13 Life Lessons Learned From Sarah Dessen Novels
There’s nothing quite like reading a Sarah Dessen novel during summer, that magical time when the world always seems to be on the cusp of something beautiful or epic or heartbreaking—or maybe all three. Luckily, Sarah Dessen is always there to talk us through it with words that speak to some of life’s biggest truths. She’s taught us a lot, far more than what we’ve listed in this post—but here are some of our favorite life lessons learned from Sarah Dessen novels!
You only live once, so make the most of it.
“You said the other day life was long,” I shot back. “Which is it?”
“It’s both,” she said, shrugging. “It all depends on how you choose to live it. It’s like forever, always changing.”
It’s okay if you mess up sometimes. . .
“You’re supposed to fail sometimes. It’s a required part of the human existence.”
. . . but never give up.
“If you try anything, if you try to lose weight, or to improve yourself, or to love, or to make the world a better place, you have already achieved something wonderful, before you even begin. Forget failure. If things don’t work out the way you want, hold your head up high and be proud. And try again. And again. And again!”
Love is messy and hard and it can hurt a lot, but when there’s enough of it, it’s worth it.
“No relationship is perfect, ever. There are always some ways you have to bend, to compromise, to give something up in order to gain something greater…The love we have for each other is bigger than these small differences. And that’s the key. It’s like a big pie chart, and the love in a relationship has to be the biggest piece. Love can make up for a lot.”
And no love is harder than your first love.
“You can’t love anyone that way more than once in a lifetime. It’s too hard and it hurts too much when it ends. The first boy is always the hardest to get over.”
But just because you can’t help who you love, that doesn’t mean you don’t have choices.
“If you didn’t love him, this never would have happened. But you did. And accepting that love and everything that followed it is part of letting it go.”
Don’t be afraid to let others in—you’re going to need them.
He thought about this for a second. “True. But if you never really make friends, you probably don’t have anyone to be your 2 a.m. Which would kind of suck.”
I just looked at him as he stirred his soup, carrots spinning in the liquid. “Your what?”
“Two a.m.” He swallowed, then said, “You know. The person you can call at two a.m. and, no matter what, you can count on them. Even if they’re asleep or it’s cold or you need to be bailed out of jail…they’ll come for you. It’s, like, the highest level of friendship.”
And those people? They’re your family.
“What is family? They were the people who claimed you. In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless. It wasn’t just about blood relations or shared chromosomes, but something wider, bigger. We had many families over time. Our family of origin, the family we created, and the groups you moved through while all of this was happening: friends, lovers, sometimes even strangers.”
Life is unpredictable.
“You can’t just plan a moment when things get back on track, just as you can’t plan the moment you lose your way in the first place.”
Everything can change in a moment—especially in summertime.
“It was the very nature of summer. So many long, lazy days when blissfully, nothing changes, and then everything does, all at once.”
You can’t outrun the past . . .
“Because this is what happens when you try to run from the past. It doesn’t just catch up: it overtakes, blotting out the future, the landscape, the very sky, until there is no path left except that which leads through it, the only one that can ever get you home.”
. . . but the future is full of possibilities.
“That was just it. You never knew what lay ahead; the future was one thing that could never be broken, because it had not yet had the chance to be anything. One minute you’re walking through a dark woods, alone, and then the landscape shifts, and you see it. Something wondrous and unexpected, almost magical, that you never would have found had you not kept going. Like a new friend who feels like an old one, or a memory you’ll never forget. Maybe even a carousel.”
Everyone deserves a second chance, even yourself.
“All this time I’d been waiting for my second chance. Maybe he’d been here all along.”
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