Spotlight: Sarah Dessen

One thing I want to do during this month is spotlight different authors (YA or otherwise) who have built their careers writing predominantly love stories. And of course, we have to start with one of the OGs of YA contemporary romance. (What is with me saying OG all the time all of a sudden?)

Sarah Dessen

Most Popular Titles: Just Listen, The Truth About Forever, Along For the Ride, This Lullaby, Lock and Key

Debut Novel: That Summer (1996)

Most Recent Release: The Rest of the Story (June 2019)

As you can clearly see, Sarah Dessen has been writing books for teens for over 20 years. (!!!) Her books tend to deal with topics more than just love. Everything from eating disorders to drug addiction to class differences to absent parents. But even though her books do tend to feel a little heavier at times, they still have a lot of heart to them and levity to them. They perfectly balance real issues with interesting characters and usually a slow-build romance that sneaks up on you before you know it.

Her stories tend to take place almost exclusively in North Carolina, particularly in or around the town of Colby. In fact, many of her stories have crossover characters or details to link them together. If the phrase “Hate Spinnerbait” means anything to you, you’re a true Dessen fan. (If you don’t know what I mean, you need to read This Lullaby. It’s fantastic and a fan-favorite.)

Two of her books were turned into a movie called How to Deal, starring Mandy Moore.

What’s also really awesome is how open Dessen is about her struggles. On Twitter, she will often talk about how many drafts she’s written and then had to give up on because the stories just weren’t good. She talks about her struggles with miscarriages before she finally had her daughter. She even talks about how she was a wild child back in the day and how she worked as a waitress while she was writing her first book and how that influenced her early books. I really appreciate that she’s able to be so honest about so many painful things.

My First Dessen Read: Just Listen. My library system has a reading program every summer and I was obsessed with doing it as a kid. There were prizes, people! Books were prizes! And one year, my prize was Just Listen. As someone who loves music, it was pretty obvious I was going to pick the one about music. I was really drawn in by the story, by the music, and by the characters. It was charming and, thankfully, a bit lighter in subject matter than some of her other books. (I might not have stuck with her if I’d started with Dreamland.)

Her Complete Collection:

  • That Summer (1996)
  • Someone Like You (1998)
  • Keeping the Moon (1999)
  • Dreamland (2000)
  • This Lullaby (2002)
  • The Truth About Forever (2004)
  • Just Listen (2006)
  • Lock and Key (2008)
  • Along for the Ride (2009)
  • What Happened to Goodbye (2011)
  • The Moon and More (2013)
  • Saint Anything (2015)
  • Once and For All (2017)
  • The Rest of the Story (2019)

(How many have you read? I’ve got 10/14!)

Alright, that’s all for today! I hope you enjoyed this spotlight! If you have any author you want me to focus on, please feel free to leave a comment!

4 thoughts on “Spotlight: Sarah Dessen

  1. So far I have read What Happened To Goodbye, Dreamland and most recently, Saint Anything. I have talked myself out of reading her fan-favourites for years, out of fear…? Saving for later…? Not sure, maybe a little of both.

    I adore the energy of her books, and thoroughly enjoyed Saint Anything. There was a great balance between light hearted, fun banter and cutesy scenes and inside jokes amongst new friends, and the more heavy topics. Loved it! This post was a cute overview of your experience munching her books. 🙂

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