The B&N YA Podcast: Sarah Dessen Is a Reader’s Best Friend

Explore the stories behind the young adult books you love with the B&N YA Podcast. Join host Melissa Albert, bestselling author of The Hazel Wood, as she sits down with fellow YA authors to talk about books, life, their teen years, their pop cultural obsessions, and how they came up with the stories that keep us up at night. Subscribe to listen in on fascinating new conversations every other week.

Sarah Dessen is a YA queen, the beloved author of over a dozen contemporary YA novels exploring themes of loss, first love, assault, family ties, and all the confusing, heartbreaking, thrilling moments when things change forever for her young protagonists. Her new book, The Rest of the Story, centers on a lakefront town divided between the working-class families who live there year round, and the wealthy families who just summer there, and the girl whose fraught family history straddles both. We talked to Dessen about her teen years, her long career, and how the YA landscape has changed since her debut.

Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when Emma was twelve. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family that she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is also divided into two people. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her—Emma or Saylor—will win out?

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