Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rereading Sarah Dessen: Someone Like You


Welcome this month's edition of the I Eat Words Sarah Dessen Read/Reread Challenge! Check out this post that explains the details about the awesomeness that is this challenge. This month my best friend Sandy and I reread Someone Like You, Dessen's second novel. This one has a soft spot in my heart because it was the first one I read. I found it randomly while working at the library when I was in high school. I was shelf reading, thought the title sounded interesting, read it, told Sandy to read it, and a love affair was born.

Synopsis:
Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett. But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she's carrying his baby, she's devastated. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Their friendship may bend under the weight, but it'll never break--because a true friendship is a promise you keep forever.
About the Story
Main  Character: Halley Cooke
Age: 16 (fun fact: Halley would now be 33...we know she was born in 1980)
School Year or Summer?: Both...the novel starts with two weeks of summer left but the majority takes place during the school year.
Boy: Macon Faulkner
First description of the boy: "His blond hair, cut short over his ears, stuck up in tiny cowlicks. In one ear was a row of three silver hoops." (page 30) "He was in a white T-shirt ripped along the hem and dark blue shorts, those clunky boots on his feet. He was tall and wiry, and tan from a summer working landscaping." (page 32)
Crushable?: Maybe...if you like the bad boys.
Big Secret?: In a way, yes.
Heavy Storyline?: Yes.
Parents Together?: Yes.
Sibling(s)?: No.
Takes Place In: Lakeview.
Cameos: None that I could tell. This was her second book, after all.

About the Book
Released: 1998
Epigraph?: No.
Format (of the copy I read): Paperback
Own?: Yes.
Signed?: Yes.
Read or Reread: Reread.
Age when first read: Oh man...15? 16? 
New cover vs older cover: I'm actually torn. I don't get the jar and butterflies but at the same time I don't get the sand, flip flops, and drawn heart. 

My Thoughts
Just as I remembered, Someone Like You is pretty heavy. Right away we learn that a classmate of Halley's, Michael, has died and that her best friend Scarlett had been dating him. Then we find out that Scarlett is pregnant with his baby. Around this time Halley, a quiet good girl, has also started hanging out with Macon, Michael's best friend, who has quite the reputation. It's a lot to deal with and I think Halley gets through it all the way most sixteen year old girls would - by shutting out her mother, confiding only in her best friend, and continuing to date the bad boy.
It was really hard to read as Halley fell in deeper with Macon - especially since I knew what was going to happen. Since I've got ten years on her, it was like watching your little sister or niece date a loser or jerk who you know is no good for her but you can't say or do anything. You just have to wait until she figures it out for herself and be there when she needs you. In the book, Halley has Scarlett who is trying to be the voice of reason. She tells her to be careful but, of course, Halley's not listening. Being a true best friend, Scarlett helps her through the inevitable mess near the end of the book.
As I'm writing this I'm realizing that I think I liked Scarlett more than Halley. Not that I disliked Halley. She is a great character and I loved reading her story. Maybe it goes back to what Halley says about feeling like she's an outline of herself and is just waiting for the colours to be filled in. Scarlett already has most of her outline filled in - with reds and golds - so you can't help be drawn to her just a little bit more. She's got a good head on her shoulders (even though she did end up getting pregnant...but "it came off"!) and is a great secondary character and an even better best friend.
I know it's been a long time since I had read this book (at least ten years, I'd say) but I had completely forgotten Cameron, the new kid, existed. He shows up about halfway through the book (and school year). Halley is hanging out with Macon more and more but Scarlett's pregnancy is moving along and she needs someone to be there for her. Cameron comes along at just the right moment. He has a few sweet scenes where it's clear he cares for Scarlett but we don't get to know how much and I'm left feeling like their story is unfinished. I just wish things had been a little clearer with the two of them.
I'm glad I got the chance to reread this one because I always get confused due to the movie How to Deal, which combined That Summer and Someone Like You. The movie really softens both the relationship between Halley and Macon, and his personality. While I like that better, I think the book version is, sadly, a lot more realistic. Is this one of my favourite Dessen books? No, not really. But I do think it's worth the read. It's a fabulous young adult novel.
I'll finish with a quote that really stuck out for me:
"Because life is an ugly, awful place to not have a best friend." (page 23)
I completely agree. I'd be lost without my best friends!

