Dessen fan. But after reading Saint Anything, I was more impressed than usual so I decided to give Once and for All a try...and I'm happy I did. I was very impressed with Once and for All for a number of reasons. Mostly because I agree with other comments that Once and for All really deviated from that "Sarah Dessen writing style". But for me, this wasn't a bad thing. I enjoyed the characters very much. While Ethan was every girls sought after laid back beach boy, Ambrose was the colourful quick-witted charmer that you never see coming. The biggest surprise in Once and for all is that, from the story synopsis, you would never know it was anything more than a light-hearted summer read about a wedding planner that falls for a client. But only a few pages in you will quickly realize Once and for All will leave you laughing and crying at the same time. It's perspective on a pertinent issue of school shootings facing today's teens is thought provoking, as it really makes you consider the ripple effect a single event has on the lives of those even miles away. And though we acknowledge these issues, televise them even, it makes you consider whether we really handle these issues with the sensitivity they require. So thank you Sarah Dessen for writing something so witty, heartfelt and eyeopening. And to those of you considering Once and For All...read it, love it, and learn from it.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another classic Dessen novel This novel had all the aspects of a standard Sarah Dessen novel, but I felt this one was distinctly different because of the writing style. I did not like that mental health was not touched upon at all throughout the novel, especially because the main character goes through a traumatic event and displays some symptoms of PTSD.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A lovely read This is the first book by Sarah Dessen that I've read. It was a light, fluffy read, but I felt like it was well-balanced, with some seriousness thrown in. I found the characters to be quite likeable, and the relationships believable.
Date published: 2017-07-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from i loved this sarah's books are always the sweetest
Date published: 2017-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it Hurt my heart to read. But overall, it was a great book and I would read it again.
Date published: 2017-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it A nice easy read for summer
Date published: 2017-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from i love this book once again, sarah dessen manages to make me fall in love with her writing all over again. an awesome read! #plumreview
Date published: 2017-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVE LOVE LOVE Sarah Dessen never disappoints, great read!
Date published: 2017-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lovely! This was an amazing book. I've only read one of her other stories and immediately fell in love so I absolutely had to read this one after all the amazing reviews. It's fantastic. The story hooked me immediately, the characters were real and the writing was oh so amazing. Highly recommend as a cute summer read.
Date published: 2017-07-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Like Reading a RomCom Film! I have never read a Sarah Dessen novel before and I can say with absolute certainty that I will be reading her work again! This book was plain and simple a lot of fun, just enough drama to keep me engaged and Ambrose was utterly adorable.
Date published: 2017-07-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Timeless Sarah Dessen Sarah Dessen is an amazing writer to begin with so loving this book was no surprise. Personally, it wasn't my favourite book she's ever written, but you honestly can't go wrong with any of her work.
Date published: 2017-07-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Decent This story was decent. Typical Sarah Dessen with a naive main character. However, I didn't like that there was no development of the relationship between the two until the very end. The entire book had the main character fighting / refusing to admit she had feelings for Ambrose. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-07-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from AWESOME Sarah Dessen is an all-time fav of mine! great book!
Date published: 2017-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing I have loved reading Sarah Dessen for the longest time, I'm always waiting for the next book to come out. She never fails to keep you wondering what is going to happen next, and make you fall in love with the characters.
Date published: 2017-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really good! Sarah Dessen has been one of my favourite authors since I was in high school and she continues to deliver all these years later. This wasn't my all time favourite by her but I'd still rank it in her top 8!
Date published: 2017-07-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not her best Story BUT some of her BEST writing I've read almost every Dessen book on the shelves, and LOVE them all, this one included. While I really am not a fan of the whole "one evening in love scenario" the humor in the book had me actually laughing out loud as I read. PLUS the inclusion of my favourite Dessen couple from one of her previous books has me SHOOK
Date published: 2017-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love her this book was what I thought it would be. Awesome! Sarah never disappoints with her books!
Date published: 2017-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVED This was such a great book and it was one of the best ones from Dessen!
