Review: Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

Review: Someone Like You by Sarah DessenSomeone Like You by Sarah Dessen
Published by Puffin Books on June 1, 2012
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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one-half-stars

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.

Years ago, Gaby wrote a post about how the best way to enjoy Dessen’s novels was by reading them in publication order. This stuck in my head, and I, being who I am, decided that I must do that. I read her first novel last year, and it was a bit boring. Still, that can’t shake me from my resolve, because I know it gets better (I read Just Listen and This Lullaby years ago, and really liked them). Someone Like You tries even harder to shake my resolve, because it’s frankly pretty terrible, yet I shall press on. Warning: there will be spoilers in here.

For the first half to two-thirds, Someone Like You was an improvement on That Summer. Sure, it was still a little boring and understated, but the heroine was a trifle more mature and more was happening. I actually even didn’t mind the pregnancy plot line that much; I thought it was really sweet how Halley really stepped in and helped Scarlett with absolutely everything, without any shaming.

The friendship between Scarlett and Halley is the highlight of the book, without a doubt. Halley loves Scarlett, who is effortlessly cool and accepted Halley from the start. Scarlett protects Halley, and, when Scarlett learns she’s pregnant by her boyfriend who died in a motorcycle accident, Halley steps up and helps Scarlett. There’s no jealousy in the relationship, and the two of them really do help one another through everything. Scarlett even calls Halley on poor life choices. They’re believable friends, and it’s a sort of friendship not modeled that often in YA fiction. That’s the good.

Scarlett gets into a relationship with one of Michael’s (Scarlett’s dead baby daddy) friends, Macon. (Can we just agree that Macon is an incredibly un-hot name? Sure, it sounds like bacon, but it doesn’t bring the sizzle. Macon’s a bad boy, skipping class, partying, and not sleeping at home. He and Scarlett are cute when they’re flirting in gym, but it’s clear they’re not going to be staying together forever. He starts pressuring her for sex at the three month mark. Though I haven’t gotten to the part her career where Dessen writes actual romances, I do know that’s what we want from her, and that’s not Someone Like You (which is pretty cruel since that title is very romancey).

There’s a subplot with Halley’s mother. Until this school year, Halley and her mother have been really close, something her therapist mom writes books about. All of a sudden, though, Halley can’t really stand her mom, who’s always full of well-intended but pushy advice. When Halley gets in trouble a couple of times (lying, sneaking out, skipping school (for a good reason)), her parents start grounding her for long periods of time and eventually forbid her to see Macon anymore. Her mom is a therapist, and she honestly thinks that’s a good strategy? Seriously? I found that so hard to believe. And the resolution of their issues was anticlimactic and not emotionally satisfying. I also felt like the whole thing about grandma’s dementia was a lot of detail added that didn’t add anything to the plot or Halley’s emotional arc.

In the last two thirds, however, Someone Like You goes completely bananaballs and turns into a very overt abstinence PSA. Spoilers begin here.

Let’s start with what I didn’t notice until Jessie pointed it out (when I spoiled this book shamelessly to her—with her approval, mind you): the pregnant girl is named SCARLETT. As in The Scarlet Letter. She even has red hair! To make it worse, Scarlett and her boyfriend had sex only once, the night before he died. And they did attempt to use protection, but the condom moved out of place or something. We start with a reminder that sex, even with protection, can have dire consequence, and just one time is enough to ruin your life. (You will be constantly reminded that Scarlett has ruined her whole life by keeping the baby. Actually, aside from the part where Scarlett keeps her child, the book almost seems pro-abortion over teen pregnancy, which is interesting.)

When Macon begins pressuring Halley for sex, Halley obviously talks to Scarlett about it. Scarlett urges her not to have sex with Macon, reminding her that she should be prepared in case Macon dies leaving her pregnant and only to have sex if he has said out loud that he loves her. He gives Halley a ring for Christmas, and she decides that’s as good as a love confession, so she arranges to do the sex with him on New Year’s. He takes her to a party, where she drinks beer, smokes pot, and he starts trying to do the nasty (literally, because it’s a bed other people just sexed on and the room is gross) with Halley. She stops him, just because the room is disgusting.

“Don’t be a fool. Don’t give up something important to hold onto someone who can’t even say they love you.”

In case that wasn’t enough of a PSA scene of someone spinning out of control before the inevitable fall, Macon drives like a mad man on the way home. He rants at her about how someone can’t just promise sex and then change their mind. This culminates in him angrily running a red light. They get hit, and Halley’s taken to the hospital. It’s like something out of One Tree Hill (okay, not quite that crazy but until this point the book has been understated). Macon does not visit her in the hospital. Scarlett realizes that Macon didn’t care enough about her, and she finally breaks up with him. She also confronts her mother about how mom always assumes the worst about her. That’s a great emotional beat for a book to hit, but combined with everything else it really doesn’t work (basically any time your character development hinges on a car crash, that’s really bad).

Ultimately, Someone Like You ends up coming away with the message that girls who have sex are bad, and that it’s bad for them. The “bad girl” who is known for having sexual partners goes from pretty and popular to hanging out with druggies and is described at the end like this: “She looked tired, worn out, now that I was looking at her more closely. Her eyes were red and her lipstick was too dark, making her mouth look like a gash against her skin.” Look what having sexual partners does to you! It turns you dark, and, as the use of “gash” to describe her mouth implies, injures you. If you have sex with someone you love and who has said they love you back, you will absolutely get pregnant. Anyone other boy just wants to get in your pants, and even thinking about sexing him could earn you car crash karma.

Someone Like You did make me cackle madly, and it came out when I was in middle school, so I really can’t be that mad at it. It’s old and dated and silly. Unless you’re an obsessive completionist like me, I would recommend skipping this one. Especially since, if you got here, I just spoiled the whole thing.

Favorite Quote:

Life is an awful, ugly place to not have a best friend.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

2 responses to “Review: Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen”

  1. I’m in the same boat! I read That Summer earlier this year and couldn’t believe that absolutely nothing happened throughout the course of the novel. I was SO bored. I’ve been planning on reading Someone Like You soon so I can get to the better books but your review hasn’t helped motivate me to do so!
    Kristin (@SuperSpaceChick) recently posted…Tea & Book Chat: Daughter of the Pirate King by Trisha Levenseller (Daughter of the Pirate King #1)My Profile

  2. Gillian says:

    I can see your Dessen read is going swimmingly
    Gillian recently posted…#PitchWars, All the Words, and HELLOMy Profile

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