Charting the Dessen Boys

The fabulous 2010 debut YA author, Karen Healey, created this flow chart of Sarah Dessen’s boys that I had to share.  Check out Karen’s blog entry to get all the details.

And here’s the table mentioned within Karen’s blog entry.

What do you think?

What can you come up with yourself?


NYT #1 Bestseller Sarah

1A big congrats to Sarah for her becoming number one on the New York Times Bestseller List with Along for the Ride.

Read Sarah’s reaction here.

Along for the Ride Signing

The fantastically awesome Khy from the YA review blog, Frenetic Reader, videotaped some of the signing in LA.  She also managed to do something truly magical for me and I have to admit to having watched it 4 times.  If this blog makes Sarah feel like the ultimate narcissist, then my actions make me the uber-narcissist.

Enjoy Sarah reading of some of the book plus her answers to some audience questions.

Along for the Ride Released Today

AlongForRide_FINAL.inddSo what are you waiting for? Go and get yourself a copy before I send the Dessen Book Cops after you.

Seriously though, Along for the Ride is available for the masses today in all fabulous book stores! Make sure you get your hands on it and revel in the adventures of Auden and her glorious (but growth inspiring) summer in Colby. (Yes, that would be Sarah’s second favourite setting!)

I was lucky enough to receive a review copy a few weeks back and posted a review over at my book review blog, Persnickety Snark if you are interested.

I would like for this blog to be a place where Sarah can read people’s thoughts on Auden’s summer.  So if you’d like to write an open letter to Sarah, a list of things you loved, a poem in honour of a character or a piece of fanart/vlog etc then please send them into me at sddiarist AT gmail DOT com.  Sarah drops by every now and then to see what’s happening and I would love to continue the community feel of this blog.

My Just Listen thoughts will continue from next week.  Along for the Ride chapter posts will continue after that.  Thanks for continuing to drop by the blog.  You are all lovely!

The Magic of Sarah Dessen – Emily

The Sarah Dessen Birthday Celebration finished up over a week ago but this was a late submission that was too good not to post. Since this is the release day of Along for the Ride, I thought it was very appropriate to hear straight from the horse’s mouth (or in this case teen’s typing fingertips) what is so special about Sarah Dessen’s writing.

Thank you to Emily for writing this in such a chaotic and sad time for her. My best wishes to her and her family.

~ ~ ~

Sarah Dessen’s magic first found its way to me on a weekend shopping trip to the mall. I was wandering around the book store, trying to find something—“anything, Emily”—because my family was starting to get impatient. I hadn’t gotten lost in a good book for a while, and I didn’t want to rush my choice because I really wanted this one to be a good one.

Just Listen was the perfect find. I’ll admit it was the cover that first caught my attention, (which is ironic considering one of its many themes is the whole “not judging a book by its cover” thing) but the title held it, the back of the book pulled me closer and that short blurb at the beginning, my first real taste of Sarah’s words were what really drew me in and decided it. I had to read this book.

While I was reading, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was that had captured me. It could have been Annabel’s soft voice with its beautiful lack of confidence or the rhythm of the story and the way it moved so fluently until it seemed as if I was living it myself. Maybe it was the amazing way this Sarah Dessen had of connecting every tiny detail so her story all balanced and laced back to its center. It could have been Owen who I loved from his first moment on the page or the all-you-can-eat bacon or maybe the music. In truth, it was all of this which I loved individually and altogether and other things that completed it in a way I can only hope to one day accomplish.

Either way, I knew I loved it by the way I never wanted to put it down, and yet I always did just so that I could make it last a little longer.

It was when I was reading it for the second time, though, out loud to my sister during a week long power outage on some of the hottest days of June that I realized one of Sarah Dessen’s most powerful ability: she has an undeniable talent at connecting every one of her readers in some way to each of her stories.

