Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Dessen’

Hey, y’all! It’s been a while. I’ve been inspired by BookCon to get back on the writing book reviews train, so hopefully the motivation sticks! It got to be not fun for a while there, being REQUIRED to review books. So for a change of pace, I’ll review a few I am absolutely not required to! Starting with this gem!

I had a fantastic time at BookCon. The most notable event for me, was, of course, meeting Sarah Dessen. I’ve read her books since her beginning as a writer, and I was very excited to tell her so. For her part, she was super sweet and wonderful. And her publicist handed out flowers. It was amazing. Ignore my messy hair and weird eyes in this photo, but please share the joy:


I was super stoked to get Once and For All a few days early, so that I could have it done by the time the rest of the world got their hands on it. The book follows the standard Dessen formula: girl meets boy; girl rehashes some past traumatic event; girl avoids getting with boy we all know she should be with; girl ends up with boy, “healed” from trauma. We all know that I am not a romance person. But for some reason, Dessen and her formulaic approach to contemporary romance just really work for me.  I love her writing, her stories, her characters…etc etc. Clearly I am a fan.

To the specifics of THIS book!

I love Louna as the protagonist. I love her name, for starters, the combination of Louis and Natalie. Louna is a strong girl, but she’s damaged in the typical Dessen fashion. A romance set in a wedding planning society is a fun concept, but with massive cheese potential. Once and For All, does not, however, stray to the land of the cheese. The wedding planning aspect forms a nice background to the story–damaged girl sees everyone else falling in love, but she remains cynical after the terrible events that befell her first epic romance. Louna doesn’t wish. Louna doesn’t have expectations. She comes to work for her mother’s company, and she makes weddings run smoothly, but she does not believe in true love. 

“‘Do you believe that true love can last forever?’ … I knew she wanted a yes or no, something concise and specific and if this were any other question, I probably would have given it to her. But instead, I just sat there, silent, as I tried to put the image in my head … into any kind of words”

Enter Ambrose. He is the fairly typical Dessen male counterpart to the female protagonist. I have to be honest and say that he didn’t totally ring true for me. I wanted to like him, so badly. The text itself screamed at me to like him, especially when he saved the dog (read the book to find out more, that’s as spoiler-y as I get!). But there was something about him that didn’t ring true to me. I think it’s that, while we see Louna come full circle as a character, we don’t see Ambrose actually change. He is A one minute, and he is B the next. Others may disagree, but his evolution is too abrupt in my opinion, especially when laid beside the evolution of our lead. Louna gets there in a legit way for me. We can follow the gears in her head shifting:

“Everything in weddings and life had its phases, and if you were smart, you learned to appreciate them all. What really mattered, though, were the people in those moments with you. Memories are what we have and what we keep, and I held mine close … I was choosing to believe we had time, plenty of it.”

I just love Louna. This is the same for me for all of Dessen’s female protagonists, and it comes from the way she crafts them–Dessen’s writing of her lead is so strong that she gets us inside their heads. We follow them every step of the way down their healing path, and we’re so inside their point of view that we feel with them when they get there. I think this love is, largely, what makes Ambrose a weak counterpart for me. 

Long story short, because you’ve figured out by now that I can rave about Dessen all day long, if you like romance that’s a cut above the average, then Dessen is for you. If you like weddings and reading about behind the scenes bridal shenanigans, then Once and For All is DEFINITELY for you. Pick it up; you won’t be sorry.

4.5 stars on the Goodreads scale, .5 deduction solely for my Ambrose dislike. Agree? Disagree? Hit me up.

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I have never been more excited to receive an ARC than I was to get a copy of Sarah Dessen’s Saint Anything. I may have literally squealed. I posted a review of the sneak peek copy last month here: https://wordpress.com/post/82881117/49/

But I really, really wanted to read the full book. So thanks, Penguin. 🙂

This book centers on a teen named Sydney. Sydney is a fairly ordinary girl who lives a life of invisibility, of moving in the background of everything around her. Sydney’s brother Peyton was always the star of the family. He was a handsome athlete, got good grades, and had lots of friends. Until, suddenly, he didn’t. Peyton took a dark, fast turn towards drugs and alcohol, unable to cope with the pressure of maintaining his public persona. When he gets a drunk driving conviction and is sent to jail, he leaves Sydney trying to figure out who she is when his his shadow is not immediately present to overpower her. With Peyton gone, Sydney goes to a new school and makes some new friends, Mac and Layla Chatham. This book follows Sydney’s evolution from girl in the background to girl who can stand on her own and form her own identity. It’s a beautiful bildungsroman of sorts, Sydney’s journey, and one that any teen could identify with.

