When it comes to romantic teen reads, Sarah Dessen seems to be a genre in and of herself. So many books are marketed for "fans of Sarah Dessen" or as Sarah Dessen type reads. Readers can always count on her for sympathetic characters, witty dialogue and exploration of compelling teen issues. Well, Sarah Dessen, who has slowed down considerably since becoming a mom, has published a new book! This month I will be recommending Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, as well as other romantic reads that are similar in tone. In Saint Anything Sydney, whose older brother has been sent to jail for a drunk driving accident, struggles to deal with the family dysfunction that follows. Adi Alsaid (Let's Get Lost) has just come out with a new novel called Never, Always, Sometimes, which is about Dave and Julia, best friends who take their relationship to the next level. Kasie West's The Fill-In Boyfriend explores the repercussions when high school senior Gia is dumped by her college boyfriend in the parking lot at prom and randomly asks a stranger, who witnesses her humiliation, to pose as her date. Lara Avery's A Million Miles Away focuses on identical twin Kelsey, whose sister Michelle dies in a car accident. When Kelsey tries to break the news to Michelle's boyfriend in Afghanistan, he mistakes her for Michelle and she can't bring herself to tell him the truth.
Saint Anything introduces 16-year-old Sydney whose brother Peyton has always been the focus of the family's attention and has everything going for him; however, he seems bent on self-destruction. Finally, after injuring another teen in a drunk driving accident, Peyton lands in jail. Sydney, who has always lived in his shadow at the private school they attend, decides to transfer to public school for a fresh start. After her first day at the new school, she stops by a pizza parlor where she meets fellow students Layla and Mac, whose father owns the shop. Layla immediately sweeps Sydney into her world and Mac becomes Sydney's secret crush. In their mother, she discovers a person she can talk to who will listen, unlike her own mother whose entire focus is on Peyton and his incarceration. Sydney's family is a dysfunctional mess, with her mom constantly meddling in Peyton's life and her father immersing himself in work. Layla and Mac's family also has its problems, with their sister struggling with drug problems and their mother battling MS, but instead of being torn apart, their family has drawn closer. The contrast between the two families and Sydney's problems with unwanted attention from one of Peyton's friends add tension to the story. Although Sydney becomes romantically involved with Mac, her friendship with Layla is really the heart of the narrative. Dessen fans will not be disappointed.
Never, Always, Sometimes is a refreshing new offering from the author of Let's Get Lost, which was one of my favorite reads last year. As freshmen, best friends Dave and Julia agreed to avoid high school cliches and made a "Never" list, including #10 Never date your best friend. But as "senioritis" hits, they decide to break ALL the rules. Little does Julia know that Dave has been in love with her since freshman year and is filled with trepidation about #10. To complicate matters Dave has just starting seeing sporty, popular Gretchen, whom he really likes, and artistic impetuous Julia seems to be jealous. As they break one rule after another, Dave and Julia begin to realize that by skipping the cliches they were missing out on a lot of the fun of high school. Their banter-filled relationship contains many poignant moments, keeping readers in suspense as to whether romantic love will blossom between the two.
The Fill-In Boyfriend takes the familiar tale of a shallow girl who finds depth through adversity and creates a sweet romantic read filled with witty dialogue and cringe worthy humor. Gia Montgomery is a self absorbed high school senior who is constantly seeking social media approval. She arrives at prom with Bradley, the college boyfriend she has been bragging about, but her friends have never met. Disgusted by her superficial worries about showing him off, he breaks up with her in the prom parking lot. This is witnessed by Hayden, whom Gia quickly enlists as a "fill-in Bradley." Hayden performs admirably and then disappears. But Gia finds herself fantasizing about a real relationship with him. Luckily, his sister Bec, a new student in Gia's history class, asks her to return the favor and pose as Hayden's new girlfriend to make his ex jealous. Predictably, Gia and Hayden feel a mutual attraction, but trouble ensues when the truth comes out. Although Gia is at first annoyingly self-centered, her journey to self-discovery through her relationship with Hayden and his family is an enjoyable ride.
A Million Miles Away explores the topic of dealing with a sibling's death through a compellingly unique story. Twin sisters Kelsey and Michelle look identical, but their personalities are polar opposites. Kelsey is the dance team captain with a steady boyfriend and Michelle is a free-spirited artist with a steady stream of flings, the latest being Peter, a soldier recently deployed to Afghanistan. When Michelle dies in a car accident, Kelsey tries to tell Peter about her death; but when she skypes with him, he mistakes her for Michelle and tells her getting back to her is what he is living for. Kelsey can't bring herself to tell him the truth. As she continues the subterfuge, she finds comfort in impersonating Michelle and begins falling for Peter. Wondering what will happen when Peter finds out the truth will keep readers turning the pages.