#ReadADessen Review: Along for the Ride

It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.
A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.
In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.

 

The first time i read Along for the Ride I was in high school.  Now that I am an adult and am re-reading this book I am seeing it in a much different light. When I was younger I never realized how toxic Auden’s mother and father were. While I was reading this i was kind of shocked to see how toxic her parents were because i did not remember seeing them in such a negative light. As someone who has dealt with toxic family members in their life, I understand the struggle one goes through while coming to terms with the fact that someone you love is toxic to you and you don’t want to let that person go because you do love them and care about them. Auden deals with her parents toxicity gracefully as she learns who she is.

This book is all about change and if people can change. At the beginning of the story we see Auden as a young woman who doesn’t really know who she is. She does her best to please her parents and she does the best in school so that they will notice her.  As the story progresses we see Auden come out of her shell, and learn who she is as well as who she wants to be. The journey Auden goes through is something most young women can relate to. In this book we also see how the people around Auden change, it is nice that we can see the changes her parents go through as she grows as a person.

Although this is not my favorite Sarah Dessen book this is most definitely in my top 5 favorites.This book is perfect for any woman who has had any type of family issue or has simply experienced change in their life.

4.5 Bards

Along for the Ride


Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only

#ReadADessen Revew: This Lullaby

 

 

When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn’t mess around. After all, she’s learned all there is to know from her mother, who’s currently working on husband number five. But there’s something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy’s rules. He certainly doesn’t seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can’t seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy’s starting to understand what those love songs are all about?

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a review of This Lullaby just because it is extremely hard for me to try not to gush about how much I love this novel and try to give it an actual critique-type review.  I am going to try though, but be forewarned: this is one of my favorite books of all time, so be prepared for gush.

Let me start off by saying that Dessen does an excellent job of establishing Remy’s, the narrator, voice immediately.  Not only is Remy a bit snarky, but she has some serious sarcastic and bitchy moments that really help characterize her for the rest of the novel.  Remy has a rock solid group of girlfriends to spend the summer with before college, and a typical place to hang out and sneak drinks underage.  I had all of these things as well.  Probably one of the reasons when I read this originally when it came out I felt like Dessen was writing about my life and my initial love for the novel.

After reading it again, I find that I am impressed by Dessen’s story telling ability and the subtle growth that Remy makes as the book continues.  Not only does Remy’s attitude start to shift, but she begins to become the person she needs to be in order to succeed in life.

Dexter, oh Dexter.  What can I really say about my first laugh-out-loud enjoyment and crush on a fictional character?  This doofus would likely be the love of my life if he was real.  The whole scene where Dexter and John Miller are discussing their respective relationships while sitting outside the QuikZip is brilliant.  Kudos to Dessen to making such an endearing character so vibrant and, well, crushworthy.

I will leave you with some of my favorite quotes from This Lullaby, and an active plea for you to pick up a copy of this novel as soon as you can.  You will not regret it!

Favorite Quotes:

“Everything, in the end, comes down to timing. One second, one minute, one hour, could make all the difference. So much hanging on just these things, tiny increments that together build a life. Like words build a story, and what had Ted said? One word can change the entire world.”

“I meant what I said to you. I wasn’t playing some kind of summer game. Everything I said was true, from the first day. EVERY GODDAMN WORD.”

“Huffah.”

5 Bards to the story I’ve always loved and for the story I will always re-read.

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Celebration Giveaway!

I’m not sure if you all follow Sarah Dessen on Facebook or any of her other Social Media outlets, but she finally released that she is currently writing a new novel.

Now, maybe you aren’t as excited about this as I am, but Sarah Dessen is the reason I even enjoy contemporary young adult literature.  I frequently recommend my favorite of hers, This Lullaby, to those who are asking for contemporary book requests.

SarahDessenSelfie

When I got to interview Sarah Dessen

I am super excited about the fact that she is working on a new novel, so I am giving away 2 Sarah Dessen paperbacks!

