Dessen's body of fiction appeals to readers on many levels. Her writing style is complex yet readable, rich in meaning yet accessible. Adult readers find themselves drawn to her works for their passages of grace and good humor. They are reminded of the joys and frustrations they experienced during adolescence, those years that seemed to last an eternity at the time but now seem to have passed when they weren't looking. With her wit and insight, Dessen takes older readers back. With her honesty and sensitivity, she moves adolescent readers forward. Dessen's novels offer not only high-quality writing, but also characters who experience life as young people do, featuring teens working to figure out who they are, upon whom they can depend, and how to assert their place in an increasingly complex world. Dessen speaks to her readers, taking on weighty issues with skill and intention, refusing to talk down to the young people who find themselves both lost and found in the fictional worlds she creates. She knows how to balance the heavy with the light, weaving humor and quirkiness into stories that deal with themes weighty with emotional baggage. Each of the six young adult novels Dessen has published has received critical acclaim within the world of adolescent literature, as evidenced by successful reviews and accolades in the form of literary awards. Several key patterns emerge in the discussion and evaluation of Dessen's novels. In her fiction, she explores the complexity of human relationships between and among characters, undermines gender expectations, develops the themes of self-perception and identity, creates eccentric and memorable secondary characters, and uses humor to help readers bear the angst of teenage life. Because Dessen's body of fiction contains just six titles, this work explores deeply each of her novels, tracing the existence of the above-noted patterns while seeking the distinctive flavor that sets each work apart from the others.