I first read Sarah Dessen in the fall of 2009. I still remember the satisfied feeling I had when I finished that first novel. In a matter of months, I read at least four of her books in quick succession. Her books have since become my go-to when I need a pleasant and easy read. A few weeks back, I gave up on three highly recommended books in a row that just weren’t to my taste. Reading Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen got me back on my game.
About the Author
Sarah Dessen is a YA author that lives in North Carolina. This meant so much less to me before I moved to North Carolina this summer. Now it makes us practically neighbors. (And best friends? Yes.) She has been writing reliably great (and clean) YA romance novels since That Summer in 1996. She is intentionally private about her family online, but she has been upfront about some serious parts of her own life, including dating a much older guy, her drug use as a teenager, and the 13 novels that she has set aside. I don’t know if she can write about these experiences in such an honest way because of her experience as an author or if her characters seem so realistic because of these experiences.
About the Books
Sarah Dessen writes YA romance. The story lines are fairly simple and (after you’ve read a few) predictable. It’s the characters and their experiences that make each book distinct. She has such a knack for portraying the complete feeling of adolescence, not just the pleasant parts. She doesn’t say, “Hannah felt anxious about the new school.” What she does is describe the product of that anxiety–the coming up with an excuse to eat in the library, not because Hannah really needs to study the first week, but because she has nowhere to sit and can’t handle that uncomfortable pause while she looks around for a familiar face. Another thing I love is that the romance, while delightful, does not come at the expense of the characters. The endings are generally happy ones and the girl does get the guy, but the former is not directly a result of the latter. The resolution primary occurs because of growth in the protagonist throughout the novel. Because of the similarities in structure and setting, I find I enjoy her books with a break between each one. (Not that I haven’t read them back to back. See above.)
Until last week, my favorite was Just Listen (which is still a solid choice). Her most recent, Saint Anything, was wonderful as well. The situation, characters, and romance were spot on as always. What really made Saint Anything for me was the strong friendships outside of the romance. Throughout the novel, Sydney reconnects with good friends, makes new (equally awesome) friends, and makes strides to healing a rocky relationship at home. I love to see realistic but hopeful portrayals of peer relationships outside of romance. Plus, Sydney’s friend Layla reminded me so much of one of my closest friends in school that I loved her instantly.