Breia Brissey
October 30, 2014 AT 02:30 PM EDT

Sarah Dessen is synonymous with contemporary YA fiction. Similarly, Dessen’s book covers have a distinct look indicating you’ve got a Sarah Dessen novel in front of you. Her 12th novel, Saint Anything, hits shelves in May, and EW has an exclusive first look at the cover (above).

This is not a drill, folks. Those dark covers are on a Sarah Dessen novel, making it a pretty big departure from her previous works. Here, the author answers a few questions about her latest novel.

EW: What do you think of the cover? It’s certainly a departure from your other books.

SARAH DESSEN: I’m so in love with this cover. Saint Anything is definitely different from my previous novels. It’s got a love story, but there’s also a family, friendship, and the intricate balance of emotions between siblings. Really, it’s a wider canvas, with more moving pieces, and I think the cover reflects that. I can’t wait for people to read it.

Why did you decide to write something a little different?

After The Moon and More, I’d actually started another book, but I was really struggling with it. The voice just wasn’t there. Everything felt forced and hard. Writing is never easy, but this was different. Eventually, I decided to set the book aside, which was really scary because I had no idea when, or if, another idea would come. I just had to have faith. So I waited. I read a lot and took walks and tried to breathe. And then, finally, I had a flash of a girl in a courtroom, and a brother who was both revered and reviled. The rest just followed from there. Thank goodness!

Tell readers a little about Saint Anything.

It’s a book about family, as I said, and the ways that siblings can both inspire and overshadow us. There’s a love story that is one of my favorites I’ve ever written, as well as a friendship with a girl named Layla who I wish had been my BFF in high school. Also a band that was my favorite since Truth Squad—which is really saying something—and lots of pizza, lollipops, and French fries. A bit of everything!

Where did you come up with the idea for Saint Anything?

When this story first came, it was all about family. My narrator, Sydney, has a brother who has always been dynamic and bigger than life. When he has a fall from grace—a big one—it shatters everyone who is left behind. I knew I’d add in a love story, and I wanted to cover the power of friendship as well. But the relationship between Sydney and her brother Peyton was something new, and I loved diving into it.

Anything else you want to add?

I feel like this book is the beginning of a new phase for me. It’s been almost 20 years since I published my first novel, and I’ve been through a lot of changes both with my writing and life in general. I’ve grown up, and I think my voice as a writer has too. I’m hopeful this book can show everyone the direction I want to head toward for the next 20 years. Fingers crossed.

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