Tag Archives: Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything

Sarah Dessen and summer belong together. You sort of need to read one of Sarah’s books during your summer holidays. Saint Anything is less summer centred than some of her books, but still a perfect summer read.

Sarah Dessen, Saint Anything

This one is about crime and going to jail (Sydney’s brother Peyton), and about being invisible to your parents, and sometimes the rest of the world (Sydney). Always the – seemingly – favourite child, Peyton can do no wrong in the eyes of his mother, even when his drunken driving seriously injures a teenager.

It’s not only Peyton’s life and that of his victim that changes. Sydney’s does too. She is ‘guilty’ by association, while not benefitting from the attention of her parents. Sydney chooses to move to a public school, both to save on school fees, as well as to get a change of scene, somewhere no one knows her or Peyton.

She meets the Chatham family, who are everything her own is not. They are not perfect or without problems, but deal differently with life. Sydney makes new friends, meets a wonderful boy, and ultimately faces the difficulties life throws at her.

As always this is very American, and very fascinating. I could practically taste the pizza, but have some way until I can imagine the root beer YumYums.

Bookwitch bites #110

Daughter joined us on Friday, on possibly the most impossible of evenings. The area by the railway station had an extra 20,000 people milling about (and for a small town that’s quite a lot), but they hadn’t all come to meet her. We just managed to miss, yet again, Gyllene Tider in concert. We’ll get our act together, one of these years.

So far it’s been a mixed sort of holiday. I’ve done almost nothing, so pretty restful. I did join in the Twitter chat between Sarah Dessen and Cathy Cassidy last Sunday. It wasn’t the total fan crash I’d predicted. I even managed to ask Sarah a question, and she replied! You might be able to find all or some of it on #PenguinChat.

And speaking of wildlife, mere days after reviewing Anthony McGowan’s Brock, we encountered a badger of our own, running across the road. We’ve seen plenty of hares, which caused the Resident IT Consultant to ask ‘what’s the Swedish for hare?’ I told him it’s hare. It’s obvious.

He was kind enough to stop to let two people and their dog cross the road outside the local foodshop (rather than run them down with the Vets’ car). They smiled and waved (I suspect even the dog smiled). This alarmed me, until I encountered them inside the shop and realised they were Danish. Which totally explained the happiness.

Number ten

With me being in new house mode these days, I have looked at advertisements here as well. Just out of curiosity. Found one described as being dressing gown distance from the sea. I can’t tell you how tempting that is.

And once you’re on the beach, what you might find is your next coffee table. The Resident IT Consultant and I came across a complete pallet as we strolled near the water’s edge the first day. He doesn’t keep up with fashion, so had no idea people now pay hundreds of pounds for a pallet with castors (when you can simply carry one home from the beach). Now he knows. But we resisted the urge to bring it home. It was hard, but we managed. For all I know it’s still there. Or the dressing gown brigade got to it.

But it’s not all fun and Danes and driftwood. I have had another delivery of books. My holiday letterbox doesn’t know what’s hit it. (Two books. On the same day.)

Holiday letterbox

The Moon and More

No one does summer quite like Sarah Dessen! I have just enjoyed a most eventful and summery kind of holiday in her company, in Sarah’s new book The Moon and More.

This is another one set in Colby, with its fantastic boardwalk and its community where people know each other well. They might not be as rich or as educated or as sophisticated as New Yorkers claim to be, but they have a lot going for them anyway.

Emaline spends the last summer before going to university working for her family’s tourist accommodation company, seeing shirtless pool guy Luke, who as well as being her long-standing boyfriend is a good friend. The blurb suggests that all Emaline has to worry about is whether to stay with Luke, or go for New Yorker Theo who comes to make a film in Colby.

That’s selling Sarah Dessen short, because it’s about so much more, although we obviously do get to root for either Luke or Theo as the romantic complications set in.

To start with, Emaline has both a dad and a father. The father is her biological one, and she has never seen much of him, until now when he comes to stay, bringing her young half-brother Benji.

There’s her mother, and her stepsisters. Her mother wants more for Emaline than she herself got, falling for a summer visitor all those years ago. Then there’s Emaline’s two best friends, the beautiful and hardworking Daisy and the carefree Morris. And the reason for Theo’s film, local artist Clyde, plus many other minor, but captivating, characters.

You can just feel that sand under your feet and the sun on your shoulders, as you drive all over Colby, eating shrimp burgers. It’s not my summer, but it’s pretty close, and that’s why an annual Sarah Dessen story is essential.

