Study Guide

The Truth About Forever Themes

By Sarah Dessen

  • Rules and Order

    Mama Queen sure does love her some rules and order. And for that matter, so does Macy—in the beginning, at least. Both women in The Truth About Forever are trying to deal with their grief by taking matters into their own hands. But the chaos of Macy's new job helps her cope with her loss instead of focusing on being the perfect child. And in the end, it takes the complete absence of any order at all (at the big gala) for Macy's mom to see what Macy's already known for a while: sometimes, rules are made to be broken.

    Questions About Rules and Order

    1. Should there be rules for grieving? If so, what might they be? Would they have helped Macy?
    2. Is total chaos always the best way to recover from holding back your true self? What would Delia say?
    3. If Macy needed order to help her right after her dad's death, why was it good then but bad now?

    Chew on This

    If Macy's mom hadn't cracked down on Macy, neither of them would have ever completely worked through their grief.

    Deborah's rules were the same for Macy as they were for Caroline, and that was just plain unfair.

  • Identity

    Who is this Macy Queen girl, anyway? Well, at the start of the story, she's the girl who saw her dad die. Before long, she finds a weird half-identity as Jason's girlfriend—and that doesn't work out too well, either. How about a librarian? A caterer? Throughout The Truth About Forever, Macy learns that it doesn't matter who she's with or what she does; her identity can only come from digging deep and getting back in touch with her true self. And we, for one, are psyched about that, because we sure do like her true self.

    Questions About Identity

    1. What do you think Macy was like before her dad died? What kind of information do we get from the book to help figure that out?
    2. Is Jason to blame for Macy's identity problems? Or was he just along for the ride?
    3. Do any of the other characters in The Truth About Forever have identity issues?

    Chew on This

    Macy's identity was so wrapped up in her father's death that she had no chance of finding happiness until she moved past it.

    Macy's dad's death is a part of Macy's identity and it always will be. She shouldn't try to fight that.

  • Language and Communication

    In The Truth About Forever, Macy and her mom just do not communicate. And they haven't for almost two years. They're both totally aware they aren't really done grieving, but neither one wants to let the other know that things are tough. So what does it take to get them to finally open up? Wes's probing questions a boatload of chaos, apparently. And probably—we're guessing—time to heal.

    Questions About Language and Communication

    1. Would things have been better for Macy if she and her mom had been more open about their grief?
    2. Why doesn't Macy's mom want to listen to her side of the story?
    3. If Delia had been Macy's mom, how would Macy's story have changed?
    4. Is Caroline a better communicator than her mom and sister?

    Chew on This

    Macy and Deborah might both be bad communicators, but the blame falls on Deborah. She's the mom, and it's her responsibility to talk with her daughter.

    Open lines of communication wouldn't have helped Macy and her mom, anyway. They just needed time to heal.

  • Transformation

    This isn't quite The Ugly Duckling, but Macy does undergo a massive transformation over the course of her summer. From miserable and lonely to happy and in love, the events of The Truth About Forever conspire to change her for the better.

    And our leading lady isn't the only one who changes. Her mom—though she takes a different route to get there—has her own transformation. Change can be scary, yes. But what comes out the other side is usually worth the struggle.

    Questions About Transformation

    1. When exactly does Deborah's transformation start? How about Macy's?
    2. Which factor was most important in causing Macy's transformation? Does most of it come from the inside, or are external factors the most influential?
    3. Does Caroline go through a transformation at all? How about Wes? Delia?

    Chew on This

    Deborah's transformation is even more drastic than Macy's.

    Macy doesn't really have a transformation. After all, she's just going back to being the girl she used to be.

  • Death

    Death has leaked into every part of Macy's life, so much so that she lets her dad's death define her entire being. She can't seem to deal with her grief and move forward with her life. But by the end of The Truth About Forever, mortality is defining her actions in a different way. Now it's about forever being now. Macy doesn't want to waste her precious time being miserable, so she chooses to live again. Much better.

    Questions About Death

    1. How did Wes deal with the death of his mom? How did Delia deal with the death of her sister? Do their coping strategies help Macy at all?
    2. Why do some people get stuck, unable to grieve? Why did it happen to Macy and her mom and not Caroline?
    3. What role does her dad's death play in Macy's identity at the end of the book?

    Chew on This

    How each character in The Truth About Forever deals with death tells us a lot about who they are as a person.

    Deborah still hasn't completely gotten past her husband's death by the end of the book.

  • Wisdom and Knowledge

    Wisdom and knowledge are two very different things, and that's made very clear in The Truth About Forever. Jason has knowledge, and lots of it. But wisdom? That can only come from experience, and that's something that Delia has plenty of. Over the course of the novel, Macy comes to realize that she values wisdom over knowledge—and with all the craziness she experiences, we'd bet she's picked up a bit of her own, too.

    Questions About Wisdom and Knowledge

    1. Do any of the younger characters in The Truth About Forever demonstrate wisdom?
    2. What are your favorite Delia nuggets of wisdom? Do you agree with them?
    3. Deborah doesn't really have her stuff together for most of the book, but does she have any motherly wisdom in her?

    Chew on This

    Macy's mom is plenty wise, but since she doesn't listen to Macy, she can't apply it.

    The Truth About Forever teaches us that suffering is necessary to gain wisdom.

  • Family

    The Queen ladies sure are a motley crew in The Truth About Forever. Between Macy, Caroline, and Deborah, we've got a whole slew of attitudes, personalities, and coping strategies. But what's family if not complicated, right? As much tension as there is among these ladies, the Queens are proof that family can make or break you. Oh, and don't forget: the Queens aren't the only family in the novel, either. Catering is a family business, y'all.

    Questions About Family

    1. Why does Wes work for his aunt when he's making such good money selling his artwork? Is it a family thing?
    2. Why does Deborah stiffen when Macy hugs her at the party? What does this indicate about the mother-daughter relationship?
    3. Is Caroline different than Macy and Deborah? Why is she able to heal more quickly from her dad's death?

    Chew on This

    If Deborah had been more affectionate towards Macy, her problems never would have progressed so far.

    Caroline should have left Macy and her mom alone to learn to deal by themselves—it would have been less painful.

  • Happiness

    Everyone in The Truth About Forever has a different idea about what makes happiness. For Macy, it's finding your forever. For Delia, it's embracing chaos and brokenness and working with it. For Monica…Donneven? Moral of the story: everyone sees happiness differently, but you know what? That's 100% okay.

    Questions About Happiness

    1. Do you think Jason is happy? How about Monica? Why or why not?
    2. Why is it that Kristy is so happy, even after all she's gone through in her life?
    3. Is Macy really as happy at the end of the novel as she was before her dad died? Or is it a different kind of happiness?
    4. Will Deborah ever be able to find happiness?

    Chew on This

    Jason might have given up some happiness to plan for his future, but hey, he's young. We should cut him some slack.

    Delia might put on a good show, but she isn't really happy. Her life is too much of a mess to be truly happy.