Roundtable: Sarah Dessen Novels
Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: I Love Lucy score music
Little Willow: Suze and I first met years ago, back when Buffy was slaying vampires on TV on a weekly basis. Our shared interests in books, theatre, and dance have led to many lively discussions, punctuated often with exclamations. We live in two different nations, so we don't get to see each other in person very often, but we keep in touch regularly via electronic mail. We've both had a busy month so far, but between work, rehearsals, and shows, we made time to talk about books by an author we both enjoy: Sarah Dessen. We've discussed her books before - we even made a very special trip together to see her stories on screen - but this is the first time I've gotten Suze to speak up on my blog. Say hi, Suze.
Suze: Hello! I'm very honored to be allowed to have my say on Little Willow's blog! Do bear with me as this is my first time . . .
Little Willow: Okay, let's go!
What was the first book by Sarah Dessen that you ever read? What did you think of it?
Little Willow: Dreamland. It was heavy - appropriately so, but heavy. I am glad that the next Sarah book I read, That Summer, was lighter and countered it. Which book did you read first?
Suze: Someone Like You. I can vaguely recall being told in no uncertain terms that I needed to read Sarah Dessen and most importantly to "start with Someone Like You!" It was a very touching story about friendship, and naturally, it sucked me right in. I literally could not put it down until I'd finished it.
What was the second Sarah Dessen book you read?
Little Willow: That Summer, Dessen's debut. I then read the rest of her novels in order of publication. At that point, That Lullaby was her newest book.
Suze: Also That Summer, incidentally. However, I didn't quite stick to the order of publication - pretty close though.
Which Dessen novel is your favorite? Why?
Little Willow: Poignant and realistic, The Truth About Forever is my favorite Sarah Dessen book. I loved how Macy and Wes challenged each other to be more truthful and honest with themselves.
Suze: I hate this question because it always leads to a very long and painful argument in my head. I'd have to say it's a tie between This Lullaby and the Truth About Forever. Of course, I also love Just Listen and Keeping the Moon . . . Then I have a soft spot for Someone Like You... See what I mean? I'll refrain from going into detail about why I love each and every one. For now, anyway.
Favorite character? Why?
Suze: Another difficult question to answer. My favorite female character would have to be Remy from This Lullaby because of her incredible sense of self. She hasn't had the easiest life and shes definitely made a ton of mistakes, but yet in the end she came out on top and she did it by herself, I find her strength and independence admirable. My favorite male character would be Wes from The Truth About Forever for a lot of the same reasons, plus the whole 'sa-woon' thing didn't hurt his case either! You?
Little Willow: I really liked Remy as well. She was independent and headstrong, like I am, and I understood why she was determined to rely on no one but herself. I really enjoyed the conversations that Macy and Wes had in The Truth About Forever. They founded their relationship on honesty, and as they learned more about each other, they also learned more about themselves.
Suze: I agree. I can't think of a better way to really get to know someone. Of course, they would have to tell the truth, and I've noticed that honesty seems to be harder to come by these days.
Little Willow: Honesty is the best policy. I am a huge fan of honesty.
Suze: Me too! After Owen's teachings in Just Listen, I have really made an effort to be more honest and tell less of the little white lies that most people tell on a daily basis. Of course, this can get me in a bit of hot water on occasion - so it's a bit of a work-in-progress!
What do you think of the way Dessen connects all of her books? Do you prefer recurring characters or subtle cameos?
Suze: I absolutely love the way her characters often return for Cameo's in future books. It's always nice to read a little about what happened afterwards, yet she never lets an appearance of a former character take away from the actual theme or story of the book. Although, sometimes, I find myself wishing that she would get carried away and go more into detail about what has happened to any given character - but I know it probably take away from the story she's trying to tell. Still, it's nice to read about them, kind of like seeing an old friend after a long time apart... What do you think, LW?
Little Willow: I like musing on the theory of six degrees of separation, so I enjoy the fact that Dessen has chosen to connect her stories without making them direct sequels or a series. I like the subtle cameos. I especially liked the appearance of Wes and Macy in Just Listen. Without being named or involved in the story, just simply described as two other people in the restaurant, longtime Dessen fans instantly knew who they were while new readers thought nothing of it. I wanted to make Rogerson go far, far away from Ruby in Lock and Key, which is understandable, since I wanted him to go far, far away from Caitlin in Dreamland. (Can you tell yet that I'm anti-drug?) On a happier note, Suze, what did you think about the band that reappeared in Just Listen?
Suze: I loved it! It was wonderful to know that Truth Squad was plaing at Bento once again, and I was even more pleased that 'music-buff' Owen approved of thier music. It was also equally nice to have Remy there and that little exchange with Dexter and his cell phone was adorable! I was so dissapointed when Annabelle ran out and never got the opportunity to hear the Potato Song.
Now for a shared experience: Our trip to the movie theatre to see How to Deal on opening night.
Suze: Ah, that was good times! I remember anxiously waiting for it to come out, and being slightly disappointed that I would be on vacation and unable to see it. Then you suggested going and made it very easy for me to hop a bus...
Little Willow: ...and after a long workday, we met at the bookstore and then went to the theatre. I was excited for the movie, which combined two of Dessen's books, That Summer and Someone Like You. Sadly, my excitement turned into disappointment. The movie took the main character from one book and gave her the family from the other book, downplayed Halley's extremely close friendship with Scarlett, and changed her relationship with Macon. It added in things that were supposed to be funny but which I didn't find particularly humorous, and it did not have any of my favorite moments from the books. What did you think, Suze?
Suze: My thoughts on the movie were very similar to yours. Scarlett's character was portrayed completely differently - she was more like a lovesick ditz than the character that I loved in the book. Then I was absolutely horrified when Halley abandoned her best friend while she was in labor - to go make up with Macon. I thought that your announcement at the end was very accurate. Do you remember what you said to everyone in the theatre?
Little Willow: I believe I said something like, "Read the books. The books are better." Is that right?
Suze: Yes, it was definitely something along those lines. I often wondered if anyone actually went out and read the books afterwards.
Little Willow: I hope so - and I hope that people reading this post will go read the books now, too!
Related Posts at Bildungsroman:
Author Spotlight: Sarah Dessen
Interview: Sarah Dessen
Roundtable: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Playlist: This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
They Tried to Ban This Book Today, or, There's a Sticker on the Cover of This Book: Reacting to the Challenge of Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Watch Sarah Dessen and Melissa Walker on readergirlz TV