I’d like to be a Dessen heroine. And one day I’ll go looking for my Colby boardwalk. Maybe even a shirtless pool guy.

Young and hot, or perhaps not

Mary Hoffman went on a book tour to America last week, leaving us – her blog readers – with some exciting men to think about. I bet she did that on purpose.

She writes about some very attractive young men in her own books, and I trust Mary has done a lot of research to make our reading experience the best ever. But I am too old for her boys. I simply cannot lust after a teenager. Even setting propriety aside I find I can’t. I need older men.

Like the ones I was too young for when I was a teenager. Except in those days there wasn’t much in the way of teen books, so a girl had to lust after grown older men, or not lust at all. Lord Peter Wimsey is one such example mentioned by Mary. (And don’t tell anyone, but I did like him.)

That’s life. Nothing is ever right.

So, in those days I liked the Scarlet Pimpernel (even without Leslie Howard), and I adored Steven Howard in MM Kaye’s Death in Cyprus and Richard Byron in Mary Stewart’s Madam Will You Talk. Various Alistair MacLean heroes, and Carl Zlinter from Nevil Shute’s The Far Country. (Go on, ridicule me!)

If there were any boys, I have forgotten them, which means they can’t have been all that special.

More recently I have liked Margery Allingham’s Campion, Mr Knightley, and Robert Stephens’s voice as Aragorn in the radio version of Lord of the Rings. There aren’t all that many attractive men in modern children’s or YA books, but there is Lupin. And from an old classic we have Daddy Longlegs.

If I absolutely have to find young men in current fiction they won’t be vampires. Not even faeries (sorry, Seth McGregor). I liked Wes in Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever, and Sanchez in Ribblestrop by Andy Mulligan is quite a boy. And now that I think about it, the Cathys (Cassidy and Hopkins) do lovely young ones.

Abby and Ducky

Men on the screen, however, have got easier with age. The ten-year-old me knew it was wrong to be in love with Ilya Kuryakin, 23 years my senior. But he was so cute! And this being a lasting kind of passion, it was David McCallum who got me started on NCIS. He is still very good looking for a man approaching 80. And it was at NCIS I found Very Special Agent Gibbs, a man of the right age. At last. I reckon he is a modern Mr Knightley.


So, for me it is No Thanks to ‘hot young men.’ I need them to be grey these days.

(Link here to an older post about pretty boys. I seem to have grown out of them.)

What happened to What Happened to Goodbye?

Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye

For a long while, not much at all. I began getting excited by Sarah Dessen’s new novel back in the winter, despite the fact it was months and months until June. And still nothing happened. But finally, when I was really ready to throw in my beach towel, there it was. In my letterbox. My holiday one. And very apt, considering Sarah Dessen to me is (summer) holiday reading.

And how I have enjoyed it! I started in the middle of the night one night, and just read and read. It has a boardwalk in it. In actual fact, it’s the same boardwalk as in the last Sarah Dessen, so there is that lovely feeling of continuity. The story is mainly set in the months of January until April, but it’s still got that summer holiday flavour. Somehow.

Mclean (I know. What can I say?) is a girl who reinvents herself every time she moves to a new place. And that is often. After her parents’ divorce, Mclean chose to go with her Dad, and he moves around a lot. They have just arrived in the latest place, but surprisingly things don’t go in quite the same way as Mclean has been used to.

She makes friends. Nice friends. Not the kind that are easily dropped a few months later. There is a boy next door. He’s lovely. And she befriends the lonely nerdy girl, much to the surprise of both of them.

This is a basketball story. Apart from the nerd, they all love basketball, and Mclean was named after her Dad’s favourite coach. Unfortunately, after her Mum went and married the next coach, Mclean and her Dad went off the game, ever so slightly.

She went off her Mum, too, and much of the book is spent trying to avoid her calls. But parents are parents, and we know that somehow these broken bits of family will be sorted out by the end of the book. But that’s all the reader knows, and the solution always comes as a surprise.

I’m glad things worked out for Mclean and the parents of bad taste in names, but I was even more pleased for the nerdy girlfriend.

Vamoose, elk, älg, whatever, and other books

Funny how it’s almost possible to miss a new book by Meg Rosoff. When you’re me, that is. And I know the rest of you aren’t me. But, you know… And it is funny. The book. Vamoose, as it’s called. It’s about a young couple who become pregnant, and the baby turns out to be an elk. (Now, I absolutely refuse to refer to it as a moose, except I know the title sort of loses it’s pun factor this way.) And because that’s impossible in the first place, it’s obviously not true. Is it?

