Keeping the Moon Summary

Sarah Dessen

Keeping the Moon

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

Keeping the Moon Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen.

Keeping the Moon is a young adult novel by American author Sarah Dessen, first published in 1999. Its protagonist is Nicole Sparks, nicknamed Colie, a formerly overweight and currently insecure girl who lives with her single mother. The two move frequently,  often living in their car while her mother searches for a new job. When her mother finally becomes successful and leaves on a business trip, she sends Colie to live with her aunt. As Colie struggles to fit into a new social environment, she deals with bullying, crushes, and her lack of self esteem. Exploring themes of teen alienation, high school social structure, and working-class poverty, Keeping the Moon received positive reviews and is a mainstay of school libraries and book fairs. Characters from the book appear in later works by Dessen, with Colie cameoing in Along for the Ride and The Moon and More. It was named one of the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults in 2000.

Keeping the Moon begins as Colie Sparks goes to spend the summer with her eccentric Aunt Mira in a tiny beach town named Colby. Kiki Sparks, Colie’s mother, is now a world-renowned fitness and nutrition expert who is currently off touring Europe to promote her exercise programs and fitness products. Colie is glad to be away from her hometown. During the last school year, she was ostracized after the cruel Caroline Dawes spread a rumor that Colie had slept with a new guy named Chase Mercer. Although Colie recently lost a lot of weight since her mother became a fitness guru, she still sees herself as unappealing and undeserving of affection, and as such suffers from self esteem issues. Although Colie is nervous to be in a new social environment, she’s hoping that her summer in Colby will give her the opportunity to reinvent herself.

Aunt Mira, Colie’s aunt, is an eccentric, oddly dressed woman who is still overweight like Colie and her mother used to be. Colie sees a lot of herself in Aunt Mira, and that makes her uncomfortable at first, but Mira soon makes her feel welcome. Mira is oblivious to the way she’s seen by others, and the fact that the townspeople like to make fun of the way she dresses and acts doesn’t bother her. Rather, she throws herself into helping the people of the town when they need it, including an eccentric teenage artist named Norman. His cruel father hates Norman’s art and has thrown him out of the house. He currently lives with Mira, and welcomes Colie when she arrives for the summer. The two form a quick connection, although neither is confident enough to act on their mutual romantic feelings. Colie realizes that the key difference between herself and her aunt is that she’s still not confident in her own skin.

Colie has never really had friends, as she was frequently bullied by other girls and never stayed in one place long enough to form connections. However, that changes when she meets Isabel and Morgan, two girls who work at the Last Chance Grill in town, where Norman also works as a cook. The two girls are roommates, and deal with personal dramas of their own, including Morgan’s cheating fiance. Isabel is fiery and confident, but Colie later finds out that Isabel used to be an unattractive, awkward girl herself, so they have a lot in common. Colie is shy around them at first, but soon forms a tight bond with them. As the summer progresses, she and Norman become closer, and Colie eventually feels confident enough to express her romantic feelings for him. By the end of the novel, they’re dating and making plans to continue their relationship after Colie leaves Colby. Colie feels like for the first time, she’s discovering who she’s meant to be, and compares her transformation to that of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. For the first time in her life, she feels confident in her own skin and believes she can handle whatever the new school year throws at her.

Sarah Dessen is an American author, best known for her young adult novels. She has written fourteen novels and a novella, and seven of them have been named in the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adult lists. She was also the 2017 winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for her body of work, and two of her works were named the School Library Journal Best Book. In 2003, her books That Summer and Someone Like You were combined into the film How to Deal starring Mandy Moore and Allison Janney.