“There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.” Sarah Dessen is known for her fiction and young adult literature. In the last twenty years, she has been able to publish thirteen novels. Dessen has received numerous awards and outstanding reviews. Dessen is now referred to as a “best-seller machine.” In 2017, Sarah Dessen received the Margaret A. Edwards Award. Dessen’s books were published in thirty countries around the world, and she has sold millions of hard copies. In this research paper, I will be talking about how, through her books, Dessen has impacted the lives of many young adults. Also, I will be speaking about how she was raised and what inspired her to write.
Sarah Dessen is an American novelist who was born on June 6, 1970. Dessen was born in Evanston, Illinois, and grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Both of her parents were local college professors. At around ten years old, Dessen’s parents bought her a typewriter, which she used to start writing her own stories. The creation of such stories was inspired by the group of friends she had who stimulated her writing with ideas. Inspired by the events and people that surrounded her, Dessen was able to absorb her environment and turn it into different sets of novels. Although Dessen was known to be shy during high school, she was also known to continuously hang around people with negative influences that impacted her life. After realizing that her life was being negatively impacted, Dessen decided to focus on accomplishing her own dreams and desires. Dessen knew that through her talent, she would be able to build a career in writing, which is exactly what she did!
Dessen’s writing career began in 1996, while she was working as a waitress at a restaurant named “Flying Burrito”. In the same year, she published her first book, “That Summer”, which revolutionized her entire career. After publishing her first book, Dessen quit her job and dropped out of her first college, “Greensboro College”. A few years later, Dessen decided to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an institution in which her parents were both teachers. After graduating with high honors and a major in creative writing, Dessen published her second novel, “Along for the Ride”, which became a New York Times bestseller. After achieving such high success and recognition, Dessen married Jay Marks, whom she had met in high school, and had a daughter named Sasha. Dessen and her family currently live in North Carolina, the place in which her career began.
Through Dessen’s writing, young adults are able to obtain an insight into different situations that they might be experiencing as teenagers. Dessen’s writing is concentrated around realistic life experiences since her stories do not end with the characters living happily ever after. Dessen states, “Life isn’t a fairytale, even if you are lucky enough to have that fairytale for a while.” In her novels, Dessen focuses on creating sympathy within her audience to remind them that regardless of the obstacles they face, it is possible to overcome them, similar to how she did as a young adult. Dessen’s readers tend to fall in love with her words and her ability to craft characters that young adults can relate to through their flaws and experiences. In an interview, Dessen was asked, “What is one thing you always want your female characters to have?” Dessen replied, “I would say confidence, but I also think it’s one of the hardest things to have… Hopefully, the character evolves over the course of the book”. Although it is typical that many young adults struggle with a lack of confidence and self-esteem, Dessen provides her readers with comfort through solidarity in order to emphasize that although individuals might feel alone due to the issues they are encountering, there are others who are also facing the same obstacles.
Sarah Dessen has inspired many individuals to go out and read or even start writing on their own. Dessen currently has more than eight million books in print, and four of her novels were listed on the “100 Best-Ever Teen Novels List.” Putting myself in Dessen’s position, I would be extremely happy that I was able to turn my life around and show people that anyone is capable of succeeding if they set their mind and actions to do so. Regardless of experiencing days in which individuals might be doubting themselves and feeling that they are stuck in their obstacle, it is important to remember that persistence and motivation allow people to reach success, similar to Dessen’s experience. Growing up, Dessen was not able to develop admiration for many authors due to a lack of authors that allowed her to find sympathy and similar experiences within novels. Regardless of the absence of authors, Dessen found a way to breakthrough and became a trailblazer within the young adult genre.
Dessen’s writing process would always take place in the afternoons. She would try to do it at least every day, although sometimes she wasn’t able to. Dessen feels as if the success she has reached is due to the fact that she does not start a book unless she has “a skeleton”, as she would call it. When beginning to write a book, Dessen would ensure she crafted the first, last, climactic scenes, and the first line. While writing, Dessen enjoys sensing what journey her writing is taking her on, but she is never able to follow a perfect path due to her writing constantly changing throughout the process. “I throw out almost as much as I actually publish.” This shows that even though she has ideas flowing,they just aren’t good enough for the final cut.
Through her books, Dessen conveys the importance of young adults releasing the pressure they feel about the choices they have to make in life while also shedding light on the fears young adults have of growing up and feeling like they might not be good enough. Throughout Dessen’s novels, there is a balance between both light and dark, and she constantly switches back and forth between them. “It’s so easy for me to put myself back in that place,” she talks about her recollections of memories when she was a teenager. “I felt isolated and lost. I had great parents, but I pushed them away. I felt that people didn’t understand. It’s not that hard to get back there.” Through her heartfelt diction, Dessen is able to create a connection with her young adult readers due to the stories that allow teenagers to feel as if they are not alone. “It makes us remember how important it is to communicate with our family to keep it intact.”
Although Dessen describes her tenth book, “What Happened to Goodbye”, as the “hardest one” to write, I consider it one of my favorite novels. Throughout the book, I felt a connection with the storyline, which made me feel as if I could really relate to it. “What Happened to Goodbye?” is about a girl who has her life turned upside down after her parents’ marriage collapses. After the divorce, the girl decides to stay with her father, and she is forced to move away every few months with her father due to his job. Due to the constant relocation, the girl was able to have a fresh start every time she went to a new school. In each school, she would turn herself into someone different, which ended after she moved to a town called Lakeview, where she realized that she would not be able to change her identity this time. In her new school at Lakeview, the girl begins to prepare herself to make new friends and show her true personality, but begins to feel as though it is impossible due to the constant relocation caused by her father. What I liked about the story is that it had a happy ending, even though there were many falls throughout it. It demonstrates the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity.
Sarah Dessen contributed to the public eye by going out and doing public appearances and attending library organizations to have kids receive free books. When she promotes her new novels, she uses social media and videos to donate a percentage of the profits to children’s organizations. Dessen’s books have impacted teens who often struggle with conflicts in real life and escape from them through her words, novels, and emotions. Her novels give teenagers and adults a different outlook on a situation that they may have encountered. It helps them relate to it, and it reminds them of their own lives.
The best advice that Sarah Dessen wants to give her readers who want to write would be to “be disciplined”. She wants them to write every single day at the same time to create a habit that will stick with them. Also, another thing that she wants the reader to do is train their brain, which the person must need to build good writing habits. A good habit would be to write your feelings and thoughts down. Some good examples of writing habits would be setting up a space to write, finding your own words, writing with the door closed, and writing as if it’s your job.
To summaries Sarah Dessen is, in my opinion, an amazing writer because she’s realistic with her words. She uses characters that are similar to us in many ways. They go through similar situations as us and show the outcomes within their own story. We have so much in common with the heroines, not just in their love lives but also in the fact that they will be going out into a bigger and wider world. They went into it without knowing what the world has in store for them.
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