You can check out my reviews of some of her novels at the following links and read my interview with Sarah, too!

This Lullaby

Along for the Ride

That Summer

The Moon & More

Saint Anything

Interview

Enter to win these paperbacks now!  The contest ends on Monday, March 14.

 

 

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Summer of Sarah Dessen Review: Along for the Ride

It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

I think the most wonderful thing about reading Dessen’s books after having met her and spoke with her about her characters is that while I can tell the difference between them, is that they have a specific thing in common.  Most of them are a bit socially awkward and have little experience in the social department, and Auden is no different.  Many of them are a bit bookish as well, which makes me love them more because I was the same way.  Auden is different from the others in that she is very independent.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have been brave enough to go to a diner by myself at 4:00 AM when I was that young.  Auden’s brave streak really flourishes in Dessen’s narrative, and I think that it really defines her more than her intelligence or her being an introvert.

Along for the Ride really exemplifies how the “journey” trope in a narrative can be used without a character going on an actual, physical journey (i.e. a road trip, destination trip, etc).  Auden goes on a metaphysical journey over the course of living in Colby for the summer.  She has her first sexual experience, makes her first girlfriends, learns that there is more to life than studying and academic achievement.  There are a lot of themes that run throughout this novel, discovering who you really are is one of them, but the other one is with family.  Dessen is practically an expert at exploring familial relationships and dynamics in her narratives.  Auden has to deal with her estranged parents and their expectations for her, her father’s remarriage and newborn child, and her flighty brother flitting around Europe.

This novel’s pacing is wonderful and the story is over before you even realize it.  The characters introduced throughout the story are all important to understanding the dynamics of friend groups and how important friends are to becoming the person you want to be.  I especially love the friendship that grows between Auden and Maggie throughout this story, because it starts off pretty rough, but they come to really know one another.  Auden’s romantic interest in the book, Eli, is someone who comes from a damaged background too.  I like that there is a certain aspect of them helping one another discover how to pick up the pieces and move forward.

Along for the Ride: 5 Bards

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For more on Sarah Dessen here at A Midsummer Night’s Read, check out my INTERVIEW with her and read my reviews from the first two weeks of the Summer of Sarah Dessen.

Week 1 – Saint Anything
Week 2 – The Moon and More
Week 3 – That Summer

Be sure to follow along with the Summer of Sarah Dessen, and leave a link to your review in the comments!

SummerwithSarahDessen

 

Summer of Sarah Dessen Review: That Summer

9780142401729_ThatSummer_CV.inddThe more things change…

As far as Haven is concerned, there’s just too much going on.

Everything is changing, and she’s not sure where she fits in.

Then her sister’s old boyfriend shows up, sparking memories of the summer when they were all happy and everything was perfect…

But along the way, Haven realizes that sometimes change is a good thing.

To be completely honest, it has been at least 10 years, if not more, since I originally read That Summer.  So while this novel isn’t one of my go to re-reads of Dessen’s, I still think that it is a really good exemplification of how much an author can grow from the beginning of their career to where they are now.  Speaking of NOW, you can check out my review of Sarah Dessen’s newest release, Saint Anything, by clicking on the title.

Anyway, there is a lot that goes on in That Summer, so much so that it can be an overwhelming narrative at times.  I think that Dessen has really improved from a narration stand point since this novel, but I also think that the jumbled narration fits really well with Haven’s character.  Haven is a girl who begins the novel stuck in the past.  She is constantly comparing the way things are currently in the story, with her parents divorced and her dad remarrying, to the way it once was during one specific summer.  Now, I firmly believe that Dessen did a superb job portraying Haven as a girl who looks back before she looks forward, and I believed it 100% because I was also that girl.  Haven is delightfully down to Earth and easy to relate to.

Ashley, her older sister, former serial dater turned conservative bride-to-be reminded me of a lot of girls that I knew in high school.  I found her to be very unrelatable, but I really liked the exploration of the sisterly bond and how it can ebb and flow over the course of changing personalities and the widening of different experiences.

