I could easily make the case that Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech changed my life forever. I read it some time in early middle school. It was the first book that made me want to be a writer. For the next decade, yes even through college, I reread Chaos — diary novel about one 13-year old girl’s exciting summer and her first crush — once a year.
It was the first book to inspire the writer inside, but hardly the last. It was followed by a 28-book series about a group of teenagers living in a close-knit community off the coast of Maine —this particular series spawned at least five stories with the main character Zoey (also the name of my first car) — a YA trilogy that’s first few pages made me cry so hard I couldn’t look at the book for over a week, and a series about a teenage mediator and her ghost boyfriend.
However, the best young adult fiction, the one that has stayed with me for several years, the one that made its way into my MFA thesis, isn’t any of the above. It’s instead a book about forever.
Forever was so many different things. It was always changing, it was what everything was really about. It was twenty minutes, or a hundred years, or just this instant, or any instant I wished would last and last.
Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever wasn’t the first book to make me want to write a novel, but it was the one that changed me.
I was graduating high school; I was in a “forever;” and this book, the quiet nuances of being “perfect,” of having the perfect boyfriend, of expectations settled onto your shoulders, was exactly what I was experiencing.
I’d read Dessen before, but none of her earlier books are like this one, and only one of her later books really reached me in the same way. The timing of Forever made that book for me, but Dessen’s talented prose and deep characters keep me coming back. Rereading the book as an adult, it is safe and nostalgic. It brings me to a time that I remember as more than happy; that innocent happy of first love that you can only experience once. And it reminds me, in the bustle and business of adult life to find a moment for forever in every day.