And so, with my having read six Sarah Dessen books in a row, the #DessenDays Read-A-Thon comes to a close. At least for me–if there is anyone who is still doing it, please go ahead! And tag me in your posts so I can see them 🙂
It was really fun and I definitely missed Sarah Dessen. I used to read and re-read her books all the time and I was surprised by how much I didn’t remember (and how much they took me back to my high school book club days)!
I know that in my original post I said I’d do a couple of mini reviews at a time, but I changed my mind so I’m going to give them all to you now and then give my overall thoughts at the end. So here they are, in the order I read them:
Once and for All (2017)
I had not read this one before, and it’s what kicked off this whole thing. This book was classic Dessen–it was fun and cute, but it was also heartbreaking. I loved the return to the summer vibes and I was prepared for just that before being smacked over the head with a relevant political issue, and I loved every minute. I was sad, sure, but I was also happy that Dessen decided to tackle this from a different perspective than so many others do and focus on something entirely different. It was everything I could want from a new Sarah Dessen novel and more.
Just Listen (2006)
This one was up there among my favourites when I was in high school and I’m very happy to say that my opinions have not changed much. Annabelle and Owen felt like old friends and it was really nice to experience that again, even if the topics were tough to think about, especially since I now see these teenagers less as peers and more as children to be protected. You know? I also loved seeing terms that are no longer relevant (see: “flip her phone shut,” “iPod,” and “pink suede”).
This Lullaby (2002)
Definitely a lighter read to tackle after the previous two–it’s funny, adorable, and has classic rom-com vibes. This is also one that can seem a little dated even by the type of language used by characters and the type of issues that come up. In fact, it almost feels like Just Listen was a course correction–This Lullaby touches slightly on Remy’s traumatic experience, but it is never called out for what it is (aka sexual assault) while Just Listen is almost idealistic in the final result and courtroom scene.
The Truth About Forever (2004)
I’d forgotten how much I loved this book, and I’d also forgotten a lot of things that happened in it so it was really fun to rediscover these stories and characters. This is another one of my high school favourites, and even though grief is a major theme, this book still felt lighter than Once and for All. A part of that may be because Macy improves slowly and she recognizes that before helping her mother do the same. There was no denial or regression, just a willingness to get better.
Along for the Ride (2009)
This book felt beach-y from the start and I curse every moment that I am not hanging out in a cute beach town with a boardwalk. While it was a good escape from a busy rainy city, all I wanted to do was read while spread out on a towel at a sandy ocean beach. I was also sort of surprised to notice a theme here that I hadn’t before–women hating women for no apparent reason (especially under the guise of feminism). Auden’s mom is an obvious case of a woman who says she’s feminist but is in fact really judgemental of other women for no reason at all, and Auden is very similar. But the whole point is that Auden and her family learn the error of their ways, even though I wanted to smack both of her parents pretty much every time they showed up.
Saint Anything (2015)
It’s been a while since I last read this book, and this was my first re-read of it. I remember everyone at the time commenting on how dark it was, and even then I thought that was a bit of an exaggeration (especially since Dreamland and Lock & Key exist). But I think the reason for all the hubbub is that we see the more traumatic experience of Sydney’s as it develops, instead of after the fact like most of Dessen’s other novels. Even Just Listen, which has a very similar situation, was told in flashbacks and short revelations. The ending for this one isn’t nearly as idealistic but I thought it was good all the same.
Notice how my reviews got longer as I went? Clearly I am incapable of cutting myself off. Also, this is totally serving as June wrap-up as well because I pretty much only read these books all month!
Anyway, I had a few observations about Sarah Dessen novels as a whole while I was reading and here they are:
- Diversity. Everyone is white and hetero except for a select few background characters.
- Similar protagonists. Her main characters are all very alike, although the boys are more different from one another.
- Similar storylines. Girl meets boy, is reluctant about boy because trauma and/or relationship, they fall in love, something happens to tear them apart, they come back together at the end. This isn’t a problem to me per se, because I do still love the formula but still, it’s a formula. Although she has been varying a little bit lately, which is nice.
- Missed opportunities for cameos. Mostly with Once and For All…one of the previous characters weddings being planned by Louna’s would have been amazing and I think that was a serious missed opportunity.
- Books evolve with time but characters don’t age. This kind of goes into the last one…everyone is forever a teenager or university student even if it’s been far too long for that.
- I still love Sarah Dessen to bits and I will cut anyone who says otherwise.
Are you a Sarah Dessen fan? Which is your favourite?