There is a temptation to label Sarah Dessen as the so-and-so adult author of the YA world (insert Anne Tyler/Jodi Piccoult/other successful and talented female author here), but I will refrain from doing that because I think it’s wrong. Sarah Dessen is her own category and you don’t put baby in a corner. Up-and-coming young-adult authors, if they’re lucky, might get to be the next Sarah Dessens.
But the comparison I refuse to make does point to what makes Sarah Dessen so unique. She is an incredibly talented author who puts out a book every couple of years, and those books keep getting better and better and now frequently land on bestseller lists. On top of that, Sarah has this amazing blog in which she generously shares pieces of her life, not to mention her TV picks (thank you, Sarah, for turning me on to Freaks & Geeks and I guess thank you SD fans for turning her on to Judd Apatow’s first show). The blog is so well done, and her books are so full of such sympathetic characters that I’d be willing to bet almost anything that Sarah is as awesome as she seems. That she’d make a really good BFF. And she and I are practically the same age (one day apart in age—one!) so I feel strangely connected to her. And we share a publisher and a publicist. It would be so easy to make that connection real.
But though Sarah and I have shared a few polite Facebook messages (about Freaks & Geeks) Sarah Dessen and I aren’t friends, and probably won’t be. And that’s a good thing. One of the things that I admire about SD is that she has kept herself separate from The Scene. She is probably the biggest YA writer out there save for a certain vampire-creating lady (who’s also not part of the scene, hmm, maybe there’s something to this) but she seems to live a quiet life in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, teaching at the university, writing books, and now, raising a family. When you watch the video segments she posts on her blog, she looks like, well, a writer/mom who took a break to talk in front of a video camera. There is no artifice. No fakery. No BS.
Now, I’m not much of a literatti-scenester myself. I don’t do book parties. I have a lot of journalist friends but not many author friends, though I spend most of my days with my Mom Friends. I go to bed early. But I do live in New York City, so I’m in the lit scene by default. And I don’t think I’ll ever leave Brooklyn, because this really is the Best Place on Earth as far as I’m concerned (and I’ve traveled a lot).
Sarah seems to keep a very deliberate shield between her and the publishing world, and this is not only a smart survival tactic on a personal level, but also a professional one. Sarah’s lack of sceney-ness translates into her down-to-earthiness, which in turn translates into her remaining this incredibly nice and authentic person, which bleeds right into her characters, who populate her rich and wonderful novels, which we all love.
So, I adore Sarah Dessen and, like everyone else, I suspect, I want to be her friend. But for the sake of her books, I actually don’t.
Gayle Forman’s sophomore YA title, If I Stay, came out in April and is going great guns! Having read Sarah’s blog this, I also know that she is about to read Gayle’s book – maybe they will end up friends 🙂 Gayle’s blog and website can be found when you click on the links.
Tomorrow – Liz (also from the UK) from My Favourite Books