Title: Someone Like You
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Time taken to read: 5 days
Goodreads synopsis: The world is a terrible place not to have a best friend. Scarlett was always the strong one. Halley was always content to follow in her wake. Then Scarlett’s boyfriend died, and Scarlett learned that she was pregnant. Now Halley has to find the strength to take the lead and help Scarlett get through it. Because true friendship is a promise you keep forever.
This is my sixth Sarah Dessen book, and it is by far my favorite. I am entertained by her stories even when I don’t think they’re perfectly crafted or particularly unique, but this one was different, and it’s actually one of her earliest books.
As you might be able to guess from my own novel-in-progress, I love friendship stories so so so much more than romances. I felt truly envious of the main characters of Someone Like You because they have such an amazing friendship. As Dessen does, there were definitely elements of romance in this book, but that took a backseat to Halley and Scarlett’s relationship. You guys might know from my earlier reviews that Laurie Halse Anderson is my favorite writer ever, because she tackles the real, difficult issues that teenagers face, the issues like PTSD and eating disorders that are too messy and taboo for other authors to write about. I felt like this is the only book of Dessen’s that I’ve read that has really risen to that level of writing about issues that are hard and ugly and that are constantly being swept under the rug. Scarlett is pregnant at sixteen, and she is brave and funny and honest. She is not anyone to look down upon because of her circumstances, and Dessen makes that so clear. And then there’s Halley, who’s dealing with the issue of her virginity and what it means to her, and Dessen’s message is clear again. Your virginity is allowed to mean something to you, and it is allowed to not. You are allowed to want to save it for whomever you think is the right person, and you are allowed to not value it in that way. Neither view is bad. Neither view is wrong. All that matters is that you do what feels right to you, and that it’s consensual. And I love the way Halley owns what’s important to her, and as much as Macon wants to whine and complain, she says, “This is about me.” (243) And girls should know, it’s always about you. You owe nothing to any guy, no matter what they say or do.
These are all really amazing messages to send to young girls, and I wanted so badly to give this book five stars, but I couldn’t because of one problem. There are multiple lines, either in dialogue or narration, I don’t remember exactly, that specifically put down fat teenagers, and that really bothered me. Like near the end when they’re at prom, and Halley points out that even “one of the fattest girls in school” was there, and that’s just completely not necessary. (259) That adds absolutely nothing to a story. It only isolates heavy girls who could be reading this book and seeing themselves in this character, mentioned once and only to point out her size in a negative light, and if I had that experience while reading this, it would probably be enough to make me never want to read a YA novel again. I sincerely hope that Dessen has realized her mistake and has taken care not to do this again in her novels since, and her future novels. I almost said that I hope she has “made the effort” to not do it again, but really does not take any effort to not say nasty things about someone’s size. Zero effort.
That being said, this is still my favorite Dessen novel so far. As I’m sure I’ve said before, I plan to read all her books eventually, and I am very excited for her new one coming out next year! In the meantime, if you’re looking for a Dessen novel to read, definitely go for Someone Like You.