At 4:14 this morning I finished reading Sarah Dessen's new book, Along for the Ride. I loved it...and not just because there happens to be a charming secondary character named Maggie. There is a certain irony in my middle of the night reading schedule as Ride's main character, Auden, is living life as an insomniac for the majority of the book. This is a condition I can relate to, and I'm glad to have books like this one to keep me company during my sleepless nights.
I've loved reading all of Dessen's character-driven, coming-of-age YA novels. Her stories are universal rather then edgy, and relatable to readers of all ages. The storytelling is humorous, poignant and comfortable with a healthy dose of angst, but not dark or disturbing. I can't get through one without shedding a few tears, and I've read many of them more than once. That's my equivalent of "two thumbs up."
Because I am also a regular reader of Sarah's blog, I discovered that her AFTR book tour would be taking her to Montclair Village, a few miles away from Nora's home in Oakland. Although the primary reason I went to the Bay Area was to take care of my stricken child we did manage a few excursions as well, including one to a Great Good Place for Books on Sunday afternoon where I got to meet Sarah, listen to her read a selection from Along for the Ride, and have my book signed. I felt like a groupie...of course I was the oldest groupie in the room by several decades. Sometimes it's a slightly awkward to be such a fan of YA and children's literature at my advanced age, but I think it's thrilling to meet a favorite author no matter what how old you are.
The majority of the attendees at this event matched Sarah's traditional reader profile of adolescent girls. They were excited to meet their favorite author and brought along stacks of books for her to sign. One fan standing in line in front of me lived several hours away but had been determined to meet Sarah. Her books were tagged with tiny color-coded post-its marking her favorite parts, and I bet she had discovered all of the clever inter-book connections Dessen adds to each of her manuscripts. She proclaimed her desire to become a writer and added her fervent wish that things that things that happened to "Auden" will maybe someday happen to her. She was adorable and very passionate. It made me realize that responsibility to readers comes hand-in-hand with an author's popularity. I imagine this is a burden, and a blessing, that Sarah Dessen accepts willingly.