Once and for All

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Once and for All Book Poster Image
Grieving girl learns to love again in sweet romance.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows the hard work and attention to detail that go into event planning.

Positive Messages

You should keep making wishes if you want any of them to come true. People don't always know what they need. Embrace messy, complicated situations and you may be pleasantly surprised when everything works out well. If you have a chance to make something better, seize the opportunity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Louna is a very capable, efficient leader with strong problem-solving skills -- and a generous desire to put them to use. She's cynical but warmhearted, wishing good things for newlyweds she works with. Her unconventional family is loving and devoted to Louna. They appreciate her talents and compassion for others. Ambrose is functionally a bit of a mess -- he was kicked out of school, lost his driver's license, and doesn’t appear to have any real friends -- but is irrepressibly kind and optimistic and copes well with setbacks.


Retelling of fatal school shooting. Teen boy forcibly kisses girl.


Romantic depiction of girl's first experience with sexual intercourse with a boy she just met. Reference to couple "grinding" on dance floor.


Occasional swearing includes "hell," "balls," "s--t," "a--hole," "goddamn," and "pissed."


Mentions of brands including Kleenex, Xanax, Brillo, Botox, Dumpster, Jetta, Volkswagen, and Porsche.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink at parties -- one drinks excessively and nurses her first hangover. Adults drink to celebrate the end of each work project. Wedding guests drink, and the wedding organizers drink to celebrate completing each successful project. Adult smokes when stressed. Anecdotal reference to a wedding officiant high on magic mushrooms.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Once and for All is a tender romance by Sarah Dessen (Saint Anything) about taking chances and looking beyond first impressions. There's a lot of heartbreak in the characters' backgrounds: Louna's first real boyfriend died violently, her father died in an accident after walking out on his family, both her mom and her gay godfather immerse themselves in work to avoid taking chances on romantic relationships, and her new friend Ambrose is considered the black sheep in his family. The story includes a very romanticized account of a girl's first time having sex. Teens drink at parties, and one has a hangover. The main characters appear to be all white, and there are some awkwardly forced, stereotypical descriptions of nonwhite characters who make fleeting appearances.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMadster July 27, 2020


Bought it to try it out. I'm 18, thought it was super sweet. Very cute main characters. Did make me tear up a little at the end .
Teen, 14 years old Written byJesusFreak144233 November 13, 2020

A sweet, but honest teen romance

An honest depiction of one teen's life. A seventeen-year-old girl works with her mother and her mother's best friend at a wedding planning company

!... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byElla021 August 30, 2020
This book was pretty good, but not my favorite. It was kinda slow in the beginning and rushed towards the end.

What's the story?

Louna has no illusions about love in ONCE AND FOR ALL. She's seen too much while helping her wedding-organizer mother and godfather handle every nuptial drama imaginable -- and a personal tragedy has left her emotionally raw. She's immediately annoyed by Ambrose, the quirky girl-magnet brother of an important client. She's even more irritated when her mother hires him and assigns Louna to keep him out of trouble. Louna finds Ambrose exasperating but is surprised by his enthusiasm and kindness. The pair make a bet: Ambrose is challenged to settle down with one girl, and Louna is challenged to start casually dating. As the summer goes on, what began as a lighthearted bet begins to feel much more important -- and confusing.

Is it any good?

Prolific author Sarah Dessen delivers another solid, charming romance with this story of a grieving girl learning to embrace life -- and love -- again after being shattered by a shocking tragedy. Set against a busy summer of wedding planning, Once and for All confronts cynicism over true love and arrives at a gentle conclusion: Worrying too much about how things could end means you risk missing out on all the wonderful moments possible along the way.

Louna is a smart, grounded teen, which makes her struggle all the more touching. Dessen portrays Ambrose with classic romantic charm without exploring why he's struggling to get along in the world. Despite the heavy backstory, this proves to be a warm and light romance -- perfect summer reading.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the depiction of marriage and long-term relationships in Once and for All. Do you think the book winds up being optimistic or pessimistic about long-lasting love?

  • Why do you think romance is such a popular genre? Do you find these stories illuminating and helpful, or are they just engaging fantasies?

  • How have you worked through grief? What helped you? How did it change you?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance and stories about coping with grief

Themes & Topics

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