I think that the thing I enjoy about all of Dessen’s novels is how the events of her novels really effect the family as a unit.  That Summer is more focused on that dynamic than some of her other books and I really think that since there isn’t a super sizzling romance involving the main character that a lot of readers didn’t enjoy the story.  But I think that this narrative is much more than that, it is really about the familial bond that can still be there under the duress of change.  Those with similar family issues would probably feel a very strong connection to this book, but even though I didn’t experience any of these, I really felt like I was witnessing a real experience.

4 Bards for That Summer.

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For more on Sarah Dessen here at A Midsummer Night’s Read, check out my INTERVIEW with her and read my reviews from the first two weeks of the Summer of Sarah Dessen.

Week 1 – Saint Anything
Week 2 – The Moon and More

Be sure to follow along with the Summer of Sarah Dessen, and leave a link to your review in the comments!

SummerwithSarahDessen

Summer of Sarah Dessen Review: The Moon and More

Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline’s mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?

Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?

It is no secret that Sarah Dessen is an author who pretty much defined my high school years and her novel This Lullaby is still one of my favorite novels of all time. So when I got this book last summer I devoured it and then put it aside.  It is almost personal for me to write a review of a novel by Dessen, since I adore her work so much.  Well, I decided to suck it up and re-read The Moon and More so I could finally start doing some reviews of Dessen’s work (to go along with PenguinTeen’s SUMMER OF SARAH DESSEN initiative! Schedule is below).  Oh yeah, have I mentioned that Dessen is a North Carolina based author, and a lot of her summer stories feature landscapes and beaches from the Outer Banks?  Yay North Carolina!

sarahdessen signedAll of Dessen’s novels have endings that are perfectly fitting and satisfying.  Now, saying this, be aware that not all of the novels end with a happy romance or anything like that.  Some of the stories are more based on the individual destiny of the character and the outcome of familial issues.  The Moon and More is one that is more based in Emaline’s destiny than about romance, which means that the summary can be a little misleading.  Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of adorable romantic moments between Emaline and the two leading men, Theo and Luke, but the story is really about Emaline.

I love this about this novel because it really focuses on how Emaline has been disappointed by her family and the fact that she comes to realize that her dreams aren’t necessarily what she thought they were.  The novel basically outlines how Emaline comes to adore her half-brother, works hard the entire summer, and eventually she understands that the things that happen with her estranged Father are devastating, but that a relationship between them can still be salvaged.  It is especially a good read for those who aren’t 100% sure where their life is going, or if something has happened that is hard to recover from.  Go and read this book now.  Be sure to watch out for more of my Sarah Dessen reviews coming up…as I will be rereading my favorites!

For more on Sarah Dessen here at A Midsummer Night’s Read, check out my INTERVIEW with her and my review of her latest novel, Saint Anything.

four.fivebards4.5 Bards

 

 

Be sure to follow along with the Summer of Sarah Dessen, and leave a link to your review in the comments!

SummerwithSarahDessen

Summer of Sarah Dessen: Interview

Not only did I get the chance to meet one of my favorite young adult authors of all time, but Sarah Dessen is one of the reasons I started studying Children’s Literature.  Her novels are personal favorites and they are the books I revisit often when I need a comfortable story to reset my reading gauge.  My copies of her books are worn out from reading and re-reading; so much so that one has been replaced about 3 times now, one has been missing a slip cover since it came out in 2004, a few have wrinkled pages from various things being spilt on them over the years, and more than one have soft edges from being carried around in my purse for whenever the opportunity to read arose.

Before Dessen’s tour stop at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC (the inspiration for Lakeview, people!) I was able to sit down with her (and her beautiful daughter, Sasha) to ask a few questions.

SarahDessenSelfie

Selfie with Sarah!

Midsummer Reads (MR): The first thing I wanted to say is thanks for talking to me before your event!

