The Truth About Forever
by Sarah Dessen
The funny thing about describing Macy as a character is that for a good chunk of the book, she's not herself. No, we're not talking body-snatchers here (though that would have been an interesting twist). The whole point of the story is Macy's struggle to find her way back to normal—back to being herself again.
Macy's dad's sudden death two years earlier really did a number on her. Because it was so (understandably) traumatic for her, it kind of becomes her whole identity. And she'll be the first to admit it:
"I saw my dad die. That was who I was now." (1.37)
Even though she defines herself that way, she hates the fact that other people do, too. To avoid their pity, she withdraws from everyone: "I narrowed my world, cutting out everyone who'd known me, or who tried to befriend me" (3.10). She even stops running—one of her favorite things to do—because it reminds her of her dad. Cutting herself off from her old friends and interests—this is, from her old self—is the only way she knows how to avoid dealing with the painful memories.
Once she's lost touch with her old self, Macy has to come up with a new one to take its place. So her goal in life becomes seeming fine. Yep. Not being fine, but just seeming fine. She writes things like, "I moisturized. I flossed. I stood up straight. I was fine" (2.3), even though she knows perfectly well that she isn't: "under it all, our grief remained" (2.21).
But her "new perfect act" (2.2) is all Macy has now. Or at least it's all she feels like she had. As she says, "I'd gotten so used to being known as the girl whose dad died, I sometimes forgot that I'd had a life before that" (2.197). She's doing what she has to do keep the bad memories away, but in the meantime, she's kind of convincing herself that that part of her life never happened.
What's with all this pretending?
We'd argue that Macy is just trying to stay in control of everything. She couldn't control her father's death, so now she wants to try to make sure everything is always in order. And you know who else is good at control? Jason:
Jason's and my relationship was pretty time-consuming: between yoga classes and student government stuff, not to mention all the causes we dealt with, there just hadn't been much time for anyone else. (1.29)
Macy takes comfort in disappearing into his life, his interests, and his pursuits. So when he tells her he wants a break from their relationship, it's really more like ripping away her life support: "I could feel my sudden aloneness in my gut, like a punch." (3.95) Suddenly, she has to deal all on her own, and take control of her own life.
Truth or Dare
And what better way to take control than… total chaos? Yep, that's right. The chaos of working with Delia and the fun of hanging out with Kristy help her realize that she needs to breathe a little: "It was like those few hours of craziness relaxed something held tight in me, if only for a little while." (6.55) It's a relief for Macy to be able to help when something other than herself is on the verge of falling apart.
And between Kristy's loyal support and Wes's probing questions, Macy's old self finally begins to emerge:
The words kept coming, almost too fast, tumbling over my tongue like they'd been held back for so long that now, finally free, nothing could stop them. Not even me. (9.278)
Once Macy allows herself to share her deepest secrets with Wes in their game of Truth, she's well on her way to finding herself again. "He already knew my secrets, the things I'd kept hidden from everyone else, so I could just be myself . Which shouldn't have been such a big deal. But it was." (10.19) It's almost like, by telling Wes about her past, she's reminding herself of it, too. Pretty cool if you ask us.
But dealing with her own personal problems isn't all Macy's up against. She also has to forge a new relationship with her mom:
I was supposed to be her other half, carrying my share of the weight. In the last few weeks, I'd tried to shed it, and doing so sent everything off-kilter. So of course she would pull me tighter, keeping me in my place, because doing so meant she would always be sure, somehow, of her own. (16.118)
See, her mom has gotten kind of used to "perfect" Macy and isn't quite ready to see her change—especially since she's still dealing with her grief in the same way.
Once again, chaos and Macy's new friends come to the rescue. At the grand opening gala, the problems are coming too thick and fast for even Macy's mom to handle. While Delia takes charge of the logistics, Macy takes charge of her mom.
I took one step forward and slid my arms around her neck. She stiffened, at first, surprised, but I didn't pull back. […] After all this time, it could have been awkward. […] But it wasn't. It was perfect. (20.34)
When Macy's mom finally lets Macy support her and puts away her own perfect act, their relationship can begin to heal. Deborah releases her death grip on Macy, finally allowing her to take the final steps towards being herself again:
I was just trying to get it right, whatever that meant. But I finally felt I was on my way. (21.90)
How do we know that she is, in fact, on her way? In our book, kissing Wes is a tell-tale sign. This guy loves her for her true self. That tells us that Macy has accepted her past, and is ready to move forward and get back to being the person she was before her dad's death.
And after all she's been through, boy, does she ever deserve it.