A luminous young adult novel that evokes Judy Blume’s Forever for a new generation.
Ever since Sarah was born, she’s lived in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Scarlett. But this summer on Cape Cod, she’s determined to finally grow up. Then she meets gorgeous college boy Andrew. He sees her as the girl she wants to be. A girl who’s older than she is. A girl like Scarlett.
Before she knows what’s happened, one little lie has transformed into something real. And by the end of August, she might have to choose between falling in love, and finding herself.
Fans of Jenny Han and Stephanie Perkins are destined to fall for this story about how life and love are impossible to predict.
The story starts out cute despite our protagonist Sarah ("Bean" to her family and closest friends) having a broken heart. Sarah is the kid you don't have to worry about because she has it together. She's just smart and responsible. For past few months, she’s been tracking the trajectory of a comet for research that she hopes will win her a scholarship. This is where she is in her element surrounded by equations, hypotheses and facts. What she’s not so good at is reading people, like when her boyfriend shows up to her house to break up with her the night before she leaves for Cape Cod for the summer. He claims it’s because she hasn’t noticed how much he’s changed. He accuses her of hiding behind her telescope and notes, observing life rather than living it. His accusation stings but she can’t help but wonder if there’s a ring of truth to it. Look at her older sister Scarlett, who manages to be the life of the party. Sarah feels socially inept next to her, not to mention that their parents expect her to be the responsible one and Scarlett to be the flaky one.
Sarah decides that a change is in order so she concocts this plan to observe Scarlett in her element and take on her attitude and mannerisms in order to break free from her old self. The "Scarlett Experiment" takes her out of her comfort zone and leads to a few embarrassing if not funny moments. On her first day attempting to be Scarlett she meets Andrew, a local. He’s nineteen, in college, surfs and works on one of the fishing boats. She allows him to assume that she’s going to college. She throws in that she’s heading to MIT. Umm...no. She’s only fifteen and a couple of days shy of her 16th birthday.
I thought the story was cute initially. I mean Sarah is all kinds of naive and adorable. I liked how she'd make scientific notes when observing her sister's behaviour. Branching out to make new friends and being a "normal" teenager is not something that comes naturally to her. It’s understandable that she's at that stage in her life where she wants to be seen as more than just a studious kid. But as she and Andrew fell harder for each other, I began to worry about where the plot was going. I was very uneasy with her withholding her true age. Seriously? What was she thinking? The guy could get in trouble, like jail time trouble! She knows she has to come clean but she's so in over her head that she's scared. Even though she was more herself with Andrew and he liked her for that, that didn’t negate the lies upon lies that were stacking up. The truth eventually comes out but not before some irrevocable damage has been done.
Between Us and the Moon is about growing up and screwing up while you’re at it. There are good things that come out of it – Sarah does come to accept who she is, makes friends, stands up to her family and reaches her educational goals. She also encourages Andrew to reach for his dreams and not to set them aside in an attempt to atone for an incident he wasn’t responsible for before they met. Still, the story felt incomplete to me because it didn’t provide any insight as to the fallout after all her lies are revealed. Despite the whole lying about her age which pushed that “wiggy button” for me (thank you BiblioJunkie Shel for that term), I still consider this a good read. And I’d be interested to know someone else’s thoughts on it.