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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sarah Dessen trio

Some people love her, some people hate her. After having read three of her books in row, I guess that I kind of fall in the middle. Will I eagerly await her newest book with fangirl adoration? Probably not, but if I came across one of her books on sale I'd probably pick it up, especially if I had heard good things about it. So, without further ado, here are my reviews for Dreamland, The truth about Forever, and This Lullaby.

Dreamland. After her sister runs away from home, Caitlin is lost, not wanting to fill her shoes but not quite knowing how to forge her own path. She's looking for anything that will make her feel "special". Unfortunately what she finds is a guy who sweeps her off her feet with his magnetic, and dangerous, personality and then sweeps the rug out from under her. With Rogerson, Caitlin forgets about everything else in her life - friends, family and even herself. And that's when Rogerson gets scary.

The Truth About Forever. After her father passes away, Macy withdraws into herself, accepting the stoic love of her perfect boyfriend and the silent grief of her mother. But when her boyfriend goes away for "Brain Camp", she falls into a catering job with some fun-loving, chaotic characters who bring her out of her shell. Most notably is Wes, a boy with a past, an artist, someone she feels comfortable telling all her secrets to. As summer draws to an end, Macy wonders if the "break" from her boyfriend and her troubles was really just that.

This Lullaby. Remy is a girl with a past - she knows the rules, she knows how long relationships are supposed to last, and most importantly she knows how to break things off  before they get too "intense". She's learned it all from her five-time divorcee mother. Then Remy meets Dexter. He's not like any of her past boyfriends - messy, disorganized, clumsy, and a musician like her deadbeat father. But when breaking up with him breaks her heart, she discovers that maybe she doesn't know all the rules after all.

Reader's review: My favorite of these three books was undoubtedly Dreamland. I felt like I could connect to Caitlin's character, heck I imagined that if I had been in her situation as a teen, I easily could have fallen into the same trap. The tension building up into the last scene with Rogerson was incredible. Dreamland made me cry at the end, but then I cry easily with books. Still it was the best of the three.

The Truth About Forever gave me much the same feeling, I could relate to the main character and her reaction to her father's death was very believable. I loved the characters in this book - Kristy was unique - I wanted her as a best friend - and Wes was just...*sigh* We should all get to have a Wes at some point in our lives. Overall, a very nice story with memorable characters.

This Lullaby was definitely my least favorite, and it's probably because I had a hard time relating to the MC who despite being incredibly smart spent much of her time hanging out in bars and had lots of experience. I know that some teens do hang out in bars, and drink a lot, and have that sort of a past, but I personally just had a hard time relating to it. It felt like not just Remy but all her friends, behaved as if they were 20 instead of 18 -  I'm not sure how to explain this except to say that it just "felt" that way. The one thing I did like about TL was the ending where Remy comes to understand her mother better. I won't say anything more about that, just that it was a nice, tidy closure to that story arc that was really well done.
Readers scores:
Dreamland 4.
The Truth About Forever 4.
This Lullaby 3.

Writer's review: One thing I've come to find about Sarah Dessen is her reliability. All of her books begin very slow and build up gradually. If I hadn't heard such good things about her books, I probably would have put them all down - they were that slow and there's a lot of backstory given in all of them in the first few chapters. But, as I said, once you get past that then the stories really do shine. All of Dessen's characters felt unique; all had their own little quirks - like the way Caitlin's mother collected dolls or the way Delia from TTAF kept saying 'please God, I'm begging you' (I really loved Delia).  And aside from Wes, the love interests didn't have the stereotypical 'good looking, hot guy' thing going for them. The writing in all three books was really beautiful and there were some moments of introspection where I was really in awe. The only place where this bothered me was in This Lullaby because it seemed to occur at the end of every chapter, and the book itself just wasn't serious enough to warrant that extent of deep thinking. Since all of the books fit the same mold, I'm giving all of them the same writing score of 4.


Nomes (inkcrush) said...

I really loved reading this post. I haven't read dreamland yet, but I'm going to keep an eye out for it.

it's weird, Sarah Dessen, I do love her books, even though they also niggle at me. she does lots of things that newbie writers are told not to do:

back story, often no inciting incident, uses the phrases: "he just stood there. he just looked at me. I just... etc, etc." And she's pretty heavy on the metaphor, in some not-so-subtle ways. Plus very wordy. Lock & Key is over 90k.

But, I love reading her anyway for some reason? I think she has some lovely prose and works really well on character arcs. it's very easy to identify them, but it happens in a slow and believable way.

I didn't really like Along for the Ride, but Just Listen was good in the same way as The Truth About Forever :) I also think I would have loved her books as a teen :)

Angie said...

Yeah, I think it's the fact that she breaks so many rules that kind of got to me. I mean it's good that she can do that and still be so popular, but it just makes me think that she could make something good even better, you know? Like with Dreamland, I really wanted to give it a five because the last half was really well done, but the beginning was just so slow. Or maybe I've just gotten too picky since I started writing. I read things with a much more critical eye. *shrug* Definitely pick up Dreamland if you get the chance.

Juli said...

I completely agree with you about the slow beginnings in Sarah Dessen's books. I read the Truth About Forever a few years ago and I just picked it up again. For the first, like, four chapters, I was seriously like, "Why did I think this was so good?"

But then the book hit its stride, and I remembered.

Though Dessen's metaphors are sometimes heavy-handed, I think the thing that sets her books apart is that her characters are always dealing with issues that are beyond the typical light teen fare. And she does write introspection really well.

Great post! :)

Ezmirelda said...

YA books they would read are those written by Sarah Dessen. Why? Because girls can easily relate to her characters,and also because of Dessen's unique style and voice.

I also really liked Dessen's work. My favorite one was Someone Like You. You should definetly check that one out.

Kara said...

Ironically, This Lullaby is the only book of Sarah Dessen's I love. I liked Someone Like You, but every other one bothered me. Just Listen has to be my least favorite of her books.

Joann Swanson said...

Fantastic reviews. I haven't read any of these and will certainly add them to my (growing) list.

Angie said...

It's funny how I've seen so many different opinions about Sarah Dessen and even particular books of hers have widely varying opinions. I will definitely check out some of the other recommendations you guys had - though probably not until I get a few others off my checklist. Thanks for reading my review!

Aleeza said...

they are slow in the beginning, heavy with backstory! i thought that was the case in only one of the book of hers I've read--Lock and Key--but turns out it's not. I kept wondering why everyone raved about her. but her story did shine through in the end--like you said, and that in itself makes her worth reading :)



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