Sarah Dessen is moving into new territory for her next book, The Rest of the Story.
The best-selling YA author (Keeping the Moon, Dreamland) presents a setting unlike any she’s conjured up before in her new novel: North Lake, the hometown of protagonist Emma Saylor’s late mother. Emma is suddenly sent to visit over one summer, discovering new love and old ties in the process. Dessen also explores themes of addiction and mental health as she digs deeper into the community, which gradually reveals divisions in class and opportunity.
The book traces Emma reconnecting with the family she hasn’t seen since she was a young girl, as well as her budding romance with 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.
Dessen has shared an exclusive preview of The Rest of the Story with EW, in the form of a cover and excerpt reveal. Read on below. The book publishes June 4 and is available for pre-order.
Excerpt from The Rest of the Story, by Sarah Dessen
Once we got home, dinner was served.
“All I am saying,” Celeste said as she picked up her burger, “is that I want you to be careful.”
“Mom,” my cousin Bailey replied. “You don’t have to give me this same lecture every summer.”
“Apparently, I do. Because you’re already hanging out with yacht club boys.”
“They’re not all alike, you know.”
“They’re alike enough,” Aunt Celeste told her. Mimi, at the head of the table, shot her a look over the bowl of potato salad between them. “What? You know what I’m worried about. I mean, we all know what happened when Waver—”
There was the sound of a thump under the table, and Celeste winced. The sudden silence that followed was awkward, not only for the kick Mimi had just given her, but the fact that we all knew it was to protect my feelings.
This was actually the second time my mom had come up since I’d left the raft. The first had been when I was riding back with Roo. Unlike when I’d gone out with Jack, we were side by side. So I was able to get quick glimpses of him, taking in the way his white-blond hair stuck up a bit in the back, the tattoo on one calf that was a series of numbers, and the way that he waved at every boat we passed, flashing a big grin. For all my own glances, he wasn’t looking at me at all, instead squinting ahead, the back of his T-shirt rippling in the strong wind coming off the water. When he finally spoke, it took me by surprise.
“I’m sorry about your mom.”
Even though it had been five years and some days, I worried I’d moved on too much. And then there were times like this, when just a mention of her gave me a pinch in my heart. “Thanks,” I said. “I miss her.”
Now he did look at me: I could see it out of the corner of my eye, even as I watched Mimi’s dock—marked with a sign that said FOR USE BY CALVANDER’S GUESTS ONLY—approach. “She and my dad were friends in high school. Chris Price.”
I nodded, as if I’d heard this name, even though I hadn’t. “He still lives here?”
He looked at me for a second. “No, not anymore. I live with my mom.” He pointed to a line of houses down the shore from Mimi’s, each painted a different bright color—yellow, blue, pink, red, and green—and trimmed with white. “Ours is the green one.”
“Who has the pink?”
“Renters, usually,” he said. “Season just started, though.”
“How many people live here year-round?” I asked.
He was slowing the engine now. “More than you’d think. A lot, like Celeste, have houses they rent out for summer.”
“I thought she lived with Mimi,” I said.
“Only from June to August,” he replied. “The rest of the time they have a place up by Blackwood Station, right on the water.”
“Blackwood Station,” I said. “I feel like I’ve heard of that.”
“You probably have. It’s the only boatyard in town. Plus the arcade is right there, and the public beach.”
I looked in that direction, getting my bearings, then back up at Mimi’s house, now right in front of us. As I did, I saw Celeste, standing in the grass, one hand shading her eyes as she looked out at us. I couldn’t make out her expression.
“And Celeste is a Blackwood, right?” I asked.
“She was. Her ex-husband, Silas, runs the boatyard and gas station. Been in his family for generations.”
Now I had something else to add to my family tree. “But you’re not a Blackwood or Calvander,” I said, clarifying.
“Nope.” He cut the engine, letting us drift up to the dock. “Silas, Celeste, my dad, my mom, and yours all went to high school together. There’s only one, the same one we all go to now.”
I tried to picture my own parents at my school, Jackson High, walking the same halls I did with Ryan and Bridget. I couldn’t. Nana Payne and my dad lived in Massachusetts when he was in high school, and my mom was, well, here.
“It’s a lot, all this new information,” I said. “I’m honestly having some trouble keeping up.”
“Well, then you need to start asking people their five sentences.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Their what?”
“It’s a lake thing,” he explained. “The basic idea is that since you meet a ton of people at the beginning of every summer, everyone has to condense their bio down to the main ideas. Thus, five sentences.”
“Right,” I said slowly. “What’s yours?”
He cleared his throat. “Born and bred here at North Lake. High school senior this fall. Work multiple jobs. Want to go to journalism school. Allergic to shellfish.”
“Wow,” I said. “Didn’t see that shellfish part coming.”
“An element of surprise and oddity is crucial with this,” he told me. “Hit me with yours.”
“I need five in all?”
“Start with one.”
“Okay,” I said, thinking it over. “Well, I’m from Lakeview. Also about to be a high school senior.”
“Coming out strong,” he said as we hit a wave, water splashing over the bow. “I like it. Go on.”
“My mom grew up here at the lake,” I continued, “but this is my first real visit. I came once as a kid, but I don’t really remember.”
“Nice,” he said. “Facts and intrigue. Now you need something random and memorable.”
I thought for a second. “People don’t get my humor.”
“I think I’m funny, but other people often don’t laugh.”
“I know that feeling,” he said.
“You do?” I hadn’t met anyone who could relate before.
“Yep,” he said. “Okay, now for the strong finish. Your shellfish allergy, so to speak. What’s it going to be?”
I had to admit, I was feeling the pressure. Especially as the seconds ticked by and nothing came. What could I say? I was nervous to the point of obsessive? I liked organizing things?
Roo did not rush me. He just waited.
Finally, I had it. “I read the obituaries every day.”
His eyes widened. “Seriously?”
I nodded. “Yep.”
“Okay, that is good,” he said, then held his hand up for a high five. I slapped it. “You, in five sentences. Nicely done.”
Me, in five sentences. All facts, some informative, some colorful. Not really all that different from the obits themselves, now that I thought of it. Only shorter, while you’re living, and still have time to add more.
Excerpted from THE REST OF THE STORY by Sarah Dessen, on sale June 4, 2019. Copyright © 2019 by Sarah Dessen. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Children’s Books.