Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fiction | Learning to Love the Unexpected

Back when I first read Sarah Dessen for my YA class last fall, I knew she would become a go-to when I wanted a wonderful, light, teen-angsty read. I found The Truth About Forever at the book barn back in the spring and have been holding onto it for the right moment ever since. [I also discovered the Nashville Public Library has, I think, her entire collection available for eBook check out, so I am definitely all set for the future.]

When I first read the synopsis for this book, I thought I might be offended: its main character Macy is spending her summer at a "boring job in the library" filling in for her perfect boyfriend who is away at Brain Camp. A) Boring job at the library, no such thing. B) I am offended you would even suggest as much. But ok, I know not every teenager has such a library-obsessed attitude as I did, so I decided to let it slide. In Macy's story, she's spending her summer this way because it's all part of her plan. She's very organized, very driven, and very safe. She's been that way since her dad died suddenly of a heart attack. Unable to cope with something she could never control, she tries to control everything else in her life. It's what helps her get through.

But living as Macy does is no way to live. Her plan leaves no room for error, for spontaneity, for adventure, for experience. When perfect boyfriend Jason decides to put their relationship on hold, from a distance, Macy starts to lose control...but this time she holds on for the ride. A new job with an eclectic catering company, new friends, and new experiences helps Macy open up and finally face the grief she's worked so hard to smother.

I get the feeling that Sarah Dessen's books are somewhat formulaic, and based on what she writes, I think that's unavoidable. She writes about real, relatable characters that, yes, can be considered unique as every individual is indeed unique. But they're all very normal. The settings are very Anywhere; the situations can happen to Anyone. Is this a turn-off? Heck no! As a kid, I always preferred "normal" stories about real people and real settings than anything fantastical, and I'm mostly still that way. Dessen's books are a great escape into a life that could be your own but isn't your own. And to prevent burn-out or that formulaic feeling, maybe space out your Dessen reading.

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