Sarah Dessen (SD): Of course!

MR: And congrats on 12 books!

SD: I know, right? It’s so exciting. Every book is a surprise and an accomplishment. You’d think that by number 12 that I’d know what I was doing and I would feel secure but I don’t. I think it almost makes it worse because of the pressure to sort of keep the quality up and to keep the readers interested.

MR: Well there are those of us who have been reading them, you know, since we could.

SD: Yeah! I mean more and more on this tour in particular there are a lot of people that have come through and said they’ve been reading my books since they were in middle school and now they are in their twenties.

MR: Yeah.

SD: And I’m so grateful that they are still reading and that they want to keep reading YA. I’ve had a lot of people ask, “I wish you would write about people in their twenties,” “I wish you would write about people of different ages older ages.” But I just haven’t had that idea yet so I’m just waiting to see, you know?

MR: Well, it’s interesting because one of my friends from high school, well, when I got my Masters in Children’s Lit, you know, people were like that’s exciting you get to go to BEA and stuff, but you know I told them I get to interview you, this one girl got really excited, she’s an elementary school teacher, and said, “Tell her she’s got to write some stuff for elementary school kids. And I’ll share it with everybody!” And I said, “Okay, I’ll ask!”

SarahandSascha1

Sarah and a Shy Sasha

SD: I mean we (looking at Sasha) read a lot, we read amazing picture books together. and right now we are reading chapter books like Amelia Bedelia and the Amazing Princesses and stuff, but I feel like it is so much harder! Picture books are like poetry to me, people say like, “You should write a picture book,” like it is easy and I don’t even know how you do that. But I am getting to discover a lot more books through her (Sasha), which is awesome.

MR: Well that’s good.  This is kind of a personal question that I have from it: all of your books kind of have their own special little world, and there’s no real pop culture references, which I love because it doesn’t date the text. Was that intentional?

SD: Right.

MR: or was that accidental that you did?

SD: I think a lot of it is intentional. I think we’ve done some music that we’ve used but it’s always been older more classic music.  But I remember with Someone Like You, which was my second book back in 1998, and I remember there was a scene where Haley and Scarlet were in the doctor’s office and originally I had Haley reading a magazine, like People magazine, that had Brad Pitt on the cover. and my editor was like, “Brad Pitt?” You have to put someone else. So I thought, “Elvis! Elvis is forever,” and she was like, “No, these teens won’t know who that is.”  So I made it Frank Sinatra and she said, “Sinatra will be dead by the time this book comes out!” Which is funny because he died like 2 days before the book came out.

MR: Oh God, it is like she cursed him!

SD: But it’s tricky. You know I’ve been very hesitant about using technology and hesitant about doing text.

MR: I noticed that in Saint Anything.

SD: and you know the iPOD in Just Listen, you know, I think I called it something else. Because you want them to be timeless.  And I’ve gone back and read some books from my teen years and thought like these are really dated. And now some go back and update them, like Lauren Myracle did with her TTYL or whatever. But I feel like I want them to be timeless so you can go back and read them.

MR: And I honestly love that because it does make it so much fun to read and you know you connect it to your other books.

DessenTalking

Sarah taking questions

SD: The issues are timeless in some ways. I graduated high school a billion million years ago, but a lot of the same issues persist like the ones you have with your mom, issues with your friends, with your significant other, whoever that may be, your after school job. I mean a lot of that stuff doesn’t change and I think that is why YA is still appealing across the board to so many kinds of people. Whether you are in high school now or you were ever in high school you can relate to it.

MR: Right. I agree. Okay, if you had to pick one of your books for new readers to start with, which one would it be and why?

SD: I don’t know! I would pick either The Truth About Forever or Saint Anything. I’ve seen, this trip in particular, so many people coming through the line with The Truth About Forever dog-eared, coffee stained, wrinkled from the pool, pages highlighted, but I feel like Saint Anything is as good place to start to because it’s kind of a return to form.

