When I first read This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen for the first time, more than five years ago, I thought the main character, Remy Starr, was really tough and independent. I kinda wanted to be like her, you know? She doesn’t take shit from anyone, she’s an organization freak and a total cynic when it comes to relationships. Protecting herself from getting hurt.
The book became one of my favorites after the first time I read it, and it stayed there after every re-read (I must have read it about a dozen times by now). I especially love her friendship with Lissa, Jess and Chloe – a solid ground for Remy, which is a great contrast against her romantic relationships and her mother’s fifth re-marriage (or fourth, depending on how you count).
It must have been a couple of years since I re-read it last. Today, I went through Remy’s in-between summer after high school and before college again. And I saw things that I didn’t see before. Remy is – like so many of us, if not all – contradictory. On the one hand, she’s totally reliable and efficient, holding up a summer job and handling her mother’s wedding plan single-handedly. Even though her father had left them before she was even born, and her mother is preoccupied with her creative career (novelist), and even her I-don’t-give-a-shit brother Chris has been straightened out by his girlfriend, Remy loves her mom and Chris. She trusts and takes care of her friends. She’s heading for Stanford in September, for goodness’ sake. However, she’s also self-destructive. It’s her self-destructive behaviors that I haven’t really wanted to – or have been unable to – see before. Her reliance and dependence on alcohol when she gets upset; pushing her bad habits to the limit until “the girl in the mirror” surfaces again – that need to torch your ground so you can fall deep, deep down into self-hatred again; not letting any boy in in fear of getting hurt.
I wish Sarah Dessen had pushed more – just more – when she wrote This Lullaby. There are many potentials she could have dug deeper into. A closer look at the friendship dynamic and why Remy feels comfortable with her girls. Or why she falls back into self-hate and how she slowly comes out of it, or how she learns to deal with it, at least. The author does press down on vulnerability (although she doesn’t term it as such) and its necessity if you really want to live. Taking chances, opening up, living despite the fears instead of shutting down. But Remy seems to accept it just like that and applies it to her future without a reflection on her past. I dunno. It wasn’t as satisfying for me, I guess.
But the reason why I love Sarah Dessen’s books is her ability to capture the everyday moments in beautiful simplicity. It’s those little moments sewn together that makes the story and characters resonate with me. This is especially true for me with This Lullaby and Just Listen. Her more recent books have lost that spark, that special something. For me, anyway. But This Lullaby still remains one of my favorites.
I’ve been reading for escapism a lot lately, which explains the five In Death books I’ve gobbled down in just as many days. Plus This Lullaby today. It’s nice to disappear and forget about the world for a weekend, which is surprisingly easy to do. But this time, there was (almost) none of the clutch in the stomach, desperate attempt to drown in fictional worlds or large portion of guilt making me sick. I just needed to disappear for a while. And now I’m back and ready.