With Puffin Books turning seventy this year, the publishing company has released a bunch of “Pocket Money Puffins”, selling in Australia for the lovely little price of $7.95. They’re compact things, by well known authors, with Infinity coming it at less than a hundred pages but—and I only noticed this after I’d bought it—only thirty of those pages are Sarah Dessen’s short story, with the rest of the book being extracts from her novels Just Listen and That Summer.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Sarah Dessen, and love reading her blog because she seems just so darn friendly and entertaining no matter what she’s talking about. Because I am convinced that I am a Tremendously Busy Person, I thought a short story was a good introduction to her writing. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case.
Infinity is the tale of a teenager on the cusp of just about everything—growing up, getting her drivers’ licence, going all the way with her boyfriend. She is as hesitant about negotiating the awkward roundabout in town as she is about having sex with Anthony, who comes across right away as one of those total jerks who whine and moan about having sex so much they must feel making someone feel shitty about what they do with their virginity is a massive turn-on. While it’s probably a good example of Dessen’s style, which is to write realistic books about realistic issues—and an unfortunately common one at that—it was far too short for me and didn’t have enough of the main character’s life to get a feel for what else was going on for her. The story isn’t even original to the Pocket Money Puffin series, being published previously in a collection called Sixteen, which would have suited it better—and it shows. Having said that, reading the excerpts from the other novels truly made me want to go out and buy them, because Dessen’s talent seems to lie in constructing a much larger world for her characters. The only problem I have here is that I feel it was too expensive for such a short story, where more than half the book was basically advertising; the royalties don’t even go to charity. The book should have been free, or at least less than five dollars, if most of it was teasers.
In conclusion: buy other Sarah Dessen novels, but don’t bother with this. For an extra two dollars you could just buy one of those glorious Popular Penguins instead, like Meg Rosoff’s fantastic How We Live Now. Or you could donate your $7.95 to the Fiona Needs Money To Justify Buying Friday Night Lights on DVD Fund. I know what I’d choose. (Buy both, then ice cream.)