Teens’ Top Ten: an Interview with Sarah Dessen

Teen Read Week is October 14th through 20th, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating for ten days so we can bring you interviews, guest posts, videos, and more with each of the authors whose books made this year’s Teens’ Top Ten. Today we feature an interview with Sarah Dessen, whose book What Happened to Goodbye is #5 on this year’s list.

Teens LOVE Sarah Dessen. She’s one of the authors that girls always ask me about at the library. I’m constantly handing out her books and recommending them. I adore her books — plus I was lucky enough to meet her and she’s awesome! It was a lot of fun to interview her for this post.

This year, teens have selected What Happened to Goodbye as a Teens’ Top Ten pick! Sarah’s not new to this list. Along for the Ride, The Truth About Forever, and Just Listen have all been selected as Teens’ Top Ten titles! For Sarah, being on the list is “enormously flattering. Of course, it’s lovely for the books to get any kind of notice, but when it’s something like this, voted on by the readers themselves, it means so much. Making this list is a special kind of honor.”

Sarah loves her fans and they love her back. Many teen girls spoke with her while she toured, sharing that her books help them get through high school. Sarah couldn’t be happier with that praise. High school wasn’t the happiest time in life for her and she also turned to books. Books helped her understand her emotions and to realize she’s not alone. She’s proud that her books might be helping others.

Growing up, Sarah went to the library every Saturday with her mother. She’d check out the maximum limit of books each time. Libraries hold a special place in her heart. As she grew older, she used the library for reading all the magazines she couldn’t afford to buy while she was waitressing. Of her time in libraries, she states, “I loved the peace of all those books and book lovers in one place, especially in contrast to the restaurant, where there was always some kind of drama, conflict and craziness going on. It was a little bit of calm in the middle of all the chaos. I still feel that way about the library.”

As an author, Sarah gets to meet other authors. She still has a list of authors she’d like to meet, specifically, Anne Tyler, “as she is incredibly prolific, honest to her own voice, and makes even the hardest things on the page look easy to do.” Though she wouldn’t mind meeting John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany is her favorite book of all time), Stephen King, Tina Fey, or Anne Lamott. The list goes on and on.

It’s the same with books; she has a neverending pile of books to read. Sarah tweets about books she’s reading or listening to. Lately, Sarah’s been recommending Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding to everyone. It was one of the best books she read this year. “It’s a book about baseball, which I couldn’t care less about, but the characters were so well drawn and the story so unique and compelling. I’m STILL thinking about people from that book, all these months later. It was like a master class.”

Sarah has a five-year-old daughter, who has influenced the way she portrays mothers in her books. Before, they were just mothers, but now, being a mother herself, Sarah realizes mothers feel more emotions towards their children. Sarah finds herself sympathizing with them: “It’s such a hard job, and you worry so much. I think I’ve also been adding more kids into my work, if only because I’m around a kid myself so much and the potential for material is so great. That said, though, I will admit that when it comes to bedtime stories, my daughter likes my husband’s MUCH better. It’s pretty insulting, but I’m trying to deal with it.” While Sarah reads lots of pictures books to her daughter, she doesn’t see herself switching ages and writing a story for young kids. “A good children’s book is like writing poetry: every word, syllable, sentence counts for SO much. I’m not known for my brevity: just ask my editor about my first drafts. I fear I couldn’t write a picture book shorter than a hundred pages, and even my kid, who loves me, wouldn’t want to sit through that.”

However, Sarah does have a new teen book coming out next year: The Moon and More comes out June 4th and takes place the summer before Emaline leaves for college. She’s beginning to think nothing will ever happen to her. “Then, suddenly, there are all these changes at once, in relationships, family, and even, in some ways, her future. Can you start over in the same place you’ve always been? And is that better, or worse, than leaving everything you know behind? It’s a story about suddenly having to find your way around a place you thought you knew by heart. I’m really excited for everyone to read it.”

I’m excited to read it, and I know all her fans are anxiously awaiting the next Sarah Dessen book.

— Jennifer Rummel, currently reading A Gift from Tiffany’s by Melissa Hill

One thought on “Teens’ Top Ten: an Interview with Sarah Dessen”

  1. I love Sarah Dessen! I think it’s a complete circle how Sarah Dessen leaned on books when she was in high school and now she’s creating the books for other teens to do the same.

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