The world is a terrible place not to have a best friend.
Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen
Publication Date: May 11, 2004
# of pages: 281
"Read her once and fall in love." So says the blurb in the back of this book. But honestly, I don't think truer words have ever been spoken. Dessen is like, the YA writer of all YA writers, and if you read her novels and see all that she's accomplished and been recognized for you just pretty much can't refute that. Someone pointed out once that though she uses the same devices in her novels, she makes them work. You don't question it. You don't roll your eyes and say, "Here we go again." You just read and you go, "That was your typical Sarah Dessen novel, and damn, it was good."
Reading this novel is a lot like eating comfort food. You take the first bite and this sense of relief just floods over you. There's something entirely soothing about Scarlett and Halley's friendship in that way that they're completely willing to be there for each other, will sacrifice whatever to be there for one another no matter what the situation entails. As you read, there's no question about it how authentic and pure this friendship is -- and it's very comforting to read because you feel that close bond and tightness. It's lot like seeing a happy child laugh -- you laugh along with them because the joy is infectious. Seeing the loyalty and love between Scarlett and Halley, you can't help but feel that too and it makes you feel better. This is the kind of novel I'll read if I just don't feel good because like comfort food, I know it'll make me feel better.
Halley, the main character, changes so much throughout the course of this novel. And it's not the atypical POINT A to POINT B kind of way. She goes from Point A to Point B to Point C back to Point A. She becomes this slew of various people, changing and learning and figuring out what kind of person she is. The thing that never wavers is her loyalty and love but she sheds things like her naivety, her innocence and gains things like a backbone and independence. When Halley finally stood up for herself, oh man, I wanted to cheer because it is a very defining moment for her. I remember just rereading that portion because to have a character change that much and to see such a defining moment, it's something worth reading over again.
Everyone from Scarlett to Macum to even Micheal were are just so fleshed out and real. These characters are all real. And I don't mean real like I could imagine them wandering around town somewhere, I mean real as in they feel so real I could imagine what their reactions would be or what they would say to things outside the novel. They are just so insanely defined, but then again Sarah Dessen is known for her ability to over and over again create a cast of characters so well-developed that that's what makes you fall in love with her novels. Not only that, she is able to take real life feelings and situations and make them so simple that you feel she talking right to you. All the stuff tackled in here -- friendship, love, parents, identity -- it's so very well written which is where another reason as to why this novel is so comforting comes in.
I'll be honest: I didn't completely understand the depth of the title, Someone Like You. I just thought, "What does that really have to do with the book?" Then I read one single line and it just all fell in place for me: "Not people like us, Halley. Not people like us." Throughout the course of novel, statements like that would appear. Like, people like Halley don't have people like Macum Faulkner chasing after them. People like Halley and Scarlett don't have sex without saying "I love you" first. They make it sound like if you're labeled a certain way, there are certain guidelines you have to follow and everyone knows who you are and the things you do because of them, which is bullshit. Just because you are a certain way, that doesn't restrict you from doing other things or finding love with people different than who you are. People change and become different people over time; they step outside of that "someone like me" perception and just become "me", doing whatever the hell they want. It really reminds me of a segment in the show, How I Met Your Mother. There are these dopplegangers of the gang around New York who are completely different from who they are. So Ted is talking to Robin, who has just gone through a break-up because she chose love over her career and it back-fired on her, and tells her, "We've all been searching for the five doppelgangers, right? Well eventually, over time, we all become our own doppelgangers. These completely different people who just happen to look like us. Five years ago? That girl was pretty great. But doppelganger Robin? She's amazing." This correlates really well with the novel. The exact same thing happens to Halley; she becomes doppelgangers of her herself as she learns how to be her own person outside. She is no longer Mom's-best-friend-Halley or Macum Faulkner's-Girlfriend-Halley. She just becomes Halley in the end.
One last thing I wanna point out is Halley describes herself as one of those pictures in a coloring book: black outline clearly defining the picture but it's empty inside, devoid of color. Over time, she has other people filling in that picture of her. Scarlett and Macum, they fill her with color. What bothered me was just that. Halley should be filling in the picture herself, not letting other people do it. But over time, she realizes she always did what people expected of her and acted in a certain way that the person wanted. She was perfect and followed ever single rule for her mother, she became reckless and free-falling with Macum. But in the end, Halley defines herself and it's no question that after the end, Halley is the one who will be filling in the picture, not other people. Have I mentioned how amazing the change Halley goes through in the novel is? Sarah Dessen knew her inside out.
(Side note: If you don't How I Met Your Mother, I would highly recommend you do. In fact, you aren't allowed back if you don't. The show is so insightful, funny, amazing, and also has Neil Patrick Harris. You can't argue against Neil Patrick Harris. He is Neil Patrick Harris.)
Someone Like You covers a lot of things from friendship to loss to love to especially identity. It has characters who breathe, live, love, and will make you feel like you knew them for a long time. Scarlett and Halley's friendship will reach out, wrap you around, and make you feel so much better than when you started this novel. Sarah Dessen is one of the most well-respected and beloved YA authors for a reason and if you haven't read one of her novels yet, well, what are you waiting for?