Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Seeing as how Sarah Dessen is literally the queen of YA Contemporary Romance, I though I’d rank her books to celebrate the holiday. I’ll admit, this was a bit more work than I thought it would be, I literally just binged half of her books. But I think that makes me uniquely qualified to make this list. Keep in mind these are all my opinions.
But here we go, this is how I would rank her books from least favorite to most favorite. I’ve included the order and year in which the books were published as well. Titles link to Goodreads. (Note: I’m not including her short story on the list.)
13) That Summer (1st book, published 1996) – This is the only one of Dessen’s books where the main character is not involved in some kind of romantic relationship, but that’s not why I’ve ranked it so low. I like the characters and the overall themes, but it’s a lot more telling than showing. It’s really apparent that this is Dessen’s first book and it comes off as more the main character telling us a story rather than living the events with her.
12) The Moon & More (11th book, published 2013) – Emaline isn’t my favorite character and this is the first time that Dessen has essentially given us a love triangle. On top of that, I don’t really like Luke or Theo. I mean, I think I could have liked Luke, but we don’t end up seeing that much of him. I did really like Emaline’s relationship with her brother, Benji, though.
11) Keeping the Moon (3rd book, published 1999) – Colie might be my least favorite Dessen protag. I feel like she comes off as immature and her relationship with Norman didn’t actually feel very organic. I did, however, like the message of self-confidence and self-worth, etc.
10) What Happened to Goodbye (10th book, published 2011) – While I love Luna Blu as a location, the rest of the story feels a little more…vague. McLean was an okay character for me even though I did really like her relationship with her dad.
9) Someone Like You (2nd book, published 1998) – Scarlett and Halley are ultimate friendship goals. I absolutely LOVE their relationship. Again, though, because this is only Dessen’s second novel, it doesn’t read as smoothly and doesn’t feel as absorbing as her later books. But I did also enjoy how Halley and her mom come to some kind of resolution in the end.
8) Dreamland (4th book, published 2000) – This book is absolutely heartbreaking. I was too young the first time I read this book and didn’t really understand all of the implications, but rereading it last week just destroyed me. I don’t have experience being in an abusive relationship and haven’t read very many books dealing with that, but I feel like I understand Caitlin. While I don’t always agree with her decisions, they make sense to me.
7) Along for the Ride (9th book, published 2009) – I just like Auden so much. Her parents are both infuriating, but I really like how Auden is with her step-mother and half-sister. The scenes where Auden is bonding with her sister are so precious. I also like how Auden and Eli’s relationship develops over time. Also, this book features my fave Dessen location OF ALL TIME: The Washroom (the pie laundromat).
6) Once and For All (13th book, published 2017) – I loved Louna’s mom and William and the wedding planning element made this book really fun. While I know some people really don’t like Louna or Ambrose, they felt really reminiscent of Remy and Dexter to me, so I actually did end up liking them.
5) Lock & Key (8th book, published 2008) – Ruby and Cora’s relationship is one of my favorites. Dessen has a lot of sister relationships throughout her books, but I feel like this one was the most tender. I also like that Nate was probably the most in-depth love interest that we’ve had.
4) Just Listen (7th book, published 2006) – Again, I was too young the first time I read this book, so I feel like I just understand more now. As a “difficult” middle child myself, I feel like I relate in some ways to Whitney. I know this story is about Annabel, but I felt like this story was more about Whitney as a secondary character than any of Dessen’s other books have been about secondary characters.
3) Saint Anything (12th book, published 2015) – The Chathams. I feel like that’s really all I need to say. They’re such a great family and I love seeing Sydney with them. I also like how Sydney realistically works through her feelings about her brother and what he’s done.
2) This Lullaby (5th book, published 2002) – Remy is one of my favorite Dessen protags. She’s feisty and smart and loyal and jaded. I think this book is really where Dessen hits her stride. And how can you not love Dexter?
1) The Truth About Forever (6th book, published 2004) – I have read and reread this book so many times over the years. It’s really become a comfort object to me for some reason. Macy and Wes and the whole Wish Catering crew just feel so real to me. I love every scene where they’re catering and rushing to resolve emergencies. Watching Macy’s family finally trying to heal after everything that’s happened is both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.