“You know what, Emily?” My sister said once during that week. “Annabel reminds me of you. You are just like her.” And I realized it was true. From her hesitant tendencies to her confrontational phobia, the girl was a fictional me. Even her relationship with her two sisters bore a resemblance to mine and it hit me why the book had touched me on such a deep level. Annabel’s flaws and struggles were the same ones I found myself facing.

So of course, after a practically life changing reading experience, I sought out more. I came to learn that a movie I’d been particularly fond of, “How to Deal” was based off two of this woman’s books, one of which (That Summer) I even owned and had yet to get around to reading.

I also discovered that Just Listen wasn’t just one of those one hit wonders you sometimes see with authors, but that every one of her published pieces had all the amazing qualities I’d appreciated of my first experience with her work. Sarah Dessen was consistently remarkable from her realistic characters that either jumped right out of the pages or pulled you down into them and their emotional stories that sucked you in. They all had that balance, that center which everything led back too and they were so full of different ideas, pains and lessons, it’s impossible to not find something you could link back to yourself. Love, loss, truth, family, confidence and friendship. It’s like she knows the secrets of the world, and shares a little bit of her wisdom with her readers with every book.

It’s all of this which I’ve come to admire and love about her art and one day wish I can pull off in my own writing. I know that if I ever get published in the future, it’ll be because of everything I’ve learned from watching this exceptional author and I will always appreciate her for that.

Day 31 – The Finale (Adele)

Ta da! This is the final post for the Sarah Dessen celebration that has been running all month long. Weirdly, after sending out many super secret enquiries, answering questions, scheduling posts and organising this SarahPalooza – I forgot to write my piece. Delaying the writing of this post was the worst thing I could have done. I have read posts from some of the great authors of YA and some very talented bloggers too, and I wonder if there is anything else that I can say.

Turns out there is.

Sarah Dessen came to me out of nowhere. Well that’s not entirely true; she came to me in the form of Mandy Moore (someone I have had a long time fixation on). Upon watching How to Deal, I was struck by a few things:

1) Mandy Moore looks awesome with short, dark hair.
2) Allison Janney can never be overrated.
3) Civil War re-enactment uniforms are kind of hot.
4) Macon is a weird name.
5) Scarlett should totally recruit me as an alternate best friend, and
6) The teens felt real.

It was this last point that struck me. I love teen movies, despite it being a while since I was one myself. The same goes for YA fiction. But too often teens aren’t depicted in a realistic manner because many adults are afraid to be truthful. So we’re stuck with twenty-seven year old actors playing sophomores who are getting laid every day of the week, or caricatures of geeks, nerds and cheerleaders or even worse, endings tied with a red, shiny bow.

Within minutes of finishing the movie (along with an search) I came across Sarah Dessen. THE Sarah Dessen, the Sarah Dessen that I usually refer to by both her first and surnames collectively ( Sarah never really feels like enough).

I got addicted to her blog. I looked for her books…I really did. But in my city in Australia, Sarah Dessen isn’t really known – I know, it’s a travesty. I loved hearing about her book tours, hearing about her getting addicted to sad and pathetic television shows (don’t we all?), the new shoes she’d just bought (love the beauties in the new vid), her husband’s new hobby and Sasha’s new personality quirks. In a completely non stalkery way, I felt like I knew this woman as a friend. Reading her books was a simple step forward, if not a little backward.

I read what I could – That Summer from the library, The Truth About Forever and Just Listen from bookstores. I loved them. Sarah Dessen’s girls lived life in a way that I didn’t as a teenager. I drew strength from them, laughed at the shenanigans and cried with the injustices that they experienced. Then last year I came across Lock and Key. I read it in less than an afternoon and started a blog devoted to all things Sarah Dessen that night. The Sarah Dessen Diarist blog was born.