Date published: 2017-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it Sarah Dessen never disappoints. You cannot put this book down. You fall in love with all the characters!
Date published: 2017-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it One of my all-time fav authors
Date published: 2017-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read. Really enjoyed reading the novel. Very humorous and different and enjoyed the story line.
Date published: 2017-06-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Perfect for the Summer! Not my favourite Dessen book but still just as adorable as usual. I think the reason it didn't get five stars from me was that the relationship we were all waiting for only happened at the end of the book. I kind of wanted to spend some time with the couple. Also, some of the wedding parts got a little boring especially at the beginning. Still a great and adorable summer read!
Date published: 2017-06-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Sarah Dessen At Her Best Once and For All is one of Sarah Dessen's better books (the Truth About Forever is, in my opinion, the best), with a strong backstory for the main character. The secondary characters are very different and quirky, and overall, a bittersweet yet humourous and happy novel!
Date published: 2017-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyed it! Such a wonderful novel to read!
Date published: 2017-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it Love all of Sarah Dessan's novel, this one did not disappoint
Date published: 2017-06-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Sarah Dessen at her finest I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review(Thanks so much for granting my wish!). You either love or you hate Sarah Dessen's books. Yes, her books are quite formulaic, but they are so darn easy to read. Once and for All is about Louna, who doesn't know whether or not she believes in love. She works for her mother in the wedding business where she watches love hit its peak. Louna's true love died and her mother's marriage didn't turn out well. When she meets Ambrose, she starts to question her beliefs in love. It's always better to go into Sarah Dessen books without knowing much, but I'll try to tell you a bit about it. I loved that this book was about the wedding industry. While this book didn't delve deep into it, it was a really fun element in the story. I just found that Sarah Dessen threw in a lot of unique elements I haven't read in YA much or at all, which made me love this book. For example, Louna's best friend's parents were food truck owners. If you love love-hate romances, the main relationship in this book follows that kind of plot line. This author writes some awesome secondary characters that you will want to see more of, so get excited about that. Of course, because it's a Sarah Dessen book, the main character is a bit oblivious. She doesn't realize that someone is in love with her, which is super frustrating because it's right in front of her face!! Louna is also pretty mature for her age and is a bit jaded. Surprisingly though, the ending of this book is actually somewhat satisfying, which never happens! If you're looking for an interesting contemporary romance this summer, I'd suggest maybe picking up Once and for All, especially if you love Sarah Dessen.
Date published: 2017-03-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from It was great I liked the plot and characters, not my favourite book though.
Date published: 2017-03-09

Read from the Book

CHAPTER 1   WELL, THIS was a first.   “Deborah?” I said as I knocked softly, yet still with enough intensity to convey the proper urgency, on the door. “It’s Louna. Can I help you with anything?”   According to my mother, this was Rule One in dealing with this kind of situation: don’t project a problem. As in, don’t ask if anything is wrong unless you are certain some­thing is, and as of right now, I was not. Although a bride lock­ing herself in the anteroom of the church five minutes after the wedding was supposed to begin did not exactly bode well.   From the other side of the door, I heard movement. Then a sniffle. Again, I wished William, my mother’s partner and the company’s appointed bride whisperer, was here instead of me. But he’d gotten hooked into another crisis involving the groom’s mother taking issue with preceding the bride’s mom down the aisle, even though everyone knew that was how the etiquette went. Work in the wedding business long enough, however, and you learn that everything has the potential to be a problem, from the happy couple all the way down to the napkins. You just never know.   I cleared my throat. “Deborah? Can I bring you a water?”   