Sharing some lessons I learned from Sarah Dessen novels!
Growing up, I was always a huge fan of reading. My parents commented that they had no idea why I loved reading so much because neither of them really cared for it. I remember when I used to go visit my mom during the summers, I would ask my step-dad to take me to the library, and I came home with tons of books that I read over my summer visiting them. When I was in middle school, my teacher told me that one of the books I read for a project was too immature for my reading level. I just loved reading, in spite of my reading abilities. To this day, I still read books that may be considered too young for my age, but I don’t even care. I just love reading!
When I was in high school, I picked up my first YA novel. I’m not even sure if the term “YA” or “Young Adult” really existed back then for books. I mean, there was a section at Barnes & Noble, but it was teeny tiny compared to the multiple shelves you can find at bookstores today. Sarah Dessen was the first YA author I truly fell in love with. I remember reading one of her books while I was waiting for a class to start. A girl next to me asked if she could read the back of the book to see what it was about. She asked me how I was liking it. I said, “It’s okay. I’m not sure yet.” Because it was cool to downplay how much you loved things in high school. In reality, I was five chapters into Someone Like You, and I was genuinely obsessed. I was reading about a girl who didn’t want to face the realities of growing up and who was dealing with real high school problems. I was hooked.
Even though I’m almost 30-years-old, YA is still my favorite genre of book. Of course, I read plenty of adult novels, and I love that they’ve come out with a “New Adult” genre that features main characters around my age. It’s perfect for readers who, like me, fell in love with reading YA novels before the genre blew up the way it did.
Sarah Dessen and the many things her novels taught me growing up will stick with me forever. I hope one day to share my love of Sarah Dessen with my future kids, especially my daughters when they’re transitioning into that awkward high school age.
A few years ago, I got the opportunity to see Sarah Dessen speak on two panels at the Austin Teen Book Festival. I missed my chance to meet her at the book signing, but earlier this year, she went on a book tour, and she happened to make a stop in Dayton, Ohio. I went to Books & Co by myself and sat at the edge of my seat, listening to the author whose words helped shaped my faith in friendship, romance, and self-love. Meeting her, we talked about her panel, how much she helped me through high school, and our mutual love for Veronica Mars. Admittedly, I still haven’t read The Rest of the Story, which is the book she was on tour for when I met her. While I haven’t loved every single one of her books, they’ve all impacted me in some way or another, and I continue to reread them to this day.
These are just a few of my favorite quotes and some of the things I’ve learned from Sarah Dessen novels:
THAT SUMMER (1996)
1. Enjoy every moment because it’s not going to last forever.
“I knew that it wouldn’t last. It was just a moment, a perfect moment, as time stood still and fleetingly everything fell back into its proper place.”
SOMEONE LIKE YOU (1998)
2. Life is better with friends.
“Life is an awful, ugly place not to have a best friend.”
KEEPING THE MOON (1999)
3. Trying and failing is better than never trying at all.
“I don’t believe in failure, because simply by saying you’ve failed, you’ve admitted you attempted. And anyone who attempts is not a failure. Those who truly fail in my eyes are the ones who never try at all. The ones who sit on the couch and whine and moan and wait for the world to change around them.”
4. No matter the circumstances, you deserve to be respected.
“You should never be surprised when someone treats you with respect. You should expect it.”
5. People are going to think what they want about you anyway, so live your life they way you want to.
“It’s funny how someone’s perception of you can be formed without you even knowing it.”
THIS LULLABY (2002)
6. There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, and that’s okay.
“No relationship is perfect, ever. There are always some ways you have to bend, to compromise, to give something up in order to gain something greater.”
7. Love and allow yourself to be loved. Loving people is a superpower.
“Holding people away from you, and denying yourself love, that doesn’t make you strong. if anything, it makes you weaker. Because you’re doing it out of fear.”
THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER (2004)
8. True love happens unexpectedly, and it’s amazing and beautiful.
“There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.”
9. Life is short, so make every second count.
“For any one of us our forever could end in an hour, or a hundred years from now. You never know for sure, so you’d better make every second count.”
10. Own up to your mistakes and confront your issues because, in the end, it’ll make you stronger.
“Anyone can hide. Facing up to things, working through them, that’s what makes you strong.”
JUST LISTEN (2006)
11. It’s impossible to run away from your past; so face it.
“All I’d ever wanted was to forget, but even when I thought I had, pieces kept emerging, like bits of wood floating up to the surface that only hint at the shipwreck below.”
12. Listen to your heart.
“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.”
13. Music is like time travel (*one of my fave Sarah Dessen quotes*).
“Music is a total constant. That’s why we have such a strong visceral connection to it, you know? Because a song can take you back instantly to a moment, or a place, or even a person. No matter what else has changed in you or the world, that song stays the same, just like that moment.”
LOCK AND KEY (2008)
14. Love and appreciate the people in your life, and allow yourself to create your own family.
“What is family? They were the people who claimed you. In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless. It wasn’t just about blood relations or shared chromosomes, but something wider, bigger. We had many families over time. Our family of origin, the family we created, and the groups you moved through while all of this was happening: friends, lovers, sometimes even strangers. None of them perfect, and we couldn’t expect them to be. You can’t make any one person your world. The trick was to take what each could give you and build your world from it.”
ALONG FOR THE RIDE (2009)
15. It’s okay to fail. Just get back up and try, try again.
“You’re supposed to fall sometimes. It’s a required part of the human existence.”
WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE (2011)
16. Home is what you make it (As someone who has constantly moved around her entire life, this is one of my favorite Sarah Dessen quotes).
“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”
17. Everything happens for a reason.
“It was amazing how you could get so far from where you’d planned, and yet find it was exactly were you needed to be.”
THE MOON AND MORE (2013)
18. Change is inevitable.
“Change is inevitable, though,” he replied. “As is disappointment. Best to get used to it now.”
SAINT ANYTHING (2015)
19. The people you trust are the ones you feel comfortable being vulnerable with.
“You only really fall apart in front of the people you know can piece you back together.”
ONCE AND FOR ALL (2017)
20. Appreciate every moment in your life, the good and the bad, because they led you to where you are today.
“Everything in life had its phases, and if you were smart, you learned to appreciate them all.”
THE REST OF THE STORY (2019)
I’m sad to say that I haven’t yet read Sarah Dessen’s latest novel, but I’m excited for the lessons I’ll find in The Rest of the Story.
Have you ever read a book by Sarah Dessen?