This is only the cat’s third Sarah Dessen, and after the initial hiccups of Someone Like You and the absolute eye-opener The Truth About Forever, I have a sneaky suspicion that any Sarah Dessen book will probably feel like coming home from now on. By now, Sarah Dessen feels like a writer who could become an author for all seasons. Not because of the super-exciting nature of the stories she tells, but because of the truly enjoyable writing style and the recognizable protagonists which are always fleshed out to a T.
In This Lullaby, the voice is that of Remy Starr, who at the age of 18 has already given up on love as an absolute,… I guess with a mother who’s at her 5th marriage and a father she has never seen, most 18-year-olds would be as skeptic about love as she is. The lullaby of the title is the only thing Remy has left of her dead father: a hit single all those years ago, the type of song you hear covered (badly) at weddings, or which you hear on the radio and feel slightly nostalgic about. In the summer between the end of high school and the beginning of a new life at Stanford, Remy meets Dexter, the messy musician who will shake things up for her. The question of this in-between time is whether Dexter will just be another guy for Remy, someone who she can turn away the moment things might get serious, or whether the girl who hates people smoking or eating in her car, will buy plastic ware for a boy.
The big issues of a Sarah Dessen story are never about open-heart surgery or medieval basket weaving, but rather about the things close to home and close to your heart: relationships with family and friends, commitment, the fear and/or the lack thereof, overcoming your fears. Again, one of the oldest topics imaginable, but Dessen always does this with a narrative flair which is smart and honest, yet also has the necessary wit, so it never feels depressing nor corny or sentimental.
Writing believable, complicated heroines, with a strong voice and a mind of their own. Not forgetting about the minor characters in your stories. Language and dialogues that have a natural flow. The assessment of Sarah Dessen as a contemporary Jane Austen isn’t that far-fetched I would think. In any case, one should always have a Sarah Dessen book on the side, you never know when it might rain, or snow, or when the sun might shine, or when…