(Sasha got a stool to sit on at this point.  Up until now she had been adorably sitting on her mom’s lap)

SD: But yeah it’s a return to form. Not that the last few books haven’t been complicated, but I feel like this book is a bit more like The Truth About Forever and Just Listen in that it has a wider canvas and moving pieces. So it would be my dream that people would you know, pick up Saint Anything because they’ve heard buzz about it or they are excited about it and they read it and they’re like, “Oh there’s all these other books!,” because I love that.  Like Jodi Picoult, I had read some of her books, then I read Leaving Time, and I loved it and now I’m working my way through her back-list, which I think is the best thing in the world when you discover an author and realize that there are so many other books.

MR: Yeah.  Moving on to Saint Anything, specifically.  Music is very important in the text. It has been a theme in some of your other novels, so is that something that–music is so important to your writing process, creatively? Or is that something that you feel connected to, music?

SD: I think it’s kind of waxed and waned with me. I mean I was very into music when I was younger and now I listen to more– Sasha and I are really into Taylor Swift these days.

MR: Hey, her new album is awesome.

SD: Yeah, yeah I think music can take you to a place. Like I wrote Just Listen which was so much based on music and how music can kind of define a moment more than anything else. and in this book (Saint Anything) I felt that it really showed the difference between the two worlds. Like with Sydney, Layla and the bluegrass. Like, I don’t write southern novels, I think, for the most part, but I do love putting Southern touches in my novels.  Like just putting bluegrass in there. You know, growing up here, it was always on in the background. But you know I do think music is important.  I don’t listen to music when I’m writing, like I can’t have anything–I have to have that silence, you know, unless I’m in a coffee shop and then I tune everything out. But I do have playlists for all of my books–not that I listened to while I was writing–but when I was driving around.

MR: What song would you listen to a lot when you were doing this book?

SD: Well, with this one it was Brave, which is our Sara Bareilles song. Because I had a book I started before this book, which failed, and I set it aside. And I wasn’t sure if another idea was going to bubble up so it was the idea of I just have to sit here and see if another story is going to come to me, and it may not and maybe, you know, I’ve been in this a long time.  It is going to be 20 years in the Fall of 2016 so maybe you know, there are all these young people coming up behind me and maybe I need to like, rest on my laurels for a while, and if another story doesn’t come then you know. It was a really big, scary  moment to set that book aside.  But I’m so glad I did because this book is so much better.

MR: So do you think you’d ever go back to that one, though?

DessenFanGift

Sarah surprising long time fan, Kayla, with a gift

SD: No. And the thing is that, after I finished Saint Anything, I did a big clean out of my closet because my writing is so out of my control that I like to  organize everything, I’m always organizing all of her (Sasha) toys.  But up in my attic I found these thirteen manuscripts, counting the one I had set aside, and I set them out in my driveway and took a picture of them. And they each had a sticky note with the narrator’s name on it, and I was like I’ve published 12 books and I have 13 failed novels. Like, something isn’t working here, this can’t be part of my process.  But it may be that it’s what you need like a palate cleansing in between because in YA you are expected to publish so frequently. And you know if you are in adult contemporary you can take you know 5- 10 years in between books and no one gives you a hard time. But I’m considered slow with every two years. Which is just insane to me!

MR: I think it’s maybe because of the attention span of a lot of YA readers

SD: And because people are used to series and with series there is that pressure.  And I’ve just always been writing at the speed I’m going to write and that is just how it is, but I don’t think I’ll go back to it. I have cherry picked things from previous books, like my book Dreamland, that whole story was out of another book that didn’t work, that was my adult novel that didn’t work. Because I save everything. I don’t really print them all out anymore, but you know I save them to discs, I keep them on file because you never know.  But I purposefully haven’t started anything yet after this book, so right now I don’t really have anything else to bank on, this is all I’ve got.  And if this is the last book that I do for a little while, if this is the one I stick with, then it’s a good one to stick with.  That’s how I feel.

