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NC Author Takes On Addiction, Class And Identity In New Young Adult Novel

Sarah Dessen is a North Carolina native and UNC alum.
Seth Abel

North Carolina native and author Sarah Dessen reads the obituaries in The News & Observer every day. Over the last few years she noticed more young people showing up in those pages with no explanations about the cause of death.

She realized these were the hidden stories about the opioid epidemic — and they became the inspiration for her latest young adult novel, “The Rest of the Story” (Balzer + Bray/2019). The protagonist, Emma Saylor, was 11 when her mother died of an opioid overdose. Now, she is a teenager spending the summer with her mother’s family and learning about a new side of her family — and herself.

Guest host Anita Rao talks to Dessen about her latest novel, how the young adult genre has changed over the last two decades and about Emma Saylor’s crisis of identity.

Amanda Magnus is the executive producer of Embodied, a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships and health. She has also worked on other WUNC shows including Tested and CREEP.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
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