I can’t remember which Sarah Dessen novel I read first – I just know that I was bowled over by her ability to get right inside her characters and make them totally believable. I teach creative writing as well as write, and I often use examples from Sarah’s books in class (and hopefully inspire a whole new bunch of readers).
Here in Australia we have a wealth of terrific YA writers, but I think they “do it differently”. There is more emphasis on plot, action and being contemporary. For me, Sarah’s novels are about characters who are timeless. When I first saw the promos for Dreamland, I thought, Wow, someone has actually had the guts to write about relationship violence for YA? Amazing! How is she going to manage that?
But of course she did – and wonderfully well. I had an opposite reaction to The Truth About Forever – the blurb sounded too ordinary! But yet again, the characters’ depths and complexities made this one of my favourites. In many ways, it’s easy to formulate a good plot with action and stuff in it that readers will enjoy. It’s a heck of a lot harder to write a book that resonates deeply with readers, that leaves you in awe of the writer’s ability to dive into imaginary lives and make them so totally real.
As a writer, Sarah Dessen is one of those whose books make me envious and overawed, but also who inspires me to do better in my own novels. Not to take the easy way out, but to dig deeper into where the passion lies in each story and bring it to the page. Thanks, Sarah!
Sherryl Clark is an Australia author of many children and YA titles. Her newest release, Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!) was last month awarded an honour for the CBCA awards. Sherryl has both a blog and website.