I was standing in the fiction section of the library recently (as I oft do) and had run the gamut on my favorite authors when Laura suggested that I check out The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. It’s been a while since I’d read any young adult fiction (if I’m not counting John Green’s books) and I was definitely up for the task.
This week has been a pretty tough week for some people around me and I feel as though, as a result of that, I’ve found myself in the center of several conversations about loss and those who have experienced a great deal of it, as I unfortunately have, and those who have not. I so often use books as “the great escape” so I happily dove into The Truth About Forever to find that the characters in Dessen’s book have experienced losses that are seemingly unimaginable.
Both Macy and Wes have lost a parent. And in many ways, they’ve lost both parents. While Macy’s mom is still around, she’s a shell of her former self, working too hard and pushing Macy to be someone who’s “perfect” – a curfew abiding, library employed, studious and obedient child all summer long. “Perfect” is fine when it’s what Macy thinks she wants too but an entirely different tune when Macy decides to step off the curb and get a second job working with a catering company alongside a quirky group of people who are able to show Macy the true meaning of friendship.
It is there she meets Wes, a handsome and talented artist. One of my favorite parts of the book was the game “Truth” Macy and Wes play throughout Dessen’s story. Macy remarks that she cannot imagine how people get to know each other without playing the game and I found myself, while reading, wondering what it would be like to play “Truth” with a boyfriend. I’m certain no one has ever known me as well as Macy and Wes begin to know one another. Macy and Wes learn more about one another by asking questions about fears and dreams and relationships and it is through this that they begin to see their own similarities.
Tuesday night I went to dinner with my dad, which happens (sans Mom) about once a year when she is in Charleston for Family Circle. I started telling him about the weeks happenings which then led to a discussion I often have internally about how I do not understand suicide. I relayed a coworker’s words from earlier this week saying that he had been to hell and back and survived and Dad looked at me and said “so has our entire family.” And it’s true. In those years immediately following my mother’s diagnosis and throughout her treatment and in the moments leading up to every appointment and awaiting every test result, we have all been in a living hell.
You would think that because of that, I’d be great with words when someone close to me is going through something similar, right? But I’m not. I’m horrible. My head gets foggy; I clam up. I don’t know if it’s that I know no words change what’s going on or if I just can’t deal or if I should just stick with the written word or what but it has become a major challenge over the years. It’s something I struggle with too often, my inability to find the right words to comfort someone.
In The Truth About Forever I finally found a character that grasped that, that made me feel a little less alone in this struggle, as Macy finds it hard to grab hold of the right words when Wes opens up to her.
“It felt so weird to be on the other side, where you were the one expected to offer condolences, not receive them. I wanted my “sorry” to sound genuine, because it was. That was the hard thing about grief, and the grieving. They spoke another language and the words we knew always fell short of what we wanted them to say.”
There were so many facets of Dessen’s story which resonated with me but what I loved most about The Truth About Forever was how interconnected everything was. I’m finding that to be a theme of the books I’ve thus far chosen to read this year and it’s absolutely what keeps me turning the page. I have questions and, in the end, they get answered.
“When I was really going, the wind whistling in my ears, I was sure that if I wanted to, it was only another burst of breath, one more push, and I could fly.”