It wasn’t ever the true solution, but a water never hurt: that was another one of my mother’s beliefs. Instead of a response, the lock clicked, the door rattling open. I looked down the stairs behind me, praying I’d see William ap­proaching, but no, I was still alone. I took a breath, then picked up the bottle I’d grabbed earlier and stepped inside. Hydration for the win.   Our client Deborah Bell (soon to be Washington, ide­ally), a beautiful black girl with her hair in a bun, was sit­ting on the floor of the small room, her fluffy white dress bunched up around her. It had cost five thousand dollars, a fact I knew because she had told us, repeatedly, during the last ten months of planning this day. I tried not to think about this as I moved quickly, but not too quickly, over to her. (“Never run at a wedding unless someone’s life is liter­ally in danger!” I heard my mother say in my head.) I’d just opened up the water when I realized she was crying.   “Oh, don’t do that.” I eased down into what I hoped was a professional knees-to-the-side squat, drawing a slim pack of tissues from my pocket. “Your makeup looks great. Let’s keep it that way, okay?”   Deborah, one false eyelash already loose—some lies are necessary—just blinked at me, sending another round of tears down her already streaked face. “Can I ask you something?”   No, I thought. Now we were at nine minutes. Out loud I said, “Sure.”   She took in a shuddering breath, the kind that only comes after you’ve been crying awhile, and hard. “Do you . . .” A pause, as another set of tears gathered and spilled, this time taking the loose eyelash with them. “Do you believe that true love can really last forever?”   Now someone was coming up the stairs. From the sound of it, though—large steps, lumbering, with a fair amount of huffing and puffing already audible—it wasn’t William. “True love?”   “Yes.” She reached up—God, no! I thought, too late to stop her—rubbing a hand over her eyes and smearing eye­liner sideways up to her temple. The steps behind us were getting louder; whoever they belonged to would be here soon. Meanwhile, Deborah was just looking at me, her eyes wide and pleading, as if whatever happened next hinged entirely on my answer. “Do you?”   I knew she wanted a yes or no, something concise and specific and if this were any other question, I probably could have given it to her. But instead, I just sat there, silent, as I tried to put the image in my head—a boy in a white tuxedo shirt on a dark beach, laughing, one hand reached out to me—into any kind of words.   “Deborah Rachelle Bell!” I heard a voice boom from be­hind us. A moment later her father, the Reverend Elijah Bell, appeared, fully filling the space of the open doorway. His suit was tight, the shirt collar loosened, and he had a hand­kerchief in one hand, which he immediately pressed to his sweaty brow. “What in the world are you doing? People are waiting down there!”   “I’m sorry, Daddy,” Deborah wailed, and then I saw William, finally, climbing the stairs. Just as quickly he dis­appeared from view, though, blocked by the reverend’s girth. “I just got scared.”   “Well, get it together,” he told her, stepping inside. Clearly winded, he paused to take a breath or two before continuing. “I spent thirty thousand nonrefundable dollars of my hard-earned money on this wedding. If you don’t walk down that aisle right now, I’ll marry Lucas myself.”   At this, Deborah burst into fresh tears. As I put my hand out to her, helplessly patting a shoulder, William managed to squeeze past the reverend and approach us. Calm as always, he didn’t look at me, his eyes on only the bride as he bent close to speak in her ear. She whispered a response as he began to move his hand in slow circles on her back, like you do for a fussy baby.   I couldn’t hear anything that was said, only the reverend still breathing. Other footsteps were audible on the stairs now, most likely bridesmaids, groomsmen, and others com­ing to rubberneck. Everyone liked to be part of the story, it seemed. I’d understood this once, but not so much anymore.   Whatever William said had made Deborah smile, albeit shakily. But it was enough; she let him take her elbow and help her to her feet. While she looked down at her wrin­kled dress, trying to shake out the folds, he leaned back into the hallway, beckoning down the stairs. A moment later the makeup artist appeared, her tackle box of prod­ucts in hand.   “Okay, everyone, let’s give Deborah a second to freshen up,” William announced to the room, just as, sure enough, one bridesmaid and then another poked their heads in. “Rev­erend, can you go tell everyone to take their places? We’ll be down in two minutes.”   “You’d better be,” the reverend said, pushing past him to the door, sending bridesmaids scattering in a flash of laven­der. “Because I am not coming up those stairs again.”   “We’ll be right outside,” William told Deborah, gesturing for me to follow him. I did, pulling the door shut behind us.   “I’m sorry,” I said immediately. “That was beyond my skill set.”   “You did fine,” he told me, pulling out his phone. With­out even looking closely, I knew he was firing off a text to my mom in the code they used to ensure both speed and privacy. A second later, I heard a buzz as she wrote back. He scanned the screen, then said, “People are curious but there is a minimum of speculation noise, at least so far. It’s going to be fine. We’ve got the eyelash as an explanation.”   I looked at my watch. “An eyelash can take fifteen minutes?”   “It can take an hour, as far as anyone down there knows.” He smoothed a wrinkle I couldn’t even see out of his pants, then adjusted his red bow tie. “I wouldn’t have pegged Deb as a cold-feeter. Shows what I know.”   “What did she say to you back there?” I asked him.   He was listening to the noises beyond the door, alert, I knew, to the aural distinction between crying and get­ting makeup done. After a moment, he said, “Oh, she asked about true love. If I believed in it, does it last. Typical stuff pre-ceremony.”   “What did you say?”   Now he looked at me, with that cool, confident counte­nance that made him, along with my mom, the best team in the Lakeview wedding business. “I said of course. I couldn’t do this job if I didn’t. Love is what it’s all about.”   Wow, I thought. “You really believe that?”   He shuddered. “Oh, God, no.” Just then the door opened, revealing Deborah, makeup fixed, eyelash in place, dress seemingly perfect. She gave us a nervous smile, and even as I reciprocated I was more aware of William, beaming, than my own expression.   “You look beautiful,” he said. “Let’s do this.”   He held out his hand to her and she took it, letting him guide her down the stairs. The makeup lady followed, sigh­ing only loud enough for me to hear, and then I was alone.   Down in the church lobby, my mother would be get­ting the wedding party into position, adjusting straps and lapels, fluffing bouquets, and straightening boutonnières. I looked back into the anteroom, where only a pile of crum­pled tissues now remained. As I hurriedly collected them, I wondered how many other brides had felt the same way in this space, standing on the edge between their present and future, not quite ready to jump. I could sympathize, but only to a point. At least they got to make that choice for themselves. When, instead, it was done for you—well, that was something to really cry about. At any rate, now the or­gan music was rising, things beginning. I shut the door and headed downstairs.   My mother picked up her wine. “I’m going to say seven years. Long enough for a couple of kids and an affair.”   “Interesting,” William replied, holding his own glass aloft and studying it for a moment. Then he said, “I’ll give it three. No children. But an amicable parting.”   “You think?”   “I just get that feeling. Those feet were awfully cold, and asking about true love?”   My mom considered this. “Point taken. I think you’ll win this one. Cheers.”   They clinked glasses, then sat back in their chairs, each taking a solemn sip. After every wedding, when the bride and groom were gone and all the guests dispersed to their homes and hotels, my mom and William had one last ritual. They’d have a nightcap, recap the event, and lay bets on the marriage it produced. Their accuracy in predicting both outcome and duration was uncanny. And, to be honest, a little unsettling.   To me, though, the real test was in the departure. There was just something so telling about that moment when every­one gathered to see the bride and groom off. It wasn’t like the ceremony, where people were nervous and could hide things, or the reception, which was usually chaotic enough to blur details. With the leaving, months of planning were behind them, years of a life together ahead. Which was why I’d always made a point of watching their faces so carefully, taking note of fatigue, tears, or flickers of irritation. I didn’t make a wager as much as a wish for them. I always wanted a happy ending for everyone else.   Not that the clients would ever know this. It was the secret finish to what was known in our town of Lakeview as “A Natalie Barrett Wedding,” an experience so valued by the newly engaged that both a spot on a waitlist and a huge fee were required to even be considered for one. My mom and William’s price might be high, but they delivered, the results of their work bound in the four thick, embossed leather al­bums in their office sitting room. Each was packed with im­ages of glowing brides and grooms getting married in every way possible: beachside, while barefoot. Lakeside, in black tie. At a winery. On top of a mountain. In their own (gor­geous, styled for the occasion) backyard. There were huge wedding parties and small intimate ones. Many billowing white dresses with trains, and some in other colors and cuts (signs, I’d found, of second or third marriages). The differ­ence between a regular wedding and a Natalie Barrett one was akin to the difference between a pet store and a circus. A wedding was just two people getting married. A Natalie Barrett Wedding was an experience.   