Sarah Dessen Readalikes

Grade Level Interest
M
: Middle School (defined as grades 6-8).
S: Senior High (defined as grades 9-12).
A/YA: Adult-marketed book recommended for teens.

 

Sofi Mendoza’s Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico by Malin Alegria

Even though Sofi Mendoza was born in Mexico, she’s spent most of her life in California. But when Sofi and her friends try to return home after sneaking out for a weekend in Tijuana, Sofi is told by the border patrol that her green card is counterfeit. Until her parents can sort out the paperwork and legal issues, Sofi is stuck in Mexico, living with long-lost relatives. It’s bad enough that Sofi has to miss senior prom and even graduation, but she has to live on a ranch with no indoor plumbing! (S)

 

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. (M, S)

 

Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer

When 16-year-old Hope moves to Wisconsin with her aunt Addie to run the Welcome Stairways Diner, Hope isn’t sure she’ll fit in. But she quickly finds herself involved in the small town’s mayoral elections, as G. T., owner of the diner, surprises everyone with his entry into the race. After all, G. T. has leukemia. And his opponent is the previously undefeated longtime mayor. Some think G. T. is crazy, but Hope sees the goodness and power in him. Will everyone else see it too? (M, S)

 

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti

Ruby McQueen is known as “that quiet girl” at school, so she is intoxicated when she meets gorgeous Travis Becker, with whom she feels tough and fearless. As Travis involves her in increasingly dangerous stunts, Ruby’s mother tries to distract her by bringing her to her book club with “The Casserole Queens,” a group of wisecracking seniors who embroil Ann and Ruby in a plan to reunite a friend with a lost love. (S)

Top

 

The Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti

Scarlet is used to her older sister, Juliet, getting all the attention. Juliet’s the beautiful one who got off Parrish Island, Oregon, and has a job singing in Portland. Then Juliet returns with a new husband, Hayden, and a baby on the way. And now Scarlet finds herself becoming quite interested in Hayden, who is unrequitedly devoted to Juliet. (S)

 

The Queen of Cool by Cecil Castellucci

On the outside, Libby Brin is the most popular girl in school. But on the inside, Libby is dying – of boredom. In a moment of desperation, Libby signs up for an internship at the Los Angeles Zoo, much to the dismay of her friends, who’d prefer she spend her time with them, shopping, partying, and making fun of everyone else. Oddly, Libby realizes that she actually enjoys her new job and that she may even like the two “nerds” she works with. Will the Queen of Cool be forced to give up her crown? (M, S)

 

Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn

When wild, willful, and coffee addicted Cyd’s rebelliousness gets out of hand, her parents ship her off to New York City to spend the summer with “Frank real-dad,” her biological father. Trading in her parents for New York City grunge and getting to know her bio-dad and step-sibs is what Cyd has been waiting for her whole life. But summer in the city is not what Cyd expects – and she’s far from the daughter or sister that anyone could have imagined. (S)

 

Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti

At the beginning of her sophomore year, Marisa is ready for a fresh start and, more importantly, a boyfriend. So when Derek asks her out, Marisa thinks her long wait for happiness is over. But several bumps in the road—including her parents’ unexpected separation, a fight with her best friend, and a shocking disappointment in her relationship with Derek—test Marisa’s ability to maintain her new outlook. Only the anonymous DJ, whose underground podcasts have the school’s ear, seems to understand what Marisa is going through. But she has no idea who he is—or does she? (S)

Top

 

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern

It’s Jessie’s sophomore year of high school. A self-professed “mathlete,” she isn’t sure where she belongs. Her two best friends have transformed themselves into punks and one of them is going after her longtime crush. Her beloved older brother will soon leave for college. Things are changing fast. Jessie needs new friends. And her quest is a hilarious tour through high-school clique-dom, with a surprising stop along the way—the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, who out-nerd everyone. Will hanging out with them make her a nerd, too? And could she really be crushing on a guy with too-short pants and too-white gym shoes? (M, S)

 

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer — they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along. (M, S)

 

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

It’s hard not to notice Terra Cooper. She’s tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably “flawed” face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob’s path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path? (M, S)

 

The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson

Mayzie is the brainy middle sister, Brooks is the beautiful but conflicted oldest, and Palmer’s the quirky baby of the family. In spite of their differences, the Gold sisters have always been close. When their father dies, everything begins to fall apart. Level–headed May is left to fend for herself (and somehow learn to drive), while her two sisters struggle with their own demons. But the girls learn that while there are a lot of rules for the road, there are no rules when it comes to the heart. Together, they discover the key to moving on – and it’s the key to their father’s Pontiac Firebird. (M, S)

Top

 

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket. In envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat. The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist. Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/ bloke–about–town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous–though utterly romantic–results. But will she ever see him again? Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it’s all because of the 13 little blue envelopes. (M, S)

 

