Summer Sundays with Sarah Wrap Up

I decided to read all of Sarah Dessen’s books in publication order because it’s summer. Anytime I ask fellow avid readers for summer book recommendations, there’s always someone that says Sarah Dessen. Some people love her, some people think her books are just okay, and some people don’t really get the whole Sarah love-craze. One thing I like about her books is how they’re connected. They aren’t sequels, but they have strings that connect them – a character here, a phase there…I love that. I knew that if I didn’t read them back to back, I’d never be able to catch those little Easter eggs. Note, this is a long post. I wanted to include the connections across the books for those of you that have read her books, but maybe didn’t see all the little references.

After reading all 12 of Sarah Dessen’s books, I can honestly say that I’m a big fan. Her books are not perfect or groundbreaking literature, but they feel so real. She’s a master of dialogue and character development, making a 400 page book seem like nothing. Sometimes even when the storyline didn’t grip me, I still didn’t want to put the book down because I was invested in her characters and later on, in the world she’d built. Dessen writes great love stories, yes, and all of them are different. They’re great beach reads, yes. But they’re also about real life issues. They certainly aren’t fluff pieces – they’re gritty and some of them are heartbreaking. I’m glad that I read them the way that I did, building on each other. I enjoyed seeing her writing change a little bit over time. Sarah Dessen is now one of my auto-buy authors. I’m ready for the next one!


That Summer – published 1996

  • My rating: 2.5 stars
  • It had moments of thoughtfulness, but mostly it was kind of boring. This is the only book I didn’t write a full review for, frankly because I just didn’t want to think about it anymore.

Someone Like You – published 1998

  • My rating: 4.75 stars
  • I really enjoyed this one. I loved the characters for so many different reasons and found the ending to be empowering.

Keeping the Moonpublished 1999

  • My rating: 4.25
  • This book was so great. This, similar to Someone Like You, deals mostly with friendship. But what makes this book different from her previous one is that it’s a bit more about self discovery, strength, and confidence.

Dreamland – published 2000

  • My rating: 3 stars
  • This book kind of went up and down for me. I was a little bored at first, then I was intrigued, then it was slow, then it was the climax of the story and I was concerned, then I was bored again.

This Lullaby – published 2002

  • My rating: 4.25 stars
  • I didn’t really like it until the end. I liked how everything came together and how the main character grew.
  • Connections: Scarlett from Someone Like You works at the local coffee shop and one of the boys from Dexter’s band has a crush on her

The Truth About Forever – published 2004

  • My rating: 4.75 stars
  • This was the second time that I’ve read this one. I connected with Macy on so many levels and I really enjoyed the progression of this story.
  • Connections: (From Keeping the Moon) The family’s beach house is in Colby and there’s mention of the Last Chance diner. (From This Lullaby) A random lady is seen reading one of Barbara Starr’s  books. (From That Summer) At the end, we get a weather report from Haven’s step-mom.

Just Listen – published 2006

  • My rating: 4.75 stars
  • I read this book in ONE DAY – I was hooked from start to finish. Great, dynamic characters, very real issues dealt with in a very realistic way, and really strong writing. This may be my favorite.
  • Connections: (From This Lullaby) Owen has a Truth Squad CD (Hate Spinnerbait!) in his car and Sophie goes to the club Bendo. Later on, Owen and Annabel go to Bendo to see Truth Squad play and meet with them backstage (including both Dexter and Remy).

Lock and Key – published 2008

  • My rating: 4.25 stars
  • I expected this book to take me a while, but just like with all her books I plowed through it. This one felt different from the others. It felt more grounded and unpredictable. Interesting twist on the guy-saves-girl trope.
  • Connections: (This book had the most, I think!) (From Dreamland) Creepy Rogerson makes a small appearance and we get a reference to his abuse charge. (From Just Listen) Nate listens to a radio show that Annabel runs. Also from that book, we had what sounded like Owen’s sister and her friends show up at the jewelry stand and Owen helps Jamie make a mix CD for Cora. (From The Truth About Forever) Kristy and Bert also make an appearance at the jewelry stand. (From multiple books) We see both Jackson High and Perkins Day. (From This Lullaby ) Cora helped Barbara Starr through one of her divorces.(From Keeping the Moon.) Laney saw one of Kiki Sparks’s workout videos and decided to run a 5K.

