The New Kids on the BlockThere is a lot of hype and talk about some contemporary authors being the Be All End All of the genre. Their novels are the ones everyone recommends and everyone seems to have read. But I feel like no matter who else comes on the block, Sarah Dessen will always be my favourite author. Full stop. Not favourite contemporary author, just favourite author in general.
I've seen a lot of taglines for soon to be released books say "For fans of Sarah Dessen..." but when I was a teenager (long ago in a galaxy far away...), you couldn't walk into a bookstore without one of the staff recommending you read a Sarah Dessen novel. Typically, they would tell you to read THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER and so that is what my mom bought me when I told her for my 13th birthday that I wanted to read more books.
The Book That Changed My LifeI opened the book on my birthday and barely said "Thank you" before immediately diving in -- even with my friends and family there. I was so engrossed in the book that I finished it that day. Because I loved this book so much, I wanted to read more by this author. So I had my mom drive me to the bookstore the next day and I found that there were five other books by her published. Score! I bought KEEPING THE MOON and DREAMLAND and went home to read.
I think it's pretty safe to say that not only did I finish those books within a week, but I got the other two novels that Sarah Dessen had published at the time (in 2005, so not quite as many as there are now but enough) and read them immediately. Then I waited.
I Became A Teensy Bit ObsessedI followed Sarah Dessen's career and books and got each one on the day they came out and promptly read them. I was enthralled. I would recommend them to anyone and everyone who asked me for a book recommendation. I have read and reread these novels so many times that I had to buy a whole new set of books. When they were repackaged with the new fonts, I bought another new set because I wanted them all to match. They have a special shelf on my bookshelf because they are SO important to me. (I have them ordered from my most to least favourite novel. You can guess which is where in the comments below!)
How One Person's Words Can Shape AnotherBut I keep coming back to the "Why". Why are these books -- and this author -- so important to me and my growth as an individual (because I can safely say that Sarah Dessen novels have shaped my life) and it keeps coming back to the same thing: She knows how to make you feel as though someone else is there for you, experiencing the same thing, and they are making it through okay. It takes a really talented person to not only convey a message about the trials of being a teenager, but also give the reader hope that if they are going through the same thing that they will be okay as long as they keep moving forward.
I've had some Pretty Traumatic Things happen to me over the course of my 23 years and when I am having one of the harder days, I reread a Sarah Dessen novel that matches my situation and mood. It always calms me down because I KNOW there is someone else out there who is dealing with this. I feel as though I am not alone. That's what these novels have given to me.
Real Life: Sarah Dessen VersionI obviously have my preferences for the novels I like the most and I read those more often, but I find myself reading the ones that have similar stories to ones I would tell if I were to write the story of my life. And I think that is something that a lot of authors don't seem to do as much anymore. Sarah Dessen writes novels that make you really think about things that are happening in your life. And that's not for everyone. I get that people don't want to be read about the shitty things that are happening to them or in their lives, but sometimes it is nice to know that you aren't alone.
TL;DR version: I love Sarah Dessen. I'm so glad I got to meet her last year and I can't wait to see what else she brings out because I will read whatever it is.