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The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen
Young adult

The Rest of the Story

by Sarah Dessen

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Quick take

The latest from the queen of YA romance.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Romance


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_WellKnownAuthor

    Famous author

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama


Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable … until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s 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. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?

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Check out a preview of The Rest of the Story.
The Rest of the Story


There weren’t a lot of memories, especially good ones. But there was this.

“Tell me a story,” I’d say when it was bedtime but I wasn’t at all sleepy.

“Oh, honey,” my mom would reply. “I’m tired.”

She was always tired: that I did remember. Especially in the evenings, after that first or second glass of wine, which most often led to a bottle, once I was asleep. Usually my dad cleaned up before he went to bed, but when he wasn’t around, the evidence remained there in the light of day when I came down for breakfast.

“Not a fairy tale,” I’d say, because she always said no at first. “A lake story.”

At this, she’d smile. “A lake story? Well. That’s different.”

That was when I knew I could lean back into my pillows, grabbing my stuffed giraffe, George, and settle in.

“Once upon a time,” she’d begin, locking a leg around mine or draping an arm over my stomach, because snuggling was part of the telling, “there was a little girl who lived by a big lake that seemed like it went on forever. The trees around the edges had moss, and the water was cold and clear.”

This was when I would start to picture it. Seeing the details.

“The little girl loved to swim, and she loved her family, and she loved the creaky old house with the uneven floors and the little bedroom at the top of the stairs, which was all hers.”

At this point in the story, she’d look at me, as if checking to see if I’d fallen asleep. I never had, though.

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Why I love it

Of all the Sarah Dessen books I’ve loved and read over and over, The Rest of The Story has become my new favorite.

Emma’s summer takes an unexpected turn when she’s sent to North Lake to live with her mother’s family, whom she hasn’t seen since her mother passed away years ago. But the more time Emma spends in her mother’s community—and with Roo, the boy she’d befriended as a child—the more she learns how to cope with her anxieties, reconnect with family, and discover herself along the way.

I fell right into this book—it was love at first page. Dessen is a master at portraying family relationships, and The Rest of The Story is no exception. Emma’s relatable struggle between two identities—as her mother’s daughter and as her father’s daughter—is expertly written and full of heart. For those craving a classic Dessen blend of family bonds, strong character growth, and a sweet romance, The Rest of The Story is a heartwarming summer read at its finest.

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Member ratings (1,811)

  • Alicia W.

    Benson, NC

    I have always been a fan of Sarah Dessen’s books. I didn’t think I could love a book more than Saint Anything, but I was wrong! I’m 22 and still reading her books! Couldn’t put it down! Recommend!!!

  • Amy S.

    Cottage Grove, MN

    Sarah Dressen does it again… I love reading her books when I need/want to to feel pain and growth but know that everything works out the way it’s supposed to…maybe not the way we want but the way it w

  • Morgan C.

    Springfield, MO

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️’s! I love love love this author firsthand but also the book was so good! The plot was fun and made me miss being a teenager. Nice plot twist at the end. Recommend this book!

  • Alexis J.

    Berne, IN

    I have loved Sarah Dessen’s books since I was a freshman in high school and discovered her. Now 26 her books still take you on a journey of what it’s like to be a teen going through life. Loved this!

  • Cynthia Q.


    I’m 49 and I loved Emma Saylor’s Summer at the lake story. It has family drama, teenage drama, parties, first loves, boats, & a fancy hotel. But most of all, it has heart. You will root for Emma!

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