The Deborah Bell Wedding—it was company policy that we referred to all planned events by the bride’s name, as it was Her Day—was pretty much par for the course for us. The ceremony was at a church, the reception at a nearby hotel ballroom. There were five bridesmaids and five groomsmen, a ring bearer and a flower girl. Their choice of a live band was increasingly rare these days (my moth­er preferred a DJ: the fewer people to wrangle, the better) as was the dinner brought out by waiters (carving stations, buffets, and dessert bars had been more popular for years now). The night had wrapped up with fireworks, an increas­ingly popular request that added a permitting wrinkle but literally a final bang for the client’s buck. Despite the earlier dramatics, Deborah had run to the limo clutching her new husband’s hand, flushed and happy, smile wide. They’d been kissing as the door was shut behind them, to the obvious dis­approval of the reverend, who had then dabbed his own eyes, his wife patting his arm, as the car pulled away. Good luck, I’d thought, as the tail lights turned out of sight. May you al­ways have the answers to each other’s most important questions.   And then the wedding was over, for them, anyway. Not for us. First, there was this recap and wager, as well as a final check of the venue for lost items, misplaced wedding gifts, and passed out or, um, otherwise engaged guests (you’d be surprised—I know I always was). Then we would pack our cars with our clipboards and file folders, mending kits, double-stick tape, boxes of Kleenex, spare power strips, phone chargers, and Xanax (yep), and head home. We usually had exactly one day to recover, after which we were right back at the office in front of my mother’s huge whiteboard, where she’d circle the next wedding up and it all began again.   Despite how my mom and William joked otherwise—often—they loved this business. For them, it was a passion, and they were good at it. This had been the case long before I’d been old enough to work with them during the sum­mers. As a kid, I’d colored behind my mother’s huge desk while she took meetings with anxious brides about guest lists and seating arrangements. Now I sat alongside them, my own legal pad (in a Natalie Barrett Wedding leather folio, of course) in my lap, taking notes. This transition had always been expected, was basically inevitable. Weddings were the family business, and I was my mother’s only family. Unless you counted William, which really, we did.   They had met sixteen years earlier, when I was two years old and my dad had just walked out on us. At the time, my parents had been living in a cabin in the woods about ten miles outside Lakeview. There they raised chickens, had an organic garden, and made their own beeswax candles, which they sold at the local farmers’ market on weekends. My dad, only twenty-two, had a full beard, rarely wore shoes, and was working on a chapbook of environmentally themed po­ems that had been in progress since before I’d even been conceived. My mom, a year younger, was full vegan, waited tables in the evenings at a nearby organic co-op café, and made rope bracelets blessed with “earth energy” on the side. They had met in college, at a campus protest against the public education system, which was, apparently, “oppressive, misogynist, cruel to animals, and evil.” This was verbatim from the flyer I’d found in a box deep in my mother’s closet that held the only things she’d kept from this time in her life other than me. Inside, besides the flyer, was a rather ugly beeswax candle, a rope bracelet that that been her “ring” at her own “wedding” (which had taken place in the mud at an outdoor music festival, officiated by a friend who signed the marriage certificate, also included, only as “King Wheee!”), and a single picture of my parents, both barefoot and tan, standing in a garden holding rakes. I sat on the ground beside my mother’s feet, examining a cabbage leaf, completely na­ked. My name, an original, was a mix of their own, Natalie and Louis. I was Louna.   