But it’s funny, with Meg’s sense of humour.

Infinity by Sarah Dessen is another of Puffin’s pocket money books. It’s all about roundabouts, and at first I thought it was the fun kind, but it turned out to be the road kind. Although the story does have a ferris wheel, so it all comes round, in a manner of speaking. As a big Sarah Dessen fan, I was a little disappointed in this tale, to be frank.

Roald Dahl has not been writing a new piece for the Puffin series, so what you get in Spotty Powder and other Splendiferous Secrets is a previously un-published chapter from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, plus a sort of annual diary by Roald and lots of snippets about him and Quentin Blake. So, not a lot of new stuff, but if you know what you’re getting, then it’s a must for the Dahl collector.

The Cathy Cassidy contribution to the series has yet to arrive, as it is being reprinted. I presume that means it’s a great hit already.

From the small selection I have been sampling, the best by far is Jeanne Willis’s Silly Cecil and Clever Cubs, for younger readers. But you don’t have to be young to enjoy this silly cat tail. It’s about posh cat Cecil, who is very grand, and the distinctly un-posh Cubby who simply moves in with Cecil and all his lovely food. At first Cubby isn’t good enough for Cecil, and then Cecil the crazy fat cat wants Cubby to kill him. And that’s when things get to be really amusing. Highly recommended.

To live up to the label ‘Pocket Money Puffin’ these books could have done with being cheaper than £3.99. I know children are given a lot of pocket money these days, but whereas Jeanne’s book is well worth the money, it’s not something I see a child of seven going out to buy on their own or with their own money. But as a regular book bought by an adult it’s fine.

The Dahl is OK as long as the child spending his pocket money knows it’s not new fiction. Whereas Vamoose is only half the book, with the rest of the 95 pages extracts from Just In Case and What I Was. Same but worse with Infinity, where only a third of the book is new, and 61 pages are extracts from two previous Puffin Sarah Dessen novels. For someone coming fresh to Sarah and Meg it could serve as Puffin must have intended, and is an OK introduction to some great books. For the avid fan who already owns these books, they’ve spent £2 on something they didn’t need. And I reckon that matters, especially for children.

Along for the Ride

I can’t help loving Sarah Dessen’s books. They’re addictive. They’re fun.

So, I went straight from Andromeda Klein to an almost Andromeda in Sarah’s Along for the Ride. They are surprisingly similar for such different stories. Auden (named after the poet) has a Dad with a penchant for weird names, which is why her newborn half sister was named Thisbe, but escaped the Andromeda. She comes to spend the summer before college with her father and his new chirpy wife and baby Thisbe. Except Dad has a novel to finish, the stepmother is anything but chirpy and Thisbe cries. All the time.

Auden herself has missed out on a normal childhood and friends, forever pushed to do well academically. At the seaside resort where her Dad lives with his new family, she makes friends with young people her age, as well as the mysterious Eli. With his help she embarks on a quest to do many of the things she missed out on as a child.

This is almost sheer escapism. Not entirely, because Sarah always gets in some worthwhile thoughts on what you can do with your life. The setting is great, the people are fun, there are rarely any money concerns and things like the baby blues and bad accidents only appear on the periphery of Auden’s summer.

I’d like to think all American teenagers live like this, but of course they don’t. I can see myself on that sunny boardwalk, although possibly not on a bike.

Monday – take one

I’m working backwards here, so need to put in the earlier part of Monday before we’re into a new week. By some unexpected miracle your witch managed to fit in an unplanned visit to the Puffin presentation early afternoon. This meant even more authors and book plans in one short day, but after travelling on the same train as Scrappy the ferret, I felt up to almost anything.

I swear (sorry) that those conference rooms have shrunk in the two years since I was last there. What did they do? Wash them?

With my usual skill I plonked myself down on just the right chair to have my coat where all the attending authors could stumble over it on their way in to speak. Or on the way out. None did, though, and it was a Puffin telephone of some sort that was eventually brought down by Jeanne Willis. Or vice versa.

Jeanne was elegant in a black top with leopard skin effect (it was, wasn’t it?) trim, and white blonde hair straight out of an early 1960s film. She has two new picture books on the way, and she had everyone but me singing a song about bottoms. Apparently ‘pythons only have them in their dreams.’ And Jeanne carried some insect cadaver round in a small metal tin. (Just thought you might want to know.)

Puffin themselves will be 70 this year and, surprise surprise, they are publishing some books to celebrate. Cheap Pocket Money Puffins at £3.99, written by some real favourites of mine, which I like the sound of. Classics, naturally. Some frightfully expensive limited edition books that will cost £100.

