At BookCon 2015, Sarah Dessen Earns The Reputation As The George Clooney of YA
For a panel on female friendship in young adult literature, BookCon 2015 picked some YA writer BFFs. Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Gayle Forman have grown close during their tenure as young adult superstars, and they talked about that friendship as an example of the YA community as a whole.
BookCon's two-day New York City event brings authors and publishers together with their readers. While all three authors spoke about their entire careers as YA writers, they each focused on their most recent releases: Dessen's Saint Anything , Han's sequel to To All The Boys I've Loved Before called P.S. I Still Love You, and Forman's I Was Here .
They talked friendship breakups — Forman hilariously recounting being on the business end of three friend dumpings — their childhood best friends, why female friendship is such a strong bond, friendship's prevalence in YA lit, and which characters they wrote who they would like to be friends with (Saint Anything's Layla for Dessen, To All The Boys I've Loved Before's Kitty for Han, and Just One Day's Dee for Forman). But when they started talking about their own friendship together as authors, it turned into a conversation about young adult's place in the literary community. Forman spoke out about some of the stigma surrounding YA:
For a long while, YA was marginalized and we were considered the kids at the Thanksgiving table. But as everyone knows, it's much better to be at the kids table.
Being on the margins allowed for more experimentation, she added, but more importantly because YA authors had traditionally been off on their own, it allowed for a real, genuine camaraderie between fellow writers.
Dessen agreed, noting that 20 years ago (seriously!) her first book was put on the shelves alongside Corduroy and Goodnight Moon, but it was that camaraderie, as successful YA authors supported new writers' careers, that the section up into what it is today: a major force in the publishing industry.
And Han said there's no bigger influence on that YA community feeling than Dessen herself.
"One time I met George Clooney," Han began as the panel and audience started laughing. She went on to explain that Clooney, while a massive A-list star, was incredibly kind to her when she approached him on the street, even recognizing her when she saw him again. Han then moved to talking about how how generous Dessen has been to her and many other authors, blurbing Han's first book when she was new to publishing and Dessen had already released several books.
Forman quipped: "So Sarah Dessen is the George Clooney of YA?"
"Exactly," Han replied.
All panelists agreed that while there are some killer examples of female friendship in YA, as a whole, we could be doing more because it's friendship, more than romantic relationships, that shape young lives. As Forman explains, it's all about being able to show someone who you really are, no holds barred, and having them understand you:
Oh my god, I'm so crazy. Let me put my crazy on the table. Once your crazy is on the table, it just looks like mashed potatoes. And it's beautiful.
If Gayle Forman says female friendship is mashed potatoes, then female friendship is mashed potatoes.
Image: Sarah Dessen/Facebook