Everything in the end comes down to timing. One second, one minute, one hour could make all the difference – Sarah Dessen.
You might be thinking: what has young adult literature got anything to do with festivities, the party season or the most celebrated day of the year in western culture? In theory, it doesn’t have anything to do with it but it is something that I wanted to write about today because last night I picked up one of my favourite books from my shelf Saint Anything which I’ve read at least once before, and began to read it all over again. I have other, brand new, books that I haven’t so much as glanced at just yet. When you feel stressed or like life is out of your depth for whatever reason, reading a personal favourite can instantly ground you and give you a few moral lessons to live by too.
YA fiction is still one of my favourite genres; it is definitely my most-read genre, and with four Sarah Dessen novels, I know that any book I pick up of hers will be a story I fall in love with. My first book by Sarah Dessen was Just Listen, which I received for Christmas years ago, closer to being a teenager and the age of her characters than I am now. Most of the YA genre that I have read is heavily padded with fantastical beings and sorcery, fallen angels and vampires or werewolves but, Sarah Dessen’s novels are all about normal girls, normal families, normal life. I think that is why I love her novels so much. Any one of the storylines could happen to anybody, whether they are a sixteen year old junior in an American high school or not. I really relate to her characters; not only the protagonist who’s inner thoughts I am reading, but her older sisters, her mum, her dad and even sometimes the really good-looking guy who is obviously going to fall for the main character.
DEALING WITH PROBLEMS HEAD ON
This doesn’t always happen straightaway. Problems are at the root of every book, just as they are at the root of everyone’s fears, worries and stresses. Each character in Sarah Dessen’s books have an inner strength which they only use when absolutely necessary so that they can better their lives or break away from the fear of whatever is holding them back. The girls are never loud or brash – a lot of the time, their new best friend is – which I adore because I am not loud, nor brash when it comes to meeting new people. Therefore, I can completely relate to the main character, and I do have extremely loud friends who have no filter at times too.
NOBODY IS PERFECT
If you haven’t figured that out by now then you are in for a shock. I particularly love the story of Annabel in Just Listen. On the outside, she has it all: gorgeous long blond hair, model figure, model bookings, a perfect house and family. However, when we actually read her story, she really doesn’t have it all. In fact, she is going through something terrible and all she wants is for somebody to listen to her, to figure it out without her having to be on show all of the time.
GROWTH OF CHARACTERS THROUGH BOOKS
I haven’t read any of Sarah Dessen’s earlier novels such as That Summer or The Lullaby. The earliest book I have is The Truth About Forever which I think is falling apart due to the number of times I’ve read it and read it again. Even since then, there has been a gradual growth in maturity of the characters. The girls seem wiser, less naïve, leaving more of the novel to be fleshed out with relationships, family matters and morals which carry even beyond the final page of the book.
There is something about summer that makes every single Sarah Dessen book more thrilling. I have always had an excitement about the longer days and the possibility of being that much closer to the ocean. These books bring it all back to me: breaking up for summer, jetting off and working abroad for a couple of months, travelling and working in a part time job which manages to keep me sane after three weeks. It is the time for change, something exciting. I miss that about school and uni life: new beginnings once summer is over.
It wouldn’t be a YA novel without the notion of first loves. I’ll admit it, I’m still a sucker for romances. Sometimes, I think more of the Taurean romantic tendencies come out when I am single, because that is when there is hope. Ironically. There is always something completely innocent about falling in love for the first time; I appreciate it a lot more now than when I was experiencing it myself. I love to recall the feelings and the emotions, the giddiness, the pure happiness that occurs before it all goes to shit, because it does (sometimes).
If you have a younger sister who is a teenager going through some tough times, or if you love reading young adult fiction yourself, Sarah Dessen is such a perfect fit and with 13 books to choose from, there’s plenty of different stories to keep you entertained.
Have you read any books by Sarah Dessen? What are your favourites?
Love, Faye xo