Monday, October 26, 2009

Sarah Dessen

I have officially found a new favorite author. I read “Along for the Ride” by Sarah Dessen back in August and loved it so much I went on to read her other 8 novels in the two months that followed. Sarah Dessen writes young adult novels that typically deal with girls in difficult situations. Here nine novels deal with topics from making friends, devorce of parents, rape, falling in love, eating disorders, death of parents, teen pregnency, growing up, death of friends, domestic violence, concentual sex, bullying, child abuse and neglect, and much more.

At times Sarah Dessen’s stories are funny, but for the most part they are serious and often sad. The thing that makes these books stand out as so exceptional is the development of the secondary characters. Every single person who enters the page is interesting. People are almost never what they seem at first. The stories narators are regularely surprized as they come to see new sides of the people around them. This complexity of all the characters in her stories makes them seem more real.

Sarah Dessen’s stories are all set in the same place (actually two places). 7 of her novels are set in the town of Lakeview and 2 are set in the town of Colby. The town of Lakeview is referenced in one of the Colby books, and the town of Colby is refrenced in two of the Lakeview books. The characters in these books all go to the same two high schools, and they all hang out at the same hot spots around town. This overlap in setting ties into the complexity of the minor characters. It makes the reader think that even the unnamed people in the background have interesting stories to tell – and reading Sarah Dessen’s other novels will in fact tell those stories. There are even two named characters that appear in multiple books.

Here is a list of all of Sarah Dessen’s books and a quick summary of each. These books are listed from most recently published to first published. In general I like Sarah Dessen’s more recent work better than her earlier work and would recomend reading her newer stuff first.

Along for the Ride – Auden, an overachiver with immature parents graduates from high school and realizes she has never had a childhood. During her last summer before college she goes on a quest to experience all the things she missed during the first 18 years of her life. Her quest begins with food fights and bowling, and ends with learning to ride a bike and falling in love.

Lock and Key – A seventeen year old Ruby is abandoned by her mother and ends up living with her astranged sister who she hasn’t seen in ten years. Ruby’s understanding of family changes as she gets to know her sister, makes new friends, and discovers one of her friends is being physically abused by his father.

Just Listen – Annabel is supposed to be the girl who has everything, she has been a professional model since she was in diapers. But her older sister has a serious eating disorder and the previous summer Annabel was raped by her best friend’s boyfriend. Annabel struggles to find the strength to admit the truth about her life and to find a friend willing to listen.

The Truth About Forever – Fifteen year old, Macy has done everything she can to live a perfect life ever since her father died a year and a half ago. When her mom, a work aholic realator, gives a party Macy ends up helping the caterers in the kitchen as everything that could go wrong does. Macy then gets a perminate summer job with the caterers and discovers that life doesn’t have to be perfect and missing her father is okay.

This Lullaby – Remy is basically a total bitch. At the beginning of the summer, her mom marries step-dad number 5, so there is grounding for Remy’s anti-love mentality. In a twist of the normal bad boy story, in this novel Dexter, a nice boy, is able to tame Remy and break down her cold hearted exterior.

Dreamland – This is the only Sarah Dessen book that I really didn’t like. Caitlin is a fifteen year old girl who falls in love with a drug dealer shortly after her sister runs away from home. Her drug dealer boy friend then begins to regularely beat the shit out of Caitlin, and she lets him. In the end Caitlin’s parents figure out what is going on and she gets help. Still the story is grusom, none of the characters are likable, and I just really wanted to believe that this sort of thing never actually happens.

Keeping the Moon – Colie has the worlds smallest self-esteem, even though her mother is a modivational speaker. When her mom leads a modivational tour of Europe, Colie is sent to spend the summer with her ecentric aunt. Colie gets a job at the local dinner, makes friends for the first time in her life, and falls in love with the loner boy who works as a short order cook.

Someone Like You – Halley’s best friend Scarlet discovers that she is pregnent. Too bad the father died in a motor cycle accident. Halley falls in love with Macon, Scarlet’s dead boyfriends bestfriend. Macon is a total bad-boy that Halley’s overprotective mother refuses to let her see. Eventually Halley realizes Macon is no good and redirects her energy toward helping Scarlet prepair for motherhood.

That Summer – Haven’s older sister gets married the same summer as her father remarries. All of her ideas of family are turned upside down as people move in and out of her life. Haven befriends one of her sister’s old boyfriends, in hopes of grabbing onto a happier past. She learns that not everything in her past was as perfect as she wants to remember and comes around to accept the changing family that she has in the precent.

Joke of the Day
A duck walked into a drug store and asked for a tube of lipstick.
The attended said, "That will be $4.99."
The duck said, "Just put it on my bill."

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