Sandy's Thoughts
My first impression of Someone Like You is the movie it helped spawn in the early 2000’s (How to Deal, starring Mandy Moore). The first time I read it was after I was already in love with the movie. It interests me how the movie powers that be decide which parts of a book make the movie cut and which don’t. All book fans wish that the entire book could become the film adaptation but that is rarely so. There are always changes. How to Deal combines the pregnant best friend (Scarlett), Halley, and Macon of Someone Like You with the main character parents and sister with a wedding of That Summer. I have always wondered why the script was divided in this way. Of course to me every Sarah Dessen book should be a movie, so I am not the most objective critic.
I do, however, have the ability to separate book and movie and love them equally if not differently if they are both good. The one thing I can’t stand is killing off a character in a movie who does not die in the book (ie. In The Bourne Supremacy Marie dies in the movie but not in Robert Ludlum’s novel). So enough ranting and onto Someone Like You proper.
Someone Like You is a fantastic example of a strong teen angst coming of age novel. It showcases the typical friction between a mother and daughter that have been close until the dreaded teenage years. Halley and her mom are practically twins until she begins to resent the way her mother is constantly controlling her life and her decisions. Growing means becoming your own person, an entity outside of your parents desires. The resentment gets stronger throughout the book and reaches the point where Halley feels that everything her mother says has a double meaning, a condescending one. It takes years of future maturing to realize that not everything your parents say is a slight against you. Some advice is granted out of the pure need to protect you, some is to keep you from repeating their mistakes, and some is just to test you. Halley begins to realize this and take the pieces of her mother’s advice that suit her.
Sarah Dessen introduces an interesting theory at the very beginning of the book. On page 23 she tells us, “…life is an ugly, awful place to not have a best friend.” This is a wonderful quote and I could not agree more. (Blogger note: We did not coordinate our reviews! Clearly Sandy and I are BFFs!) Adolescence is scary enough to experience without the added benefit of someone going through it with you. Halley and Scarlett fall into their friendship and never look back. Each has their own uniqueness that helps the other during different difficult times of their lives. Scarlett can make friends with anyone, she is outgoing and strong but Halley is sympathetic and loyal enough to stand by a friend no matter what the consequences in her own life may be. There is a certain peace to having a best friend and knowing that they understand you and you belong with them.
It helps you develop a better sense of self. For example, when Halley is considering having sex with Macon she is aware that he is being persistent and a little pushy and she stands up to him. When she wavers and reconsiders it is Scarlett that reminds her that girls like them do not have sex without saying I love you first (page 202). This point stays in the back of Halley’s mind and helps to guide her to the right decision for herself. That is what a best friend is for. To help you see things differently and be there when you stumble anyway. Scarlett and Halley are there or each other no matter what. Even an unplanned pregnancy cannot divide them, though Halley’s mother would like to try.
I think that this novel is a wonderful divergence from the usual teen pregnancy story line. Scarlett and Halley are the goody-goodies of their high school. No one expects Scarlett to become pregnant, not even Scarlett, but it happens and she deals with it in a rational and very adult like manner (no doubt because of having to raise her own mother). Scarlett stays in school, keeps her baby and adapts her future. The loss of Michael is too great to lose his child as well.  In many other tales, especially television shows, the pregnant teen becomes such because she was at risk in the first place. Sarah Dessen throws a twist into the regularly used plot by taking the father of the child out of the picture in such a tragic manner that the reader sympathizes with Scarlett’s decision to keep the child. Much like Halley, the reader never questions the decision again. 
This novel is an excellent “role model” for teen girls in my opinion. I know that seems strange due to Scarlett’s pregnancy but it is the strength of the characters that I admire.

Halley knows her own mind when dealing with Macon after the honeymoon period is over. She knows what he wants and what it will take to keep him but she also knows that she is not ready to give in. By the end of the book she realizes what someone like her deserves because she realizes who she is. We all deserve to be ourselves and be loved for it, if not by a guy or our friends then we deserve to be loved by ourselves. Halley realizes that and it helps to make her life a little more peaceful. 

Next month
October's book of choice is Keeping the Moon. I don't really remember much about this one so I'm interested to see what I think about it now.

2 comments:

  1. Someone Like You was my favourite book as a teen. It was the first book that gave me that feeling that the author had written a book about my life. You know those books? I was dating a guy like Macon, my best friend was similar to Scarlett, and I related so much to Halley. I read and reread this book and even had my bff read it (she agreed the author had clearly been spying on us and had written a book about us lol). I've been wanting to reread it for years but I'm kind of scared...it meant so much to 15/16-year-old self, but I've changed so much as a person, a reader, and a writer, and I'm afraid I won't like it and it'll overshadow all those happy memories. It's probably dumb, but there you go! Also, my cover is different from both of those...I saw Jessi Kirby tweet Sarah Dessen about a year ago with the picture of the cover I have, and I guess it was the original Canadian cover of the book (I've had it since shortly after it came out). And now I'm just rambling lol. I'm so glad to see these reviews because most of the people I know - even Dessen fans - haven't read this book, but it will always have a really special place in my heart.

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    1. I LOVE that this book connected with you so much! It'd be really interesting to see what you'd think of it now. One of the things I love about Dessen is that it does seem like she's spied on a teen girl because her characters are so great and so real. I always said my favourite Dessen book was This Lullaby but after rereading them, I don't think it is. That made me sad but it also means that I've come to appreciate others more. I still love it but it didn't affect me as much...I think it's because I really identified with Remy at the time I read it. I also read it the copy with the old school cover...it was dark blue, with a starry sky, and had the drawing of a girl on it. I agree with other Dessen fans not reading this one. It's like a lot of people just started reading after she released some of her later books (say, This Lullaby). I'm hoping I convert some of the YA lovers who have never read Dessen (which I find SHOCKING) with all these reviews!

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