It’s been a year since I began writing my responses to each chapter of one of her books. Lock and Key, The Truth About Forever, Keeping the Moon, This Lullaby and Just Listen have been discussed. I have been very fortunate, Sarah knew about this little endeavour almost immediately (thank you Twitter) and linked the blog through her own. I think this summarises how lovely this woman / author / wife / mother is. Sarah also granted me an interview. I was thrilled, excited and mildly nauseated. It was amazing. I also didn’t realise what a big deal that was until later. Thank goodness, as that mild nausea would have had to have been upgraded.

I continue to be floored by this lady’s graciousness. It’s for this reason that I found so many bloggers and authors who readily contributed to this celebration. She’s admired, beloved and adored by many. She is a quality individual who just so happens to write quality YA fiction.

I would like to wish Sarah Dessen a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY, an awesome release for Along for the Ride (out on June 16th) and happy writing in her next venture. I would like to also thank all the authors and bloggers who took the time to share their thoughts and experiences with Sarah Dessen’s works. Hopefully this gives Dessen fans some reading matter in between finishing Along for the Ride and the 10th Dessen book out sometime in the future.

Lastly, I would like to share something personal from my life involving Sarah Dessen. When I turned twenty-five my mother remarried a lovely man. A lovely man with two teenage daughters. I was to be a step-sister, which I loved in theory but was extremely difficult in practise. The youngest was thirteen when Mum and D got married. She wasn’t all that interested in getting to know me and I wasn’t around enough or possessed enough tolerance to get to know her. We would see each other at most major celebrations, talk about unimportant things and I would try not to get offended when she would launch into a huge bitch session about her teachers (I’m a teacher). But things have changed in the two years after; we spoke more freely, greeted each other with hugs and discussed the awesomeness of Veronica Mars. Then Christmas 2008 happened – I bought her a copy of my favourite Sarah Dessen novel, Just Listen. She was resentful about having Christmas with us, she wanted to be with her mum, or friends, or whatever – she wasn’t happy. Stike that – she was bored and very unhappy. She unwrapped the book and looked at it with complete disinterest. I sighed, I was unbelievably disappointed. My streak of poorly chosen gifts had continued.

My mother later told me that driven by extreme boredom my step-sister picked up that book and demolished it in hours. A month later, she texted me to say that she had LUVD it. Now this might not seem like such a big deal but it truly was. She had had to ask for my number from my mother to get the number to send me that thank you. I grabbed this olive branch and went with it. I bought over my Sarah Dessen books for her to read, had a discussion about how divine Owen was and bonded. But more importantly, she was able to see something of herself in that novel.

You see I wasn’t aware of this, but my step-sister has some interesting eating habits. I don’t mean she’s smuggling food or ralphing after meals, but she was placing some unreal expectations onto herself and her body. I had inadvertently given her something she needed…Whitney.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sarah for giving me something important. A shared passion with my sister.

Day 30 – Read Her Once, Fall in Love. Read her Twice, You’re Addicted! (Adiba)

You know you love a book when you think it’s perfect, perfect cover , title and story, and Sarah Dessen’s books have it all. Sarah is my absolute favourite author and each one of her books is completely unforgettable.

What I love about each of her books is that they are always filled with different emotions, I feel love and heartbreak, loneliness and complete utter happiness.

With each of her books I fall in love every time, wanting someone to buy me cutlery and make me CD’s and help me be a kid again, seriously how many times can I fall in love with these characters.. each time I read Sarah’s novels I think where’s my Wes, my Owen my Dexter! Now I really want my Eli J

One of the many things I love about her books is that they connect, with recurring characters and locations.  I love finding them, like Truth Squad, The World of Waffles and the famous Quick Zip.

Sarah Dessen’s writing is just something else, I have read so many different books but I can honestly say The Truth About Forever was my absolute favourite YA book.

So Thank you Sarah Dessen and your fantastical writing!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY! And congrats on Along for the Ride

Adida is a new found friend from the Aussie publishing industry. She’s an enthusiastic Sarah fan…iobviously and generoulsly contributed this piece.

Day 28 – Timeless (Sherryl Clark)

sherrylI 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.

