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.
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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.