I love Sydney. Her emotions and actions are perfectly written and true to character. She’s a typical second child, a star that feels like it doesn’t shine quite as brightly as the star that came before. We get pretty deep into Sydney’s point of view, which allows us as readers to really care for her. Her interactions are all incredibly realistic, especially those she has with Ames. Ames is a creeper right out of the gate, and he remains a creeper. Sydney doesn’t stand up to him in the beginning like I, as the reader, kept hoping she would. True to character, she never voiced her discomfort and kept letting her parents shove Ames into her life.

I also really enjoyed Sydney’s mother. She desperately scrambles to make a life after Peyton’s conviction, trying to “fix” things as best as she can for her kids. She micromanages Sydney to the extreme, because she can no longer manage Peyton. Her actions are completely believable, and while frustrating for Sydney, make her incredibly sympathetic.

Who am I kidding? I really like all the characters. Dessen’s strength is in her characters; she has crafted them with a high level of believability that grabs on to the reader and refuses to let them go. My only real beef with this is that I really wanted more of Mrs. Chatham, Mac and Layla’s mother. She is such an integral part of the story, and the end, yet we only get to see her in little snippets.

There’s romance in this book, but it’s not the focus. It’s a really sweet background that speaks to the power of the relationships in our lives to help us get over our past. This book seemed more mature to me than many of Dessen’s other books, in that the focus was really on how we move forward ourselves, rather than the traditional “love can make everything better” idea. Mac and Sydney work perfectly together, especially with Mac’s backstory. (Staying spoiler free, read it to find out what I mean :D).

I was sad to see Saint Anything end. Not because the ending was bad, (it was perfect!), but because I was so in love with the characters that I wanted to live inside their world. If you’re looking for a contemporary with the perfect mix of family, friendship, drama, and light romance, this is the book for you. It has something for everybody.

Sarah Dessen’s fans will love this book. Everyone will love this book. 5 stars.

**I received Sarah Dessen’s Saint Anything as an ARC from Penguin’s First to Read program. Saint Anything is expected for publication on May 5th, 2015, by Viking Juvenile.

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You guys. YOU GUYS.

SARAH DESSEN HAS A NEW BOOK COMING OUT!!!

My joy at this fact knows no bounds. I’m not normally one for the romance, but for some reason I have always adored Sarah Dessen’s books. Her prose is always so incredible and the characters so believable that the inevitable romance doesn’t bother me. In fact, I—get ready for it—actually love it.

Her newest book, Saint Anything, looks like it’s going to be no exception to my mad Sarah Dessen book love. I had the pleasure of reading a sneak peek of the first four chapters, courtesy of Netgalley. (I hope that the powers that be will grace me with a full version to review, but that remains to be seen.) But the first four chapters really hooked me, and the book is going on my list.

Here’s what I know: The protagonist of this one is Sydney, a girl whose older brother, Peyton, has traditionally gotten all of the attention in their family. When Peyton gets a drunk driving conviction and is sent to jail, Sydney is left searching for her place in a world where she was previously borderline invisible. The prose of the sample I read was fantastically written and drew me right in. The backstory of Sydney and Peyton’s relationship really helped me to understand and care for Sydney. They are written in an incredibly realistic manner, as are all of Dessen’s characters. The sample cuts off just after the introduction of the Chatham family in the pizza parlor, but I have a feeling there is much more to them than meets the eye.

This one is going to be a boatload of themes, from growing up, to family, to self discovery, to overall change. I can’t wait to read it. And I hope I get it as an ARC! 🙂 (Please, Viking? Pleeeeeeease? I’m not ashamed to beg, and I promise to write you a fantastic review.)

If you’ve never read any Sarah Dessen, you should. My personal favorite thus far? What Happened to Goodbye. Seriously. Go buy a Sarah Dessen novel.

No. Really.

Go.