Sarah Dessen books all follow a simple formula. Girl is main character. Girl has major issues. Girl struggles to find herself. Girl finds herself, solves her problem in some way, and meets a cute boy along the way. I am not saying there is anything wrong with it, but they do fit a formula. There is something I like about this formula though. Her main characters are not damsels in distress. The cute boy does not solve their problem. Yes, said cute boy helps girl usually by doing things a friend would do. But he is not the hero, he does not save her day. She saves herself and finds out more about the people around her. I love that about these books and for that reason alone I recommend them to anyone, but especially high school girls (plus these four were really fun to read!)
Title: Along for the Ride
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Hardcover: 416 pages
I read this one a couple months ago, so I don’t remember it well enough to summarize or write a long review, but I want to share what I remember.
I remember cheering for Auden. I remember thinking, “Wow I am really glad I am not her” She didn’t get to be a kid. She didn’t even get to be a teenager until the summer before college, and even then she was always trying to help everyone else.
I know I wanted her to ride that bike, to hang out with the boy, to make some friends. I wanted her mother to stop acting like she didn’t matter and I wanted her dad to step up and do be a father since he had another chance!
Mostly, I wanted her to be happy and I enjoyed every second of reading the book. Sorry I can’t say more, but you will just have to read the book yourself. It was a fun ride and I know I handed the book to a friend the second I was done.
Title: That Summer
Paperback: 208 pages
This book did not stay with me very long. I just finished it a week ago, and I don’t really remember it at all.
Ok, just looked at a summary and it flooded back to me. Haven is dealing with “that summer”. You know, the one where everything changes (am I the only one that didn’t have one of these?). Her dad is getting remarried to the women he left Haven’s mother for. Her older sister is getting married and is driving everyone else crazy. And Haven is 6 feet tall and still growing.
This book was as eh as a book can get, It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t that good. Compared to Dessen’s other characters, Haven was kind of annoying. She spent a lot of time whining and looking back at the past like it was so great when really, it just wasn’t. If you want to read all of Sarah Dessen’s books, this isn’t bad, but I wouldn’t tell you to rush out and read it either.
Title: Just Listen
Paperback: 400 pages
Something awful has happened to Annabel and we don’t know what it is. She suddenly has no friends, but it isn’t just that, her former best friend calls her “slut” every time she passes her in the hallway. She models, but she doesn’t love it anymore. She also has two sisters with two very different problems. One has an eating disorder and because of it has been a loner. The other is figuring out what she wants to do with her life.
Luckily, she meets Owen while eating lunch alone and find a friend who teaches her a lot about music, friendship, love, and most importantly, being honest with herself and others.
I wish I could be like Owen. He always tells the truth. He is not mean spirited or a jerk, but he is honest and expects honesty in return. He is what made this book stand out in my mind so much.
Not that Annabel is not a great character, she is. All of the characters are great. They actually don’t feel like they are just characters in a book, they feel like real people going through real problems. They don’t fit stereotypes, they don’t sound fake when they talk or think.
I don’t want to say much about the plot because I don’t want to give it away, but the big event was predictable. What wasn’t predictable is how she handled it in the end. I really thought this book was great to read and think you should give it a try.
Title: Lock and Key
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Hardcover: 422 pages
Summary: Ruby is living in alone in a house and her mother has disappeared. She thinks she is fine on her own, until the landlords come by and can tell her mother is gone. Suddenly she is picked up from her life and thrown into a new one with a private school, a huge house, and a sister that she thought stopped caring. She needs to live in a place with rules, structure, and open communication. Can she handle the transition? Can she actually let herself make friends? Can she see that others aren’t as different as she thought? Most importantly, does she even want to try?
Ruby couldn’t see where she was going wrong and how she was living. As an observer, I could and it broke my heart. She is so scared of people letting her down that she has learned not to bond or try to connect with them to begin with.
I thought her story was great. Her transformation was amazing to witness. I got to see all of the little things: talking to Olivia, asking for a ride, having one conversation with her sister, and admitting that she did have a friend. It made me think about how changes are not monumental sweeping changes, but small and gradual.
This book dealt with some tough issues like abuse and abandonment and I thought it was handled in a mature way that young adults will appreciate. I like that Ruby starts leaning on other people, but also makes changes on her own and keeps some of her independence. If you like the Sarah Dessen formula, give this one a chance
Have you read Sarah Dessen? What are your favorites? What are your least favorites? Let me know in the comments!