I’ve reviewed two Sarah Dessen books already – here and here – but I’ve read lots of them over the course of the year, so I decided that I’d do one big post to round up the other six I’ve read so far this year.
Book #91 Someone Like You
Book #110 The Truth About Forever
Book #121 This Lullaby
Book #122 Keeping the Moon
Book #124 Dreamland
Book #132 Lock and Key
It’s probably worth noting at this point that I’ve really enjoyed all of Sarah Dessen’s books so far (I’ve two more to read, yet, but I’m sure they’ll be similarly strong), so it’s sort of a given that all of the books in this post are getting thumbs ups (thumb ups? Thumbs up?) from me!
Someone Like You
Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett. But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she’s carrying his baby, she was devastated. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Their friendship may bend under the weight, but it’ll never break–because a true friendship is a promise you keep forever.
This is, as far as I’m aware, one of Dessen’s earlier books. It’s certainly a stronger offering than That Summer, but it hasn’t quite reached the peaks of later offerings. Halley takes center stage this year, supporting her best friend Scarlett, who’s dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, and developing a relationship with bad boy Macon (how is that pronounced, though? Like Bacon?), while struggling against her overbearing mother. Characterisation of a teenage girl was spot-on here, as Halley deals with a relationship which might not be as perfect as it seems in the beginning. Lovely book, some really good spots, and a pretty good midpoint between That Summer’s dullness and the strength of later offerings.
3.5 stars, but I can’t do that, so it got bumped to four!
The Truth About Forever
A long, hot summer…
That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.
But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry?
Very strong offering, showing Macy’s development as she tries to deal with the grief of losing her father and her mother’s subsequent retreating into her shell, leaving Macy feeling very alone. Combined with her super-brain boyfriend being away for the summer, she has a lot to gain from her new catering job and the eclectic collection of workers she meets there. Even characters whose vocabulary consists of no more than three lines – donneven! – are fleshed out as Macy begins to open up and admit how deeply losing her father has hurt her.
When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn’t mess around. After all, she’s learned all there is to know from her mother, who’s currently working on husband number five. But there’s something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy’s rules. He certainly doesn’t seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can’t seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy’s starting to understand what those love songs are all about?
Remy has it all figured out – she’s in the interim between high school and college and come the end of the summer she’ll go off to college without any ties left behind, a fresh start and no lingering ties holding her back. But her cold and sometimes standoffish method of dealing with people is turned upside down by Dexter and his rag-tag band of misfits who rock into town at the start of the summer, as Remy learns that you can’t cut the ties which bind you as easily as you might think. This is a cute one, where Remy, who has it all figured out, develops something of a heart in the eight weeks of summer.
Keeping the Moon
Colie expects the worst when she’s sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast — first for being fat and then for being “easy” — Colie has no friends at home and doesn’t expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina. But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along
One of Dessen’s earlier offerings, while there’s nothing wrong with Colie’s story of a former fat girl realising how beautiful she is and how much she has to offer, with the aid of a rag-tag bunch of people she met at her new job, it’s just lacking the power of later offerings.
Wake up, Caitlin
Ever since she started going out with Rogerson Biscoe, Caitlin seems to have fallen into a semiconscious dreamland where nothing is quite real. Rogerson is different from anyone Caitlin has ever known. He’s magnetic. He’s compelling. He’s dangerous. Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else–her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lackluster life. But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?
Caitlin (nice Irish name there, I approve) has always lived in the shadow of her sister, but when her model sibling ups and runs away from home, Caitlin is left adrift and seeks solace in the arms of bad boy Rogerson Biscoe. But things are sometimes exactly as they seem, and Rogerson is a bad boy through and through. The trouble is, Caitlin’s in too deep before she realises it, and leaving could be far harder than staying.
Dreamland is deep and complex and satisfying, painting a portrait of how people can end up in a situation that’s far beyond their control without realising how badly they could get hurt. Caitlin is interesting and relatable, and her relationship with Rogerson is beautifully portrayed so it’s not hard to see how she got to where she ended up. I really enjoyed this book, although it was hard going at times, and would rank it very highly among Dessen’s offerings.
Lock and Key
Ruby, where is your mother?
Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.
That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future; it’s a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?
Best-selling author Sarah Dessen explores the heart of a gutsy, complex girl dealing with unforeseen circumstances and learning to trust again.
For once, in this book, Sarah Dessen turns her normal dynamic of girl meets boy, boy saves girl, on its head, and Ruby very much saves herself – in learning to trust her sister and brother-in-law and settling into the opportunities she’s been handed, while also accepting the damage that her mother has done, Ruby puts herself on the right track, and is certainly not saved by a knight in shining armour. I found this really refreshing especially since the guy who would be the knight is actually in need of a little saving himself. This book was really powerful, in showing Ruby’s fractured relationship with her sister and mother, and also in showing how the issues between Nate and Ruby develop over the course of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it might be my favourite Dessen so far, although it’s vying for top spot with Just Listen.
I’ve read six Sarah Dessen books now, and I really enjoy the way she writes sisterly relationships. I was surprised to find out that she’s actually an only child, as a lot of what she writes rings true for me – and I would know, having two sisters. I have the same sort of feelings about To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – the interpersonal relationships, especially between family members, are a really strong part of Dessen’s writing. I’m thoroughly looking forward to the last two Dessen books I have to read (and as I read more and more, I’m spotting more of the nods to different characters in later books, e.g. Annabel from Just Listen’s radio show is mentioned in another book (maybe Lock and Key), Scarlet from Someone Like You is a love interest for a minor character in This Lullaby, Rogerson from Dreamland is mentioned in Lock and Key as having been in prison previously) and will be sorely disappointed to have to wait like everyone else for her newest arrival next year.