Entertainment Weekly

Subscribe

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

Sarah Dessen’s YA novel Once and for All: Read an excerpt

Posted on

KPO

Sarah Dessen’s next YA novel Once and for All is set in the world of wedding planning, and EW is thrilled to exclusively reveal an excerpt and the cover.

Once and for All is the romantic and funny story that follows Louna, the daughter of a wedding planner who has grown cynical about love. But things may change when the charming Ambrose falls in love with her. Dessen’s beloved books include How to Deal, The Moon and More, and Saint Anything.

Once and for All will be published on June 6 from Viking Books for Young Readers. Read the excerpt and see the cover below.

Intro to the excerpt by Sarah Dessen:

Louna, the narrator of Once and for All, has grown up in the wedding business. Since childhood, she’s watched her mother and her mother’s best friend William, the best wedding planners in town, work with all kinds of brides to make their Big Day their best day. When it comes to love and romance, however, Louna always been a cynic in her own heart. But everything is different when it happens to you. Even—and especially—falling in love. 

Excerpt from Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

I didn’t even notice the young groomsman from earlier approaching until he was right beside me.

“Want to dance?”

I turned, taking him in: the short hair, those blue eyes, the black bowtie I’d picked up earlier loose, but not undone, around his neck. “No, thanks.”

He looked surprised and—I realized, horrified—embarrassed. “Oh. Okay.”

“I’m working,” I said quickly, stepping over his last syllables. Now we were both blushing. “For the wedding planner. So I can’t—”

“Oh, right.” His face relaxed. “I didn’t realize—”

“I know, it’s fine.” I looked at the floor, tucking a piece of hair behind my ear. “Thank you anyway.”

He smiled then, and there was something about the way it changed his face, taking it from cute to outright charming, that suddenly made me wish I could say yes. To a boy, and a dance, and to also having that chance, one night, to be away from everything. We stood there a minute, until the bridesmaids nearby opened up their circle, whooping, and pulled him in. I walked over to the table I’d seen earlier, collecting the glasses and putting them on a nearby tray. Underneath one of the chairs was another penny card, face down, and I picked it up, rubbing my finger over the coin. When I looked back at the dance floor, the boy and the bridesmaids were gone.

That could have been it. And sometimes, on my worse nights when I couldn’t sleep for all the tears, I wished that it was. Because then, Ethan wouldn’t even have been Ethan to me, but just a guy I said no to at one wedding among so many in a long summer. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing to lose.

As it was, a few minutes later I stopped by to check in with William and my mother, who were standing off to the side of the dance floor, watching one of Margy’s aunts dance suggestively against a heavyset man in a sport coat.

“The power of champagne,” he said as the woman turned, bumping her ample rear against the man’s hip. “She’s told me twice tonight she never drinks it, each time with a mostly empty glass in her hand.”

“Weddings are a different world,” I replied, using one of his favorite phrases.

“Indeed they are.” The couple were now outright grinding each other. “And right now, I want to go home.”

“My eyes,” my mother said in a low voice, fake-horrified at the spectacle. “I’m too old for this.”

“They’re senior citizens!” William said, and they both cackled.

“And I was promised an early night off,” I said, looking at my mom. “Can I go?”

“Wait, Louna gets to leave? How is that fair?”

“Because she’s seventeen and paid poorly,” my mom told William. “Her bosses are awful people.”

“I have heard that,” he agreed. He smiled at me. “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Whatever I want?”

“Look at our girl, single and ready to mingle at the beach. She’s acting like a real teenager!” He beamed at me, then looked at my mom. “I so hoped this day would come.”

“Stop,” my mom said, pretending to fan her eyes. “I’ll get emotional.”

“Shut up, both of you,” I said, and they laughed again. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You are young and so is the night! Carpe diem!” William called out after me as I walked across the patio.

“That means day, William,” my mom said.

“Carpe night, then!” They dissolved into more laughter.

Fine, I thought, as I started across the patio, to the lobby. So what if I did go back to my room and be non-epic, by Jilly’s definition? It had been a long day and weekend, and I was tired. I had all of senior year and college to throw down, if I so chose, and maybe I would. If I didn’t though, it wasn’t my mom and William’s business by any stretch. And really, I was only what they had made me.

As I thought this, the DJ began another song, slower this time. As some couples began to leave the dance floor and others headed in that direction, I stepped out of the way. On the other side of the crowd, my mom and William were still talking, occasionally breaking into bouts of laughter. Finally a path cleared inside to the ballroom, but instead of taking it, I went down the steps to the dark beach below. Later, I’d think of this as the true, real start of that night, where everything began. Maybe that was why halfway down I kicked off my sandals, stepping into the sand with my feet bare.