Young Adult is a wide genre, spanning endless writers that do their best to capture the complexity of the teenage years. But once in a while you find an author that truly speaks to not just the target audience, but a readership far beyond. Sarah Dessen is one of those people. Since her first publication in 1996, Dessen has become a premiere YA author, helping young readers across the globe find their voice and feel like someone out there finally gets it. Today we’re ranking 6 of our favorite novels from the Chapel Hill alum and remembering why this literary dynamo is considered one of the very best.
Here are our Top 6 Sarah Dessen Novels Ranked.
6. Once and For All
In typical Dessen fashion, the story opens with a tragedy. But never before has the author began with a twist quite like this. While usually a Dessen tale is all about the love story, this one takes that formula and creates an entirely new layout. This novel takes an interesting twist on coping with grief and learning to love again, especially at a young age. A familiar welcomed concept? The love interest you easily fall for and enjoy rooting for with every page turn. Plus, a fun new setting that provides for endless entertainment.
5. The Rest of the Story
Published in 2019, Emma Saylor Payne is dropped into her previous stomping grounds as a last resort. Finally back to the place where she grew up, Saylor must adjust to life with people she hasn’t seen in over a decade. In a town divided, we are introduced to several interesting characters that bring the story to life. Most notably is Roo, Saylor’s former childhood best friend, and Mimi, her maternal grandmother. As Dessen’s most recent novel, ‘The Rest of the Story’ reminds us why Dessen is one of the best. She makes every arc unexpected and completely satisfying.
4. Just Listen
Annabel Greene is a typical teenage girl that appears to have the perfect life. But on the inside, life is far from ideal. With issues threatening to split her family apart and a dark secret from her past, Annabel must struggle to keep it all together. Enter Owen Armstrong. The quiet, angry boy with a difficult past. After meeting under unexpected circumstances, the duo quickly develop a bond nobody could have planned. What we love about this novel of Dessen’s is the depth in which she speaks to traumautic events. Sometimes we suffer terrible things in life, but in the end we carry the ability to survive it.
3. This Lullaby
The summer before she leaves for college, Remy’s world takes a complete turn when chaos (literally) barrels into her life. Enter: Dexter Jones. A wide eyed, energetic singer who won’t take no for an answer. Against her better judgement, straight-laced Remy finds herself soon spending more time than she planned with Dexter and his band, wondering if maybe true love isn’t such a silly notion after all. It can’t be denied: Dexter is the highlight of this novel. His shenanigans never fail to make us smile, and his unwavering adoration for Remy makes us all believe in modern day fairytales.
2. The Truth About Forever
Dessen’s sixth novel tells the tale of Macy, a girl who has recently lost her father. During a unique encounter she meets Wes, a boy who turns her world upside down. Quickly Macy is thrust into a brand new world with an array of colorful characters, each more enjoyable than the last. This is what makes ‘The Truth About Forever‘ stand out. These are people you want to meet and know. You want to be a member of the team and engage in wild adventures during late night escapades (even with Bert at the wheel). Dessen hits a home run with the story, making you long for a pothole of your own to stumble into one day.
1. Saint Anything
Who knew a single slice of pizza could change your life? After meeting the Chatham family, Sydney finds solace while dealing with the aftermath of a major mistake by a family member. We soon fall in love not just with the main love interest Mac, but the entire group of people that quickly become an escape for Sydney during a difficult time. A particular favorite moment is when you discover the meaning behind the title (we won’t spoil it!) and realize the depth of Dessen’s brilliance yet again.
If you haven’t managed to get your hands on these novels yet, get moving! And tell us about your favorites in the comments!
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