The box in the closet holding these things was small for someone who had once had such big beliefs, and this always made me kind of sad. My mother, however, only reflected on this time of her life when clients wondered aloud if it really was worth spending an obscene amount of money for the wedding of their dreams. “Well, I was married in a mud pit by someone on magic mushrooms,” she’d say, “and I think it doomed us from the start. But that’s just me.” Then she’d pause for a beat or two, giving the client in front of her enough time to try to imagine Natalie Barrett—with her ex­pensive, tailored clothes, perfect hair and makeup, and ever-present diamond earrings, ring, and necklace—as some dirty hippie in a bad marriage. They couldn’t, but that didn’t stop them from signing on the contract’s dotted line to make sure they wouldn’t meet the same fate. Better safe than sorry.   In truth, the reason for the demise of my parents’ mar­riage was not the mud pit or the officiant, but my father. Af­ter three years in the woods making candles and “writing his poems” (my mother claimed she never once saw him put pen to paper) he’d grown tired of struggling. This wasn’t surpris­ing. Raised in San Francisco by a father who owned over a dozen luxury car dealerships, he’d not exactly been made for living off the land long term. Ever since he and my mom had exchanged vows, his own father told him that if he left the marriage—and, subsequently, the baby—he’d get a Porsche dealership of his own. My mom already believed that com­merce was responsible for all of life’s evils. When her true love took this offer, it got personal. Three years later, long estranged from us, he was killed in a car accident. I don’t re­member my mother crying or even really reacting, although she must have, in some way. Not me. You don’t miss what you never knew.   And I knew my mom, and only my mom. Not only did I look just like her—same features, dark hair, and olive skin—but I sometimes felt like we were the same person. Mostly because she’d been disowned by her own wealthy, elderly parents around the time of the mud pit marriage, so it was always just us. After my dad bailed, she sold the cabin and moved us into Lakeview, where, after bouncing around a few restaurant jobs, she got a position working at the registry department of Linens, Etc., the housewares chain. On the surface, it seemed like a weird fit, as it was hard to find a convention more commerce-driven than weddings. But she had a kid to feed, and in her previous life my mom had been a debutante and taken etiquette classes at the country club. This world might have disgusted her, but she knew it well. Before long, brides were requesting her when they came in to pick out china patterns or silverware.   By the time William was hired a year later, my mom had a huge following. As she trained him, teaching him all she knew, they became best friends. There in the back of the store, they spent many hours with brides, listening to them talk—and often complain—about their wedding plan­ning. As they learned which vendors were good and which weren’t, they began keeping lists of numbers for local flo­rists, caterers, and DJs to recommend. This expanded to ad­vising more and more on specific events, and then planning a few weddings entirely. Meanwhile, over lunch hours and after-work drinks or dinner, they started to talk about going out on their own. A partnership on paper and a loan from William’s mother later, they were in business.   My mom had a fifty-one share, William forty-nine, and she got her name on the door. But the legalese basically ended there. Whatever foxhole a particular wedding was, they were in it together. They made dreams come true, they liked to tell each other and anyone else who would listen, and they weren’t wrong. This ability never did cross over to their own love lives, however. My mom had barely dated since splitting with my dad, and when she did, she made a point of picking people she knew wouldn’t stick around—“to take the guess­work out of it,” in her words. Meanwhile William, who had been out since about age eight, had yet to meet any man who could come close to meeting his exacting standards. He dealt with this by also leaning toward less than ideal choices with no chance of long-term relationship potential. Real love didn’t exist, they maintained, despite building an entire livelihood based on that very illusion. So why waste time looking for it? And besides, they had each other.   