You’ll often hear me say something like this: “I started reading teen fiction before I was a teenager and I never really stopped.”
And it’s true – more or less. But there was a blip in my reading life, and that was when I first travelled from Britain to the suburbs of Boston, USA. It was a big career change and an odd kind of culture shock (partly inspiring my first novel, Split by a Kiss). And somewhere along the pond-crossing, reading slipped way down in my priorities.
Then one snowy winter’s day, I discovered the local public library. It was massive and majestic from the outside, calm and crammed with great books on the inside. Best of all, it had incredible opening hours – late evenings, Sundays – it was as if it had been designed with my long working hours in mind. Oh, and it was warm. Coming from a place where ‘winter’ generally means ‘a bit more rain’, I was over-optimistically dressed (“surely it won’t be *that* cold”) and so I’m not ashamed to admit that, for me, the library seemed like a useful place to defrost. And then I wandered into… the YA room.
It was huge and it had everything. Magazines, CDs, box set DVDs, audio books, and thousands of paperbacks by authors I’d never heard of, despite being a longtime YA fiction fan. I picked up several great books, including a book called That Summer by ‘new author’ Sarah Dessen. Within seconds of opening it, my passion for YA fiction had been re-lit. In That Summer, I found a main character who was an ordinary teenage girl, adjusting to the kinds of changes that many girls of her age face. I was immediately struck by the gentle introspection of the narrative. I loved the focus on relationships and Haven’s struggle to cope with a feeling of loss of control over life.
It drew me right in, and I was back in the land of YA for good. Now I’m back in Britain, too, and happy to see Sarah Dessen’s books gaining popularity here. That Summer will be released by Puffin in July, and I can’t wait to see it in UK bookshops and libraries. Sarah Dessen might even find new fans in readers escaping from a bit of rain…
I’d like to thank Sarah Dessen for her heart-warming books, and wish her a very happy birthday!
Luisa Plaja is an UK author who’s newest release is Extreme Kissing. You can find her website by clicking on the link.
Tomorrow – Sarah Ockler, author of 20 Boy Summer.