Along for the Ride – published 2009

  • My rating: 4.5 stars
  • This book reminded me a lot of The Truth About Forever, but it still had it’s own flavor and style. I really enjoyed the character growth, but hated the parents in this story. I felt like a grumbling teenager towards them. Ha!
  • Connections: (From Lock & Key) Auden had Calculus with Nate and had a crush on him. At Clementine’s, they got in a shipment of key necklaces with gems on them and Auden has a ume.com account. (From The Truth About Forever) Maggie talks about a time when they went to World of Waffles. Also, Auden almost went to prom with Jason…twice. (From multiple books) Auden went to Jackson High for a little while and also attended Perkins Day. (From Keeping the Moon) Heidi is best friends with Isobel and Morgan and when Auden goes to Last Chance, she’s waited on by someone who sounds like Colie.

What Happened to Goodbye – published 2011

  • My rating: 4 stars
  • This book was good. It didn’t move along as well as some of the other books, you know what I mean? It was pretty stagnant for a while; I wasn’t really sure what we were building up to. The romance is different in this book, too. Dave and Mclean have a totally different dynamic; nothing crazy, just slow and sweet.
  • Connections: (From a couple different books) Mclean’s parents went to Defriese University and her step-dad is the coach for their basketball team. Also, Mclean went to Jackson High. (From Lock & Key) Mclean has a Ume.com account. (From Just Listen) At lunch, Mclean sees what sounds like Owen and Annabel, sharing earbuds. (From The Truth About Forever) JASON has dropped out of Harvard and works at Luna Blue. Brain Camp Jason! Also, he and Dave went to Brain Camp together. Later in the book, Mclean runs into him at the library where he worked in tTAF, too. (From Along for the Ride) Mclean’s mom is friends with Heidi, who brings Mclean some swimsuits from Clementine’s. (From Keeping the Moon) Mclean and her parents go to Last Chance Diner while in Colby.

The Moon and More – published 2013

  • My rating: 4.5 stars
  • I really enjoyed this one! Little bit of a different family dynamic and love interest than the other books. I was engaged and invested early on!
  • Connections: (From a couple different books) We’re back in Colby! (From Along for the Ride) They stop at the Gas/Gro a few times and Ivy and Theo are doing a documentary on Clyde. We get flyers to Tallyho and Maggie tells Emaline, outside of Abe’s Bikes, “No no no to Tallyho!” Then Emaline and Daisy go into Clementine’s where they see Heidi and Auden. Also, Esther helps Ivy film for the documentary. (From The Truth About Forever) Luke is cousins with Wes and Bert, and Emaline mentions the Gotcha game that they play. (From This Lullaby) Spinnerbait is playing at the  Pavilion…Hate Spinnerbait! (From What Happened to Goodbye) We see Gerts bracelets, as well as the shop that they come from and the girl who makes them.

Saint Anything – published 2015

  • My rating: 4 stars
  • This one was good! There was a lot going on, in terms of conflict, and I don’t feel that all it was resolved or even hinted at resolution. As per usual, Dessen gives us a great friend group and some strong character development.
  • Connections: (From a couple different books) Sydney went to Perkins Day, then transferred to Jackson. At the beginning of the book, Sydney’s family has to sell their beach house in Colby. (From What Happened to Goodbye) Sydney’s family went to Luna Blu after her brother’s graduation and Deb greets Sydney on her first day at Jackson.Also, Dave works at Frazier Bakery and sells coffee to Sydney. (From Lock & Key) Sydney mentions that the creator of ume.com funded a remodel of Perkins Day. (From This Lullaby) Layla invited Sydney to Bendo to hear the band play. We also hear about the record label that signed both Truth Squad and Spinnerbait. Mac reminds us, “Hate Spinnerbait.” (From Dreamland) Rogerson Biscoe is in the same hall as Peyton in prison.

Have you read any (or all) of Sarah Dessen’s books? Do you have any favorites? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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