Everyone knows that Sarah Dessen is the queen of contemporary romance and adorable (and often darker or more complex), coming-of-age summer stories. I have read and loved most of her books already, but I made it a point recently to read (or in a lot of cases, reread) all of her books. Her books are important to so many people and really are what got many of us into reading contemporary romance books. This summer, Cristina from Girl in the Pages and I have teamed up to talk alllllll about Sarah Dessen – when we started reading her books, our experiences with rereading, and other fun discussions, recommendations, and personal stories. Our feature will take place over 4 weeks this June on Wednesdays (here) and Thursdays (there).
Introduction, Our Sarah Stories, and Discussion of Someone Like You
June 7th on Bookmark Lit – June 8th on Girl in the Pages
Dessen Recommendations and Similar Stories
June 14th on Bookmark Lit – June 15th on Girl in the Pages
Blog Features: Cover Colors and I Will Go Down with My Ship
June 21st on Bookmark Lit – June 22nd on Girl in the Pages
Once and For All, Dessen Favorites, and Wrap-Up
June 28th on Bookmark Lit – June 29th on Girl in the Pages
As I mentioned in my intro paragraph, Sarah Dessen has been my go-to favorite for years and years. I don’t remember the first time I picked up one of her books, but I’m fairly sure it was This Lullaby or The Truth About Forever. It’s funny because I remember them being some of my top favorites out of all of her books and they’re the last ones I need to reread! I think I’m afraid they may not hold up to my high standard/memory of them. In any case, I remember browsing the used bookstore we frequent in Maine and picking up more Dessen books each summer. I’d read them in one sitting on my grammie’s porch or on the beach.
I recently shared this story but I’ll do it again because it’s always relevant. My strongest Dessen memory is when I was 17 years old, during the summer before I went away to college. Along for the Ride had just come out in June of that year. Back then I didn’t really track book release dates, so I wasn’t aware. We went into this little bookstore in Maine near the Dunkin Donuts, as was our tradition, and the shopkeeper asked me if I liked Sarah Dessen. I said I did, so he procured this “advanced reader copy” of the book from behind the counter. He said he wasn’t likely to read it and hoped I’d enjoy it (on the house of course). I had no idea what an ARC was at the time but I was happy to grab it. I have since lost or donated the book accidentally and am super bummed about that. Either way, I have a lot of strong memories tied to Sarah Dessen. She was my first ARC, technically!
Reading her books feels like coming home. It feels like summer. It makes me want to visit Emerald Isle, NC (where the Colby, NC books are based on). I will always look forward to her newest release and don’t think that will change as long as she keeps writing. 💖
Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen
Published by Penguin on May 1st 1998
Also by this author: That Summer, Saint Anything, Just Listen, What Happened to Goodbye, Keeping the Moon, Lock & Key, Along for the Ride, Once and for All, The Rest of the Story
(281 pages) • Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble
Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett. But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she's carrying his baby, she was devastated. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Their friendship may bend under the weight, but it'll never break--because a true friendship is a promise you keep forever.
Before I got started with the questions below, I want to just note that I barely remembered anything about this book when I revisited it. I must have read it back in the early 2000s, soon after it was first released. It’s really a solid, complex story by Dessen for sure. Teen pregnancy is always a “touchy subject” in society so it’s interesting to think of it released during that timeframe especially. In any case, this is a timeless story that touches on countless things teens experience today. I’m glad I reread it as always.
Book Buddies Ask is an occasional feature on our blogs where we answer a few questions about a book we both read during a similar timeframe. Today we’ll be focusing on Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen to kick off our summer feature!
What are some of the differences you noticed in Dessen’s earlier writing compared to her more recent works?
It’s interesting because I can see that she’s grown as a writer in some ways, but changed a little bit in others. Her first story (That Summer) felt very underdeveloped for me and has never been one of my favorites. Her second book (this one) brought in a lot of complex and somewhat dark topics for a YA contemporary at the time! I absolutely loved her most recent released (Saint Anything) and felt like it was a story I could literally feel like I was in. I could taste the pizza, french fries, and lollipops. The book right before that one (The Moon and More) was actually a DNF for me. I couldn’t handle the MC and the love triangle, so I skipped it. So, as you can see, my feelings about her writing have definitely varied. It doesn’t depend as much on when the books were written, at least in terms of my opinions! However, like I said, I think she has grown as a writer in general. She still includes complicated stories and characters dealing with tough issues. Even her “lighter” summery books involve those tough topics or family/friend relationships.
Which best friend did you identify with/like more: Halley or Scarlett?
This is a tough one! I think one of my biggest issues with this book is that Halley doesn’t have much of a personality apart from being Scarlett’s friend. She even somewhat admits that during the first part of the book when she describes how they meet. Obviously Scarlett’s life gets turned upside down when she finds out she’s pregnant with her recently deceased boyfriend’s baby, which is not something I can relate to in any way. I liked her a lot as a supportive friend and interesting character. I think in terms of relatability, I have to go with Halley. I have totally been suckered in by boys who I think are good for me but actually aren’t. The teenage decisions within relationships are extremely real and relatable for me. The slow progression throughout the book when you realize Macon isn’t as great as he seems was so true to real life relationships and decisions.
Someone Like You focuses heavily on relationships, especially flawed ones. Which relationship (aside from Scarlett and Halley’s) did you find most compelling in the book?
I touched on this a little bit but I was really interested in the relationship between Halley and Macon. I’ve been drawn in by bad boys before (who sometimes have thoughtful, kind elements to their personality) and it hasn’t ended well. The relationship between Halley and her parents (more specifically her mom) was definitely compelling. I think a lot of teens can relate to growing apart from your parents and how you can “update” your relationship with them as you grow older. It may not be the same as when you were 5 or 10 years old, but you can still be close in other ways. I thought her parents were definitely a bit strict but I can see where they were coming from (especially because I’m in my mid-twenties and constantly trying to remember that as I read about teens).