Study Guide

The Truth About Forever Happiness

By Sarah Dessen

Happiness

We parted our hair cleanly and stood up straight, greeting company—and the world—with the smiles we practiced in the quiet of our now-too-big house full of mirrors that showed the smiles back. But under it all, our grief remained. (2.21)

Usually, smiles don't have to be practiced. This is how we know things are really bad. P.S. Total aside: studies show—even when you don't want to—can make you happier. Give it a shot, Shmoopers.

The fireflies were probably already out; maybe it wasn't just a season or a time but a whole world I'd forgotten. I'd never know until I stepped out into it. So I did. (5.45)

Poor Macy has cut herself off from so much—even nature and the outside world. Why is that? Does nature remind her of her dad? Or of being happy? Or is it because she can't control nature? So many possibilities…

In so many ways, I was realizing, the info desk was a lot like my life had been before Wish and Kristy and Wes. Something to be endured, never enjoyed. (10.154)

In so many ways, I was realizing, the info desk was a lot like my life had been before Wish and Kristy and Wes. Something to be endured, never enjoyed. (10.154)

"Dad would have wanted you to be happier than this." (6.91)

Caroline's really pulling out the big guns here. Do you think Deborah ever considered this? Is this a big "aha" moment for her?

Delia had convinced me that my mother only wanted me to be happy. It was up to me to show her that I was now, and why. (16.53)

Will Macy ever be completely happy if her mom is still stuck in her perfect act?

"She was—"

"Happy," Caroline finished for her. "She was starting to live her life again, and it scared you." (18.75-76)

Caroline doesn't hold back in her conversations with her mom. Big Sis saw that Macy was happy, and thinks that Deborah was scared to be left behind. Do you agree?

For the first time, it seemed to me that she was actually enjoying herself. (21.5)

Poor Deborah. She's been going through just as much as Macy, if not more. So is it the day of total chaos that saves her? What is it about the event that allows her to enjoy herself?

The one that began in this moment, with Wes, in a kiss that took my breath away, then gave it back—leaving me astounded, amazed, and most of all, alive. (21.90)

Here Macy is, taking Kristy's advice to be alive. Let's be honest, though. This is a kiss with a guy she's totally crushing on. Is it real happiness or just the fulfillment of an infatuation? What do you think?

I just smiled, sliding the screen door open. "Sounds great," I said. "Just great." (22.9)

Great-just-great (said genuinely) is quite a difference from fine-just-fine. Finally, Macy is smiling for her family, instead of for the mirror. True happiness, indeed.