The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

Ruby “Roo” Oliver is having a tough year at Tate Prep. Through a series of social debacles, she loses her best friends, her boyfriend, her dignity, and the respect of her fellow Taters in less than two weeks’ time. Following nearly half a dozen panic attacks, Roo starts to spend some quality time on Doctor Z.’s couch, where she makes (at her shrink’s urging) a list of boyfriends past and present, official and unofficial, and starts on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, Ruby begins to think about patterns in her life and ways that she might be more like her mother than she’d care to admit. (M, S)

 

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler

Paradise wasn’t supposed to suck. Not the state of being, but a resort in the Caribbean. Jena, Dakota, Skye, and Owen are all there for different reasons, but at Paradise their lives become tangled together in ways none of them can predict. Paradise will change them all. From confused to confident and back again, one thing’s certain: Four months after it all begins, none of them will ever be the same. (S)

 

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastians, a boys’ school that’s pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas who specializes in musical burping to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about. Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, along, and without an inkling who she really is. (S)

Top

 

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, Jessica Darling is devastated. A fish out of water at school and a stranger at home, Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone. How is she supposed to deal with the boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her dad’s obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethany’s lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life? (S)

 

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Stuff like why D.J.’s best friend, Amber, isn’t so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won’t even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league. Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D. J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say. (M, S)

 

Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle

Growing up in a world of wealth and pastel-tinted entitlement, fifteen-year-old Carly has always relied on the constancy—and authenticity—of her sister, Anna. But when fourteen-year-old Anna turns plastic-perfect-pretty over the course of a single summer, everything starts to change. And there are boys involved , complicating things as boys always do. (S)

 

The Fold by An Na

Joyce never used to care that much about how she looked, but that was before she met JFK—John Ford Kang, the most gorgeous guy in school. And it doesn’t help that she’s constantly being compared to her beautiful older sister, Helen. Then her rich plastic-surgery-addict aunt offers Joyce a gift to “fix” a part of herself she’d never realized needed fixing—her eyes. Joyce has heard of the fold surgery—a common procedure meant to make Asian women’s eyes seem more American —but she’s not sure she wants to go through with it. Her friend Gina can’t believe she isn’t thrilled. After all, the plastic surgeon has shown Joyce that her new eyes will make her look just like Helen—but is that necessarily a good thing? (M, S)

Top

 

Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins

Going to India isn’t Jasmine “Jazz” Gardner’s idea of a great summer vacation. She wants no part of her mother’s do-gooder endeavors at a struggling orphanage. What’s more, Jazz is heartsick. She’s leaving the business she and her best friend, Steve Morales, started – as well as Steve himself. Jazz is crazy in love with the guy. If only he knew! Only when Jazz reluctantly befriends Danita, a girl who cooks for her family, and who faces a tough dilemma, does Jazz begin to see how she can make a difference – to her own family, to Danita, to the children at the orphanage, even to Steve. As India claims Jazz, the monsoon works its madness and its magic. (M, S)

 

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt

Simone’s starting her junior year in high school. She’s got smart, activist parents, a terrific younger brother, and amazing friends. Then her birth mother contacts her. Simone’s always known she was adopted, but she never wanted to know anything about it. She’s happy with her family just as it is, thank you. But when she learns who her birth mother was – a 16-year-old Hasidic Jew named Rivka – it only stirs up more and more questions for Simone. Who is Rivka really, and why did she choose to contact her now? The answers lead Simone to deeper feelings of anguish and love than she has ever known, and to question everything she once took for granted about faith, life, the afterlife, and what it means to be a daughter. (M, S)

 

Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott

Kate Brown’s life has gone downhill fast. Her father has quit his job to sell vitamins at the mall, and Kate is forced to work with him. Her best friend has become popular, and now she acts like Kate’s invisible. And then there’s Will. Gorgeous, unattainable Will, whom Kate acts like she can’t stand even though she can’t stop thinking about him. When Will starts acting interested, Kate hates herself for wanting him when she’s sure she’s just his latest conquest. Kate figures that the only way things will ever stop hurting so much is if she keeps to herself and stops caring about anyone or anything. What she doesn’t realize is that while life may not always be perfect, good things can happen – but only if she lets them… (S)

 

Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott

Hannah Jackson James tries not to live in her parents’ dubious shadow. Her father is an aging reality TV star with a Hugh Hefner-esque castle full of girlfriends. Her mother, a minor actress and former girlfriend of Jackson’s, now makes her money hosting a webcam show in skimpy underwear. When Hannah moved with her mom to a small town at age 12, she tried her hardest to blend in. Then her father calls for the first time in five years to invite her to visit him in New York. Hannah is torn between her desire for his love and her suspicion that the gesture is nothing more than a cynical ratings ploy. (S)

Top

 

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another’s only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she’s lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she’s popular, happy, and dating, everything “Jennifer” couldn’t be – but she still can’t shake the memory of her long-lost friend. When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken. (S)

 

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

After high-school junior Naomi conks her head, she can’t remember anything that happened since sixth grade. She is by turns mystified and startled by evidence of her present life, from the birth-control pills in her bedside table to her parents’ astonishing, rancorous split. Eventually, the memories return, leaving Naomi questioning the basis of a new, intense romance, and wondering which of her two lives, present or former, represents her most authentic self. (S)

Top