MR: Well, if there is one thing that you want readers to take away from Saint Anything what would it be?

SD: I would think that, you know, the quote at the beginning, “to all the invisible girls, you don’t have to be invisible.” You know, high school is so hard and just because you are invisible to somebody doesn’t mean you’re invisible to everybody. And the key to life is finding the people that see you and I think that’s– whether it be your friends or your family or somebody else or a mentor–but that somebody sees you.

MR: I know we need to wrap up, but I have another personal question–my personal favorite has always been This Lullaby, I’ve worn out like 3 or 4 different copies of it. I actually ordered a hardcover copy of it because I wanted to have a copy signed.

SD: Oh, nice!

MR: But where would you say Remy and Dexter are now?

SD: Oh, in my mind they are still together, of course.  I actually started to write a sequel. It was the only time I’ve thought about a sequel, after I finished Saint Anything, and I thought I’d have a great idea and it was like 3 years after Remy–who was you know going into her senior year in college and was doing really well.  And I had this whole thing, it was all organized, and I had a first chapter. But it was so perfect as it is, well not perfect because no book is, but it was so–I love them. And I think bringing them back in Just Listen was really good, because everything was good.  I just don’t think I’m a sequel person.

MR: Yeah.

SD: and I wrote that book when I was, it came out in 2002, so I was 31. You know? And it was so great and I loved it so much that I’d be afraid if anything I did would, you know.  But I manage to work Truth Squad into everything, and you know “Hate Spinnerbait,” I will always–and when Dexter– when they came in in Just Listen, I just wanted to go out the door with them, because it was just such a hard book to write. In my mind they are still together, in my mind everyone is still together.  I married someone I met in high school, and we are still together so.

MR: Well, thank you so much for talking to me. I was super nervous coming into this because I was like, “I’ve been reading her since I was twelve!”

SD: You don’t need to be nervous for me!

DessenSigningTable

Thanks for coming by!

Thank you so much to Sarah Dessen, Rachel from Penguin Random House, Johanna and the team at Flyleaf books for helping make this event and interview happen!

You can check out my review of Sarah’s novel, Saint Anything, just click on the title.

Be sure to read along with the Penguin SUMMER OF SARAH DESSEN Schedule to see more reviews, exclusive content, and have the chance to win copies of ALL 12 of Sarah Dessen’s novels.

SummerwithSarahDessen

 

I’ll be posting reviews for each week, hope to see you!

Summer of Sarah Dessen: Review of Saint Anything

saintanythingPeyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

Check out the book trailer!

There’s a certain amount of magic in every Sarah Dessen novel that is hard to quantify. They are not full of “actual” magic as her books are contemporary in nature, but her story telling abilities are almost ethereal.

Not unlike her previous novels, Dessen really explores the teenage female psyche with skill and still manages to create a character with a unique voice. Sydney’s outlook on life and her circumstances set her apart from Dessen’s other narrators, but still manages to place her firmly within the canon.

The narrative will draw you in from the first scene, which opens in the courthouse for Peyton’s sentencing, and immediately you feel Sydney’s longing for a place in her family that revolves around the oldest son with behavior problems.  I love how the tension began to escalate quickly after the introduction of a specific character, and Dessen does a great job of establishing the antagonistic relationship between the two subtly.

While Sydney is a bit of a pushover at the beginning of the story, it is important to note that she still has her agency when she decides that she wants to make a big change in her life and transfer out of the school she grew up in and away from her only friends to make a new start.  I do enjoy the “journey” trope in young adult literature and this was the beginning of Sydney’s journey to “being seen” by people who made her feel important and loved.

I think the overall arching theme in this novel is something that Dessen summed up to me in the interview I had with her prior to her book event in Chapel Hill with the song Brave by Sara Bareillies.  Sydney was brave enough to change her life in a big way and ultimately a better way.  She was brave enough to face the guilt that came along with Peyton’s actions.  She was brave enough to prove herself to her family.  And of course, she was brave enough to love.