I’ll happily try out some of their merchandise, like the Puffiny deckchairs, so a couple of samples would be most welcome. There will be samples I hope? Or at least a mug? (Hint – we could do with five.)

Eoin Colfer appeared, but only on screen. Still lovely, and he told us Artemis will be lovely too, and that just isn’t right. Charlie Higson talked about taking your children to see zombies. I don’t think so, Charlie. Trailer for the new Percy Jackson film, coming soon. Rick Riordan has a new series coming. Two new series, in actual fact. The richer authors get, the faster they write.

Cathy Cassidy was another one not caught out by my coat. She has a new ‘chocolate box’ series starting, which sounds great. I have a feeling Cathy’s only thinking of the research, however.

Vampires. Goes without saying. Samurais. Coming faster and faster. How do authors suddenly write twice as fast as before?

Alex Scarrow and David Yelland reprised their talks from November. Alex’s Time Riders is high on the TBR pile, so we’ll have to see how that goes.

The star of the show was Sophia Jansson, Tove’s niece. There is a new range of Moomins on the way, including baby board books, but where are they coming from? I believe they are writing new ones, with Sophia watching over them. What do we think of that?

There will be teen books. I’m still amazed that Sarah Dessen isn’t yet a household name in Britain. She will be! Helen Grant’s Glass Demon is coming and so is iBoy by Kevin Brooks, and I gather it’s a cross between Spiderman and The Wire. Well!

Tasty sandwiches at the end, well worth waiting for, but what do you do with over-mayonnaisey fingers when meeting authors?

I cornered Sophia Jansson before the others discovered her, and we had a discussion in Swedish about blogs and other online nonsense. She, sensibly, has no time for blogs or Facebook or Twitter. This Little My has a Tove Jansson empire to run and a lovely holiday island to spend her summers on. She told us that Moomin was first thought up by Tove’s uncle in order to scare her from having midnight snacks in his kitchen. The Moomintrolls live in the kitchen walls. Perfect for baby books then…

It’s That Summer, again

Did I ever mention being impatient? When Puffin began publishing Sarah Dessen’s novels, I began cheating a little by buying the American editions once or twice. Simply because I didn’t want to wait. So, I blogged about That Summer last summer, and this summer it’s here in its full Puffin glory. The UK cover is so nice. I will discard the US copy and keep this one. I can’t help it. It’s a girl thing.

That Summer

That Summer is Sarah’s first novel. It’s about the summer when Haven’s father re-marries, and her older sister Ashley is planning her wedding, and Ashley’s old boyfriend Sumner (!) turns up, and their mother defrosts the fridge.

As usual there are complications, and then there are solutions and understanding. Try it!

Personally I’m hoping this means Puffin are working their way through all Sarah Dessen’s books. Just think; a whole shelf of these delicious covers. (Very shallow-minded of me, but it is still hot this morning.) It goes without further saying that the contents are more than readable.

Lock & Key

Nate needs to have dark hair. That would be my one negative comment on Sarah Dessen’s new book Lock & Key. Sarah describes him as having very fair hair, but it doesn’t fit my way of thinking. Hair issue aside, Lock & Key is simply another wonderful read from Sarah.

As is often the case, the story is set, mostly, in the kind of affluent American neighbourhood that could so easily become just a cliché, and that could be seen to make the book unrealistic. But I happen to believe that the ‘nice’ setting is very effective, because it makes you look at the problems facing Sarah’s characters. And Lock & Key manages to cover cockroaches as well as swimming pools, drugs as well as do-gooders.

Nate with the hair is Ruby’s new neighbour; insufferably nice and friendly. Ruby wants to be alone, which her mother has ‘helped’ her with by disappearing, so Ruby has to go and live with her sister. But nothing is as it seems, not even (aspie) Gervais who knows all about calculus.

Violence and deception and misunderstandings crop up where you least expect it. You can also find the strength to do things you never thought were possible.

Unlike some of Sarah’s other books, this one seems to have fewer characters in it, if you don’t count Ruby’s brother-in-law’s family photo. Some OTT ‘holiday’ celebrations play an important part in the plot, and it’s enough to make you exhausted just reading about it. In fact, that’s one aspect of Sarah’s books that fascinates someone lazy like me; they work very hard in the books. I can’t understand how there is even enough time to do everything. And who takes their Christmas tree down on Christmas Day morning?

Wondered whether it was a character from another book who was the DJ on the radio, mentioned in passing?