cover image Once and for All

Once and for All

Sarah Dessen, read by Karissa Vacker. Listening Library, unabridged, 9 CDs, 10.5 hrs., $60 ISBN 978-1-5247-7742-5

Actor Vacker captures both humor and tragedy in Dessen’s latest YA novel, about a 17-year-old whose summer job is assisting her mother in her high-end wedding-planning business. Surrounded by a clientele of couples in love at work, Louna is constantly reminded of the love she lost when her long-distance boyfriend, Ethan, was killed in a school shooting. Over the years, she has become increasingly skeptical about the nature of love after seeing several extravagant weddings end in divorce. Enter Ambrose, the handsome-but-unpredictable son of a client whom Louna’s mother has hired to help out for the summer as well. At first, Louna and Ambrose clash on the job, but their thorny relationship slowly evolves to friendship with a hint of romance over the course of the novel, which includes intermittent flashbacks to Louna’s relationship with Ethan. Reader Vacker convincingly enacts the range of emotions and array of attitudes experienced by the teenage protagonist, including love, heartbreak, grief, cynicism, longing, and admiration for her mother. She provides unique voices for the other characters. The adolescent boys—Ethan and Ambrose—are consistently distinguishable, and Louna’s mother gets the mature air of a successful business owner, who, like her daughter, is steeled against love after a brief first marriage to Louna’s father but is nevertheless dedicated her work. Vacker’s skilled performance draws attention to the changes in the characters and their relationships in this satisfying audiobook. Ages 12–up. A Viking hardcover. (June)