9 Reasons you should be reading Sarah Dessen Books

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Nine reasons you should be reading Sarah Dessen’s novels:

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

She Writes YA

but you definitely don’t have to be in the YA age range to love her books. If anything, she’s proof that that’s a silly idea. I read my first of her novels, This Lullaby, when I was fifteen. I loved it and felt an obsessive need to get my hands on more of her stuff, even though I was a few years away from the drama Remy dealt with in the novel. That is only stronger in reverse. Now I’m 8-11 years away from her protagonists in the opposite direction, and I’m obsessed with them. It probably has something to do with…


Which, honestly, is pure magic. Here’s why: I am a mother. For the past five-ish years, my summers have been filled with, “Oh god, school is out, he’s going to be home ALL THE TIME.” Speaking of which, y’all, summer vacation starts in two weeks and DEAR GOD WHY. Anyway, I have been a mother to that amazing, beautiful, annoying little boy since I was sixteen. I never even had the kind of summers Dessen writes about. She manages to make me nostalgic for a place and time and existence I’ve never actually experienced. It definitely helps that…

Everything is set in Colby

Well, not everything. But most of her books are set in Colby, a fictitious beach town that feels more real than half the places I’ve actually been. The town is like another character. A full, well-developed character that you can’t help but fall in love with. I feel like I’ve shopped at Clementine’s and eaten at Last Chance. So the town is a kick-ass secondary character, and then we have…

The main characters

Who are wonderful. Every one is a distinct individual. She writes first person, but there’s no confusing the leading ladies. They speak and think and behave differently, which is exactly how it should be. Each has her own plans, feelings, and agency. Which is why they are…

Strong female characters

These girls are amazing in that they’re all delightfully flawed and real. I will be honest in saying I have not personally tested it, but I would bet my left elbow that every novel of Dessen’s passes the Bechdel test. Is there pretty much always a love story? Yes. But there’s so much more than that, too. They worry about realistic things like high school or college, parental divorce, their height, their weird aunt, basketball, sex. That’s not to mention…

The really tough topics

And Dessen pulls exactly zero punches. Rape, physical abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders… she talks about all of these in realistic ways. I would find it hard to believe if she’d never taken any shit for writing about these things. But that’s the point, she doesn’t write about teenagers the way we think they should behave. She writes about them exactly as they are. It would be difficult to find a teenager who hasn’t struggled with one or more of these. And then there’s…


And I don’t think we give enough credit to teenagers for how fucking hard it is to be in love. What I love about the way Dessen tackles relationships is that they’re so realistic. The kids don’t meet one time and go, “Oh my god, this is it, this is it forever.” She gives every romantic relationship realistic time to develop. It makes it that much more exciting when they finally do show their feelings, when Annabel and Owen finally kiss. Because it doesn’t feel rushed or impossible. It feels real. It makes you love the characters and their relationships so much more. And that’s why the funnest part is how…

The characters make cameos in her other novels

Not always by name. Sometimes it’s something so simple, you’d only catch it if you’d read the other book. As simple as being in Last Chance and seeing a “pretty girl with a lip ring.” And you’re like, “I KNOW HER.” It is so exciting, to hear about the characters you still love so dearly. And all of these things are only made cooler when you realize…

Sarah Dessen herself is just freaking awesome

I follow her on Twitter, and I’ve read many a blog post and interview of hers. She seems like such a phenomenal person. Through social media she’s told a lot about herself in unflinching detail, and it’s amazing to have that kind of honesty in someone that so many look up to.

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen


You can read a recent review with Sarah Dessen here.

Here are links to a few of my favorite of her books, in case you’d like to get them on Amazon! *I only link up books I give 5 stars and have 100% faith in*





4 thoughts on “Nine Reasons You Should be Reading Sarah Dessen

  1. Jorie says:

    Hallo, Hallo Savanah,

    I’ve seen this author’s name pop up time after time – never honestly picked up one of her stories to read – however, it wasn’t because I was bias or anything, it was one of those moments where you get an inkling about a story you want to read but then get distracted by another ‘something’ as life evolves so quickly in motion of different moments, you sometimes forget the ‘discovery’ in lieu of just ‘living’? At least, that is the best way I can describe it! lol In any case, she is an author I thought, I just need to give a whirl about reading and seeing if I can find a way into her narratives.

    Contemporary Fiction for me is one of those sections of Lit I’m quite particularly particular about – as sometimes I find myself so hugged close to the stories and characters whilst other times, I’m half a stone exiting the narrative as something just didn’t jive. *However!* having said this – I love how up front you are about your own personal experiences and why her stories resonate with you – not only for the heart she inks into her characters’ lives but how authentic she writes her stories overall. I love reading about a reader’s honest immersion into a writer’s voice and world; to understand how they felt moved by a story and by how an author allowed them a full step removed from their life and a full step dissolved into theirs. It’s the circle of experiencing a writer’s thoughts and the ways in which words ink out of their pens we all hope to experience at one point or another.

    I totally agree with you about YA not being strictly for YA audiences! I have felt this over and over again – one of my favourite finds was actually “The Summer of Chasing Mermaids” – a review I loved writing but didn’t exactly get notes left under it. I think because my review hit at the climax of all the other reviews, so one more bookish reader celebrating it’s story-line was muddled by the avalanche of cheers.

    (Here it is: https://jorielovesastory.com/2015/08/05/blog-book-tour-the-summer-of-chasing-mermaids-by-sarah-ockler)

    I also found it hard to write the review – as I was so inside the character’s shoes, and due to the depth of her character’s journey and the subject matter discussed therein, I only could hope my reactions were understood by those who found my review as it was a stirring story to read. One of my favourites of that season of reading, too.

    Another one I loved was “Hannah Both Ways” – which is definitely another slice of Realistic YA (here’s this one: https://jorielovesastory.com/2015/11/30/blog-book-tour-hannah-both-ways-by-rosie-greenway) – I felt both were UpperYA additions and written not only timely for today’s Contemporary world but honestly written to boot. 🙂

    Part of what you were writing here lent me to think I’d like this author too for the same reasons I’ve appreciated these other stories. For that, I thank you! 🙂 As a side note: the Serenity series by Sherryl Woods surprised me by including body image issues and eating disorders in regards to the teenage daughter of one of the lead characters. Sometimes, you can find authors who truly tackle hard-hitting subjects and story-lines but honour those stories with writing compassionately told tales!

    1. Savanah says:

      I totally understand! There are SO many books I want to read and know I should read but just haven’t made time for because I have so much going on. Dessen is definitely worth it though.

      I hear you! I’m picky about contemporary, too. Especially in YA, where I often feel like it’s obvious that adults are writing the story. I need to feel that the teens are acting realistic for teens.

      Popping over to read those reviews!

  2. No need to convince me about reading Sarah Dessen, I love her books too. It’s great you listed it all up though and you had me nodding all the way through. It’s really been too long since I read one of her novels!

    1. Savanah says:

      I try to re-read one once a year or so! Her books are like comfort food for me. I feel lost without them 🙂

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