Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.
I think I’ve been overdoing it on YA contemporaries lately. This book was just so-so for me. I’m going to try something new and discuss what I liked and didn’t like about this book.
What I Liked
1. Layla & Sydney’s Friendship
After her brother goes to jail for injuring a boy in a drunk driving accident, Sydney transfers schools to save her family money and go somewhere where everyone doesn’t know Peyton. That first day after school she meets Layla. The two become friends almost instantly. Real friends, not just surface friends. They share secrets and bond over their older sibling’s drama. I love stories about instant friendship, and their friendship felt so genuine. Even when boyfriends come into play, they stay true to each other and never get petty or do anything stereotypical of high school girls. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story.
2. The Theme of Invisibility / Being Seen
Sydney feels invisible at home because her mother is so focused on her brother being in jail and her father has always kind of ignored her. Mac used to feel invisible because he was fat, but now girls notice him because he is attractive. I liked the theme of invisibility and being seen that kept coming up throughout the story. I think it’s a very common feeling during adolescence, and Dessen handled it very well.
Mac is the cutest! So nice and unaware of how awesome he is. He’s an amazing brother to Layla and the perfect love interest for Sydney. And he’s in a band! I enjoyed how he talked to Sydney’s parents, his text exchanges with Sydney, and his crazy inventions. Why didn’t I know a guy like this in high school? Oh right, I went to an all-girls school.
4. Unconventional Subjects
I appreciated the heavier topics discussed in this book: drunk driving, drug use, jail time, rehab, parents with disabilities, and entrepreneurship. The main story line of this book was different and made it stand out among other YA contemporaries. It gave it something extra besides the romance plot, which I really liked.
What I Didn’t Like
1. Sydney’s Mother
OMG! She is so over-protective. And so over-involved when her son is in JAIL. I could not stand her. At the beginning of the book I worried a little that I could somehow be like her if Christopher ever made the kind of bad decisions that Peyton made. But by the middle of the book I was convinced that I so would not be. She is the stereotypical horrible parent from the majority of YA books. I really disliked the plot lines related to Sydney and her mom. Ugh!
What is up with this character? Ames is Peyton’s best friend, but he keeps hanging around after Peyton goes to jail, sucking up to his mom and generally creeping out Sydney. And he’s the biggest tattle-tale. I HATED him. I am impressed that Dessen was able to come up with such a despicable character, but he really put a damper on the book for me.
3. Sydney’s Passivity
Seriously?! I could not stand how Sydney didn’t stand up for herself…ever! I wanted some faster character growth. This book dragged a lot for me because resolution was too slow in coming and not at all satisfying when it did come.
4. Writing Style
The whole book is written in past tense with a knowing tone, like Sydney is looking back and telling the story after it happens. She says things like “if I had known…”, etc. Many chapters started with a little tease and then jumped back and filled in the gaps after the first paragraph (I’m guessing since I listed to the audio). It was confusing. I would have preferred the story just be told linearly. I like flashbacks normally, but it didn’t seem like that style was necessary for something that happened right before. It was distracting.
My Rating: 3 stars
Understand my ratings.
I read this book as part of my new author challenge. I get the feeling that this book wasn’t the typical Sarah Dessen…maybe a little heavier on the family drama than the romance. I plan to try another one of her books after I get out of my YA contemporary funk.