Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Worshipping at the Temple of Sarah Dessen

I have been reading Young Adult Romance since somewhere around the fourth grade, when I ordered the Princess Diaries off the Scholastic Book order, when the movie was still in theatres. After that, I slowly winded my way through the rest of the Meg Cabot's and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic books and everything along that path.

In the eighth grade I discovered Sarah Dessen, by the proxy of a friend who has long forgotten me and a class I have long forgotten the name of. It was during a silent reading period. I have no idea what I was reading that day, but it was the book that my friend Allie was reading that has impacted my life for years to come. That book was Dreamland by Sarah Dessen.

Our teacher instructed us to go around the class, each sharing the book we were reading. My friend shared her book adding that she "really liked it". Those three words changed my reading and writing forever. I went to the bookstore that weekend and perused the Dessen books, purchasing two: The Truth About Forever and This Lullaby. I remember looking at Keeping the Moon and thinking it looked stupid, with the sunglasses on the cover. Silly me.

Ever since I have been an avid Dessen fan. I read the rest of her collection, though those first two will always be my favourites. I started reading her blog every day since I don't know how long. Since before she had her daughter. A little after Just Listen I guess. And I've eagerly anticipated her new books. I can't wait for What Happened to Goodbye this May. I am a Sarah Dessen fan through and through.

As I've been on my blog quest this last few weeks I've come to notice that, in the blogosphere Sarah Dessen is kind of like a god. Every blogger writes glowing reviews of all her books. They reference her all the time too, saying things like "this Elizabeth Scott book is written in a very Dessen-esque style". Being "Dessen-esque" is a very good thing. The golden standard of book blogs. The best of the best of the best. It's not just me. Everyone, and I really do mean EVERY SINGLE PERSON loves her.

I find this kind of funny. First, because I found out about her from such a random source, so many years ago. Unlike a lot of the books I read, I didn't find about Sarah from an author blog or a book blog or Amazon Recommends or any of my usual channels. I almost stumbled upon her and she turned out to be a mega star. Who knew?

I also find it amusing because, even though I stumbled upon her, I have always held her as one of my golden, guaranteed-to-read authors, among the ranks of Meg Cabot, Deb Caletti, Emily Giffin, Ann Brashares, and a few select others. The top one or two of that list (I go back and forth--Cabot/Dessen, Cabot/Dessen. How does a girl choose?). Apparently I am not the only one who has done this. Apparently she really is as great as I've always thought. Again, I ask, who knew?

Finally, I find it funny since, though much of the blogosphere has seem to forgotten this, not every Dessen book is pure gold. That Summer is really not that good. Lock and Key is above average, not great. Someone Like You has a lot of heart, but is not quite at the same level as many of her others. Yet SD is still worshipped like a holy god, never one to be doubted or even put on par with.

This post feels like it should have a definitive point, some type of big reveal. It doesn't. I'm sorry. There is no real purpose to this other to say that it's funny how life works out. I just wanted to mention how this seemingly sudden Dessen mania has set it. I wander what Sarah Dessen thinks of it. I wonder what you think of it. Here are some pertinent blog posts so you can judge for yourself: The Sarah Dessen Diarist, Along for the Ride Review, a Dessen-esque book.

One final question for you then: Do you worship at the Temple of Sarah Dessen? Why or why not?


  1. Hi Katherine. I commented on your other blog about coming to NZ just before, and now I have to comment on this one too.
    I love Sarah Dessen! I can't even remember how I discovered her book, until I read your book I had never even met anyone who had heard of her... Unbelievable I know! This Lullaby is my favourite book ever. I have read hundred of books that I loved and that made an impact on me, but this one was the best. I read it years ago but even now I still go back and reread it whenever I need comfort or a reminder of how everyone finds love in the end, even the cynics.

  2. I reread the Dessen books like crazy. I've always loved This Lullaby--I love Dexter and I love Remy. I reread the first chapter a lot.

    I have a lot of books like that--Sarah Dessen, Meg Cabot, Megan McCafferty--that I reread when I'm feeling sad. Sometimes, I reread the romantic endings, and sometimes I just open to random pages. It always makes me feel better.

    I really do hope everyone finds love in the end.


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