Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Truth about Forever (by Sarah Dessen)

I'd been curious about Dessen ever since she dominated the top 100 YA novels list, and I picked up the book that's widely considered her best, The Truth About Forever, at my beloved Powell's in Portland.

I think my expectations were too high. I didn't fall in love with it the way I fall in love with John Green's books. I found it difficult to lose myself in it. While I did enjoy the narrator (mostly), a lot of the minor characters felt forced and unbelievable. (Wes has one flaw and is basically perfection incarnate, Monica only says three words over and over again, etc.) I didn't mind that the narrator was flawed, but she seemed so weak. I guess that was her flaw, but I kind of wanted to shake her by the shoulders a lot.

I read this as a YA writer (or "writer," I know I am no Sarah Dessen) and could really see the work--the writing felt effortful. I was also amused at the awkward dialogue tags, which is something my writing group has dinged me for! It's the trick where you split up a thought, like so:

"You are not going to believe," she said, "what just went down out there."
"But," Delia said carefully, "You didn't, right?"
"He said," she said, "that his stupid asshole son..."

Yes, not only does it say "He said, she said" (where is the editor) but these examples ARE ALL ON THE SAME PAGE OF THE BOOK.

Anyway, I guess I don't get the Dessen infatuation. Everything felt contrived, in a weird way. I didn't love it.



Blogger harmony said...

The problem with awkward dialogue tags is that once you see them, you can't stop seeing them and then they annoy you forever. I think they can occasionally be effective to indicate an actual pause as the character is speaking. ("I do think," she said, tapping her lip with her index finger, "that they can occasionally be effective..."). But mostly they are crap, as was my example.

3:15 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Oh, I totally use them--but the key is not to OVER use them. Sometimes it is a nice tool for pacing, I agree. And then sometimes it's just weird/too much/a tic. As in this case!

4:03 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

Yeeeaah, I was on the Sarah Dessen bandwagon for awhile, but I jumped off when I realized that all her books are basically the same. She was one of the first YA authors I started reading when I started reading YA before library school. Not great literature, but my teens Eat Them Up.

6:21 AM  
Anonymous lillowen said...

I am glad it's not just me that thinks her books are the same. I read "Just Listen" and "Along For the Ride" on the recommendation of a friend of mine who is a published YA author and loves Sarah Dessen, and I was a little underwhelmed. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I mean, they were fun to read, but the plots of the two books were pretty similar (damaged, brooding girl meets guy who also has baggage! they fall in love, but she panics and blows him off! they get back together!) and now I'm wondering if that's true of all of her stuff.

7:42 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Yeah, I am not in a big rush to read more of hers, since this one is supposedly her best and it didn't do anything for me...

4:20 PM  

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