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Sarah Dessen is Queen of Summer Reads

Friday from the Archives: “about this girl: an interview with Sarah Dessen,” by Anthony James Holsten from NCLR Issue 15 (2006)

As we’re heading into the last few official weeks of summer, we’re delighted to hear that NC author Sarah Dessen has been chosen the Queen of Summer Reads!

“To discover the most beloved and most popular summer read authors, Preply analyzed user libraries on Goodreads containing keywords such as ‘summer’ and ‘beach’. After scraping 1,225 libraries it’s been revealed that Sarah Dessen, who resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is the undisputed queen of the summer reads, with her novels appearing 326 times on holiday reading lists.”

In our 2006 issue featuring “Children’s and Young Adult Literature in North Carolina,” we ran both an interview with Dessen by Anthony James Holsten and a critical analysis of Dessen’s early books positioned against earlier young adult novels.

Holsten starts the interview with Dessen’s first few years after college, waiting tables and writing three different novels. The third one wound up being her first published work, That Summer; Dessen herself was surprised that it was sold in the Young Adult genre. “Dessen notes that her entry into the field of young adult literature was unexpected. “I totally came into it backwards. I just wrote a book with a teenage narrator. And when my agent told me my book is ‘young adult,’ I told her I didn’t want to be a young adult writer. I was afraid I’d never be able to do anything else, but she said ‘Trust me.’ And she sold it – in
a month.”

Holsten continued, “Even though she may have had reservations at first, she loves being a “YA” author.” “It’s worked out. It’s such a great place for me to be,” Dessen said. But the field does have its particular challenges: “In young adult they want you to publish very frequently. The norm is every year, every two years. If it goes much longer than two years, then people ask what’s wrong. I feel like I’ve been on this little gerbil wheel. Write, write, write!”

Foreshadowing the Tedesco critique that follows the interview, Holsten comments on the difference between Dessen’s novels and what had been popular young adult novels in the 1970s and 80s. He wrote, “Whether the issues are big or small, Dessen sticks with what she knows: the honest and the real – but she enjoys writing outside of the realm of the serious or depressing. “If you want to be depressed, just take
a look around you. Especially nowadays, people need to come up for air sometimes. That’s why I think the YA market appealed to me. It doesn’t have to be a totally happy book from start to finish, but people need
those lighter moments.”

Read the whole article by ordering the 2006 issue for your collection.