Author: Sarah Dessen
Rating: 5 Stars
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Summary: Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and-lately-concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
Saint Anything. I looked up at him. “I love it. Thank you.” Pg. 341
I was in my high school library, where I was browsing the shelves and happened to pick up a copy of Dreamland. I fell in love… HARD and since high school Sarah’s books have been my go to books. The way she writes romance and family is something I relate to time and time again. And with every re-read I do of her books I find some amazing nuggets of wisdom. I think one of the best things about Sarah’s writing, why I always come back to her books more than any other, is that even the side characters feel familiar to you. You recognize part of yourself in them and it’s like a moment of “oh you too”?
“It was amazing to feel so at home in a place I’d only just come to.” Pg 206
And with Sydney, Layla, and even Mac I recognized a little of myself in all of them. That’s why so many people love Sarah. She doesn’t just write to sell books, she writes from the heart. She gives you these characters that you can’t help but fall in love with and root for. Sydney was definitely a character after my own heart. So many times growing up I wanted to be seen or noticed or paid attention to. And I think one of the hardest things was no one really noticing. I felt alone. That’s another thing I love about Sarah is that when I read her books I don’t feel quite so alone in the world. I see someone else put in to words what I never could. I see someone go through the same struggles, the same mistakes. And when you find books and characters like this you tend to hold on to them. I do wish this book was there while I was in high school.
The friendships! Sarah always has such a great way of writing friendships and it’s another thing I love about her books. Yes there is romance. Yes there is family drama. But there is friendship and loyalty as well. One thing I always love in books is the friendships. A lot of times we see girls competing or best friends becoming enemies and while those are sometimes fun to read, the one thing that draws me in is the love that some authors (Sarah, Emery, Etc.) put into the friendships. It’s not always about the love interest sometimes it’s about the best friend. About having someone there who will have your back or will bail you out of tough situations. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.
“I want songs about my girlfriends, who have been the great loves of my life” -Emery Lord
I know that’s a different author but the quote fit. Sometimes we just need our best friend. Sometimes we need someone to give us the god awful truth. And that’s what I loved about Layla. She didn’t judge, she just listened (see what I did there ;D) and she told it like it was. There are two other characters in here that aren’t in the book a whole lot but I thought should be mentioned. Jenn and Meredith, who were two girls that are friends with Sydney and went to the private school that Sydney attended before she transferred to public. When I first started reading this I figured that Jenn and Meredith would slowly be edged out. They would fade in to the background (I should have known better). Because not only did Sarah not do that, but she kinda brought out a whole new character. Sometimes the people you know so well, you really don’t know at all. And I think that’s one of the greatest things is seeing someone in a new light. Seeing that maybe they aren’t the person you judged them to be. I think one of the facts of life is that not everyone is going to stay in your life, any adult can tell you that. But there are some people who should. I liked that Jenn didn’t just become a background character because I think Sydney would have missed out on an opportunity to know someone really great and getting to see more of Jenn was something I loved.
I would love to see this book come to life for the soul purpose of seeing the family dynamic between the Chathams. The pizza and Mac and Layla and the bluegrass. There was just this very great homey feel when you read the scenes taking place at the Chathams. I’ve always loved Sarah’s way of writing families. They feel like your family or maybe the family you wish you have. They are crazy and fun and dramatic, but they are amazing in all of it, and love, there is always great love. Even Sydney’s mom. While she was a bit overprotective, I also got where she was coming from. I mean I still am young and don’t have any kids of my own so I will always side with the MC but Sarah’s books always make me look at moms differently. There is always the reason behind why they do what they do. It’s not because I’m the parent your the child you listen to me. It’s always driven by fear and love and wanting to save those you love from the mistakes that you can clearly see coming but they can’t. The families have always just been such a great part of these amazing stories.
“After so many months of looking at me only in the context of my brother, finally in that bright institutional light, my mother had glimpsed me simply as Sydney, with no precedent or comparison.” Pg. 406
I need to stop now because I could go on and on about how much I loved this book, but if you haven’t read this one I really strongly urge you to go out and read it. And if you haven’t read any of Sarah Dessen’s books then you need to change that immediately! This book definitely got 5 stars from me. If I didn’t have so many books to read right now I would be re-reading this one!