This Lullaby is my favourite Sarah Dessen book along with The Truth About Forever. There is no denying that Sarah Dessen follows a specific formula when writing a novel, a formula that doesn’t change too much (if at all) from book to book. But not only does this formula work, she manages to make it work wonderfully. In my opinion, Dessen has a gift, in that she is able to turn simple plots into beautiful and deep stories that work when in the mood for an entertaining, light, fun book, but one that really leaves you with something too.
In This Lullaby, Remy has very strict rules about relationships. These rules come from the fact that her mom is currently on her fifth marriage, so it is from experience that Remy knows: relationships don’t last. To avoid herself the pain she has seen her mother go through again and again she has always followed specific guidelines about dating, which -in general- have the purpose of her never getting too involved. However, one summer Remy meets Dexter and his personality starts making her change these rules, so Remy goes on an emotional journey, trying to come to terms with the fact that sometimes it’s ok to take a chance.
From the description of the plot, one might think they have the story figured out, from beginning to end. In a sense, this can be correct. We know that by the end the character will have grown and there will be a happy ending. However, as I said before, Sarah Dessen manages to turn simple plots into stories that go so much deeper. This isn’t just about Remy’s relationship with Dexter, it’s about Remy’s relationships with everyone. It’s about how she relates in general, how she learns to deal with people, with her feelings, with her experiences. It is about Remy learning to have a bit more freedom, tofree herself from herself. I think we can all identify with this, at least I know I can. This is where the heart of the story really is, and it’s where Sarah Dessen really shows her talent. She is able to develop likeable, and relatable characters. Maybe not all of us make conscious rules, like Remy, about how to relate to other people. But we all have a way of thinking, we all have a way of relating, a way we have adopted from experiences, from people we have met, from parents, since our childhood, and some of these schemes that we operate under sometimes prevent us from enjoying different ways of relating with other people. This is not a story about a girl meeting a guy, falling in love, and changing for him. This is a story about a girl growing up, learning to break out of her structured thoughts, learning to be more free, learning to stop defining herself and her life by her past experiences, or by the things her mom goes through, and in that process learning to be happy.
Remy and Dexter are both likeable characters, with flaws, they are not perfect, in fact they are far from it. Remy can be stubborn, close-minded, and cold, but she’s also vulnerable and the most important thing is that she knows she has flaws, she knows the way in which she has always related to people, the shell that she has created to protect herself, is not always healthy. She wishes she wasn’t like that. And that’s what’s beautiful about our story. I always believed that your worst enemy is always yourself. Our mind is the most powerful thing, it can have a great hold on how we act, and it can prevent us from being happy. Remy sees this, she wants to change, and she tries to… Even though she knows that by doing it she’s opening herself to a huge amount of hurt. That’s what makes her a great character. Dexter is outgoing, perhaps he can come on too strong, he’s friendly and unafraid to speak his mind. He lives his life much more relaxed than Remy does, and so he teaches her how to let go a little and just relax. Together they are very fun to be around, I extremely enjoyed their conversations, I laughed out loud at Dexter’s challenges, I continually looked forward to their interactions.
Every single character, however, no matter how minor their role might be, influences Remy in one way or another, and so in turn, they influenced me as well. They are all flawed, but they are all trying to be better people. And that’s just it right? It’s not about being perfect, there are no rules for perfection, it’s just about being permeable to change. In one’s journey towards happiness, or towards being a better person, sometimes you might get it right, and sometimes you might not. It’s about being flexible, and open, and ultimately just – free.