Day 27 – Admiration (Sarah Ockler)

SarahOckler3_LWWA few years ago, after an insightful writing mentor suggested my work had a strong teen voice, I signed up for a young adult novel class offered by Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver. For our first few meetings, in addition to submitting and critiquing manuscripts, we were to read and discuss Deb Caletti’s HONEY, BABY, SWEETHEART and SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. It had been a long time since I’d picked up a young adult read, so I was eager to check out the current crop of YA titles at the bookstore and reacquaint myself with the genre.

After finding my assigned books, I spotted HOW TO DEAL, a movie tie-in combining the books THAT SUMMER and SOMEONE LIKE YOU by Sarah Dessen. The last YA book I’d read before this serendipitous trip to Tattered Cover Bookstore was CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger, so I didn’t know much about Sarah Dessen — just that we shared a first name and with the movie tie-in version I’d get two books for the price of one. I picked it up, paid for the books, and walked out of the bookstore, unaware that the purchase would — don don don! — change my life forever.

No, seriously! I mean people say that all the time, right? But that book really did change my life!

*Inserts ominous music and movie announcer voice*

“In a world where closet writers are afraid to dream big, one aspiring author crawled out of the YA cave and into the blinding light of Sarah Dessen books, and *nothing* was ever the same again…”

After devouring both books in HOW TO DEAL, I was eager to get my hands on the rest of Sarah’s titles. Macy, Wes, and the Wish Catering crew made THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER my #1 fave, but all of Sarah’s books sparked something in me. They immersed me in a new and beautiful world — the world of contemporary, realistic YA fiction — and I knew after reading my first one that I wanted to write for teens.

*Pauses momentarily to let the gravity of this set in*

Listen, I hated high school. Truly. I spent *years* running fast and far away from the memories (which, if I let them, would probably give me hives even today) and then Sarah Dessen showed up and… well, let the life-changing begin! Suddenly, I wanted nothing more than to revisit the momentous, insane, roller-coaster ride of the teen years. I wanted to dig up and sift through memories and tragedies and old stories and fuse them with words and new ideas and images until I could find a way to connect with readers the way Sarah’s books connected with me.

Making me return to high school on purpose? Even from the safe and anonymous comforts of my imagination? Yikes. Double-ewwww! That’s no small feat, Sarah! 😉

So I progressed through the Lighthouse YA class and worked hard on my YA novel-in-progress, developing my own voice as a writer, creating characters to tell the stories lodged in my heart and set free the words keeping me awake at night. Sarah Dessen and the characters who came to life through her books truly inspired me, encouraging and pushing me through the tough spots. I kept a copy of THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER close by for silent moral support, and on one particularly tough night, I glanced over at the book, hoping for some kind of sign or message — who knows what my neurotic writer brain was thinking — but her last name on the cover was obscured by papers. All I saw was “Sarah.” And in that moment, in the briefest flash, I saw “Ockler” following that “Sarah,” picturing my own book cover and somehow knowing and believing what my husband always believed — that the day really *would* come for me. The day when I’d see my own book on the shelves.

Five years after reading my first Sarah Dessen novel and falling in love with YA fiction, that day has finally come. My YA novel, TWENTY BOY SUMMER, is out in the world. 🙂

Now I can say it officially. Thank you, Sarah Dessen, for unknowingly helping me achieve my dream. Sarah, you’ve inspired me. Your books and characters and their struggles and fights and celebrations got me excited about young adult literature and the possibility of writing for and about teens. I continue to anticipate and love each of your new books and am honored today to wish you every success, every joy, every happiness you deserve, and of course, a very wonderful birthday!

With much admiration and gratitude,

Sarah Ockler
Author of TWENTY BOY SUMMER (which is released day in all good book stores).  Sarah has a sweet website  that you should also check out. 

Tomorrow – Sherryl Clark, author of soon-to-be-release Bone Song.