As a fan of Dessen’s work I can tell you that this book will leave you wanting more.  Who else wants to live in Lakeview?

5 Bards to Sarah Dessen’s wonderful 12th novel, and here is to 12 more.

 

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015

nedaathletes

Each year, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA for short) designates a whole week to raising awareness for the increasing numbers of diagnosed EDs.  We here at A Midsummer Night’s Read are avid supporters of the NEDA initiative, as an Eating Disorder has effected one of our own.

While eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses, help is available and recovery is possible. It is important for those affected, and their loved ones, to remember that they are not alone in their struggle. Others have recovered and are now living healthy fulfilling lives. Let the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) be a part of your support network. NEDA has information and resources available via our website and helpline: www.NationalEatingDisorders.org, NEDA Helpline: 1 (800) 931-2237 (Source: NEDA)

This week on MSNR we are going to feature a young adult fiction/non-fiction book concerning Eating Disorders.  Please be aware that some of these works can have some triggers (what we in the community call things that can lead to disordered behavior), but all of the messages here are about how damaging these behaviors are and how important diagnosis and treatment is are very valid and well done.

For our fourth day in National Eating Disorder Awareness week, I’ve chosen to showcase Sarah Dessen’s Just Listen.

justlistenLast year, Annabel was “the girl who has everything” — at least that’s the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf’s Department Store.

This year, she’s the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong.

Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen’s help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.

The main reason I loved reading Just Listen and what made me want to share it as a part of National Eating Disorder Awareness week is because the character with the eating disorder is not the main character or narrator.  The other books I’ve chosen throughout this week have featured narration by a main character struggling with an Eating Disorder (Thin features the narration of many inpatients throughout the book), but Just Listen deals with the Eating Disorder from an outside standpoint.

Be aware that the main focus of this novel is not the eating disorder, but the depression and listlessness of the main character, but Dessen did extremely well exemplifying how a member of the family suffering with an eating disorder can affect each family member emotionally.  Dessen also does an excellent job of showing how mental illness can be influenced and exacerbated by outside influences.  For instance, Whitney, the middle sister struggling, was a somewhat successful model in New York City before her Anorexia took hold.  Dessen points out that the pressures in that particularly industry were too much for that character.

It is enlightening to read about the warning signs of an Eating Disorder, and even the struggles of being in Recovery from an outside point of view, no matter if it is ficticious.  Whitney is described as increasingly easily irritated, secretive, stubborn, and has a touch of denial with her disease. There are a couple of quotes that I want to leave you with from the novel, ones that directly deal with Whitney.

“The thing about Whitney,” I said, “is that she was always really private. So you never knew if anything was wrong with her.”

“One open, one closed. It was no wonder that the first image that came to mind when I thought of either of my sisters was a door. (…)Whitney’s was the one to her bedroom, which she preferred to keep shut between her and the rest of us, always.”

“We’d all gathered around Whitney, even when she didn’t want us to, and Kirsten and I had gotten closer when she pushed us both away.”

“Looking at her, I thought again how beautiful she was – even in jeans and a T-shirt, no makeup, she was breathtaking. So much so that it was hard to believe she could ever have looked at herself and seen anything else.”

If you know someone who may be suffering please encourage them to get help or to contact http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

5 Bards. If you haven’t read any of Dessen’s novels, I recommend doing so ASAP.

I hope you will come back throughout Eating Disorder Awareness week!

“Society. The same society, I might add, that dictates that little girls should always be sugar and spice and everything nice, which encourages them not to be assertive. And that, in turn, then leads to low self-esteem, which can lead to eating disorders and increased tolerance and acceptance of domestic, sexual, and substance abuse.” – Sarah Dessen, Along for the Ride

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Wells Fargo Duke Energy Center in Charlotte, NC lit up in Green & Blue for Eating Disorder Awareness

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