Last year, during the CBR3, I discovered the “Sloppy Firsts” series by Megan McCafferty. I inhaled the five books in a matter of days. While not great literature, there was something about the books that really appealed to me. The main character was real and likable, but not too likable. She wasn’t perfect, and while I disagreed with many of the decisions that she made over the course of the series, they seemed like things that real, human beings — and not just fictional creations — might do. And so it is with Sarah Dessen.
Over the past week, I devoured Lock and Key, Along for the Ride, Just Listen, and Dreamland. And I guess there are plenty more of Dessen’s books for me to choose from, but my library is closed for the rest of the week to be painted. Argh.
Sarah Dessen writes about high school girls who sometimes have grown-up problems. Abandonment, abuse, drugs, eating disorders, divorce, parental responsibility, runaways, and depression are just a few of the situations that these girls found themselves in between the pages of these four books. Fun, right?
But the thing about Dessen’s writing, is that I enjoyed reading about these characters and these terrible problems, because I knew that in the end, while everything isn’t completely wrapped up with a nice red bow, that things are better than when the book started, and thats all that matters.
The heroines of these books are all similar: smart and attractive, with some dysfunction at home. Communication (or lack thereof) between family members is definitely an underlying theme. These girls are all afraid to let down their guard and be honest with the world about what’s going on in their lives. They don’t want to let down their friends, or their parents, or the exceptionally cute and troubled boy that befriends her when everything is falling apart. But they work hard to face their fears and their problems, and in all cases, find themselves happier and stronger in the end.
One little bit that I enjoyed about these books is the way that they all seem to connect to one another indirectly. They take place in the same towns (somewhere in the Carolinas, I’m guessing), go to the same high schools, and eat at the same place for burgers or coffee. Dessen has created her own little universe, and in doing so makes me miss the beach terribly.
As mom to two daughters (still way too young for these books), I’ll keep these in mind for the teenage years, when communication problems might arise between us.