Even as a kid, I knew this was dysfunctional. But unfor­tunately, I’d been indoctrinated from a young age with my mom and William’s strong, oft-repeated cynical views on romance, forever, love, and other keywords. It was confusing, to say the least. On the one hand, I lived and breathed the wedding dream, dragged along to ceremonies and venues, privy to meetings on every excruciating detail from Save the Date cards to cake toppers. But away from the clients and the work, there was a constant, repetitive commentary about how it was a sham, no good men really existed, and we were all better off alone. It was no wonder that a few years ear­lier, when my best friend Jilly had suddenly gone completely boy-crazy, I’d been reluctant to join her. I was a fourteen-year-old girl with the world-weariness of a bitter midlife divorcée, repeating all the things I’d heard over and over, like a mantra. “Well, he’ll only disappoint you, so you should just expect it,” I’d say, shaking my head as she texted with some thick-necked soccer player. Or I’d warn: “Don’t give what you’re not ready to lose,” when she considered, with great drama, whether to confess to a boy that she “liked” him. My peers might have been flirting either in pairs or big groups, but I stood apart, figuratively and literally, the buzz­kill at the end of every rom-com movie or final chorus of a love song. After all, I’d learned from the best. It wasn’t my fault, which did not make it any less annoying.   But then, the previous summer, on a hot August night, all of that had changed. Suddenly, I did believe, at least for a little while. The result was the most broken of hearts, made even worse by the knowledge that I had no one to blame for it but myself. If I’d only walked away, said no twice instead of only once, gone home to my bed and left that wide stretch of stars behind when I had the chance. Oh, well.   Now my mother downed the rest of her drink and put her glass aside. “Past midnight,” she observed, taking a glance at her watch. “Are we ready to go?”   “One last sweep and we will be,” William replied, stand­ing up and brushing off his suit. As a rule, we all dressed for events as if we were guests, but modest ones. The goal was to blend in, but not too much. Like everything in this business, a delicate balance. “Louna, you take the lobby and outside. I’ll check here and the bathrooms.” I nodded, then headed across the ballroom, now empty except for a few servers stacking chairs and clearing glasses. The lights were bright overhead, and as I walked I could see flower petals and crumpled napkins here and there on the floor, along with a few stray glasses and beer cans. Outside, the lobby was deserted, except for some guy leaning out a half-open door with a cigar, under a NO SMOKING sign.   I continued out the front doors, where the night felt cool. The parking lot was quiet as well, no one around. Or so I thought, until I started back in and glimpsed one of Debo­rah’s bridesmaids, a tall black girl with braids and a nose ring—Malika? Malina?—standing by a nearby planter. She had a tissue in her hand and was dabbing at her eyes, and I wondered, not for the first time, what it was about weddings that made everything so emotional. It was like tears were contagious.   She looked up suddenly, seeing me. I raised my eye­brows, and she gave me a sad smile, shaking her head: she didn’t need my help. There are times when you intervene and times when you don’t, and I’d long ago learned the dif­ference. Some people like their sadness out in the open, but the vast majority prefer to cry alone. Unless it was my job to do otherwise, I’d let them.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Once and For All:"Dessen’s expertise at creating a character faced with change is once again on display in this book that reminds readers that love is measured ‘not in minutes but in moments.’” —VOYA "Romance, humor, kindhearted characters, and a touch of painful reality make this another sure bet for Dessen fans." —Kirkus Review"There is no question that this title will be popular with Dessen fans and romance lovers." —School Library Journal"Dessen delivers a contemplative and satisfyingpleasure-read that speaks to the power of opening oneself up to love, perfector otherwise." —The Horn BookPraise for Sarah Dessen's writing:"Is there anyone who can write about what matters most to teens as well as Dessen can?  I sincerely doubt it." —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling novelist of Leaving Time and My Sister’s Keeper "Sarah Dessen is something of a rock star in young adult fiction. Her bestselling coming-of-age novels are warmly written explorations of teens in transition that are, by turns, questioning, humorous and hopeful." —Los Angeles Times★ "Dessen is as skilled as ever at turning out steady, satisfying stories about teens that are easy to fall for." —Publishers Weekly, starred review for The Moon and More"Readers can count of Dessen; she's a pro at creating characters caught at a nexus of change, who have broken relationships and who need to make decisions . . . Readers will enjoy every minute they spend with her." —Kirkus Reviews on What Happened to Goodbye"Realistic teen dialogue, authentic girl friendships, and a complex underlying question: Can people really change?" —Kirkus Reviews on Along for the Ride"Good story, real characters, happy ending . . . another must-read." —VOYA on Lock and Key"The romance which forms the core of the story is everything a romance should be." —Horn Book on Just Listen