Don’t Take Sarah Dessen for Granted

BookendsLynn: Every fall, we create a bibliography of recommended books that we use for conference, seminar, and school presentations. It is a big task that we spend a lot of time on, but some authors are simply automatic additions. Sarah Dessen is one of those. Her latest book goes on our list every time without question and I know teens will sainteagerly read each new book, as will I. Listening to Dessen’s latest, Saint Anything (2015), this last week, it was as I was sighing happily at the conclusion that I wondered when we’d last reviewed one of her books for the blog. It was a shock to discover that we hadn’t for ages. We’d been automatically assuming everyone would know that her books are must-purchases, dependably excellent and always filled with compelling characters.

Dessen is a New York Times best-selling author so LOTS of people know how good she is, but it is just plain wrong to take her for granted! We should celebrate this wonderful writer who consistently speaks to young people with intelligent, thoughtful, and entertaining books. She has written 12 terrific books that have been translated into 25 languages and has captured as many adult fans as teens.

Like all Dessen books, this one needs to be added to every list!

Her newest has all the elements that I enjoy most about her writing, with a bright, observant, and thoughtful heroine at the center of a story focused on relationships. Sydney has always felt invisible next to her charismatic, dynamic older brother. Her organized mother has always focused on Peyton, especially after he started to get into trouble. The trouble escalates until finally Peyton, driving drunk, hits and paralyzes a young teen. The event and Peyton’s prison sentence have a powerful effect on the entire family, leading Sydney to feel even more invisible. She transfers to a public high school and it is there that she meets the charming Chatham family. Layla becomes Sydney’s best friend and Sydney falls hard for Layla’s handsome brother. As the relationships progress, Sydney begins to discover her strengths and the ability to stand up for herself.

Witty dialog, compelling characters, and their unfolding relationships made this a book to sink into and absorb. Like all Dessen books, this one needs to be added to every list!

Cindy: During my first week of school this year, every seventh- and eighth-grade student checked out at least one book. My Dessen collection is wiped out, and I started the week with four to six copies of each title in each school. I wasn’t booktalking, but I had the books displayed on the tables with other recommended and popular books for students to peruse in addition to wandering the shelves. It doesn’t hurt that my ELA teachers are Dessen fans and enthusiastically hand-sell them too. Sarah Hunter said this in her review’s High-Demand Backstory:

Dessen’s hordes of fans probably already know about this novel and are lying in wait, lurking behind the corner of your circulation desk as we speak.

It’s great timing that this book post coincides with the kick-off to Booklist‘s Spotlight on Romance and Travel. Dessen’s books have romance, but there’s so much more.

And speaking of travel . . . by the time this posts, Lynn will be recovering from jet lag in Heidelberg, Germany. We have a book-related travel post coming soon. Oh, the sacrifices we make to follow the Booklist spotlight themes. I just wish I were there with her!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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