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.
Saint Anything is an eclectic coming of age story that tests the bonds of family and friendship.
- Living in the shadow of an older sibling is explored with startling clarity and honesty. The complex relationship between Sydney, Peyton, and her parents is plagued with guilt, misunderstanding, and invisibility. Sydney is crying out to be seen and all anyone sees her as is a shade of her brother, secondary, a cast off. Her needs are subject to her brothers temper tantrums and her mother’s efforts to please him. It’s no wonder Sydney yearns for a change of scenery. Sydney does everything in her power to be on the straight and narrow, to make her parents proud and when she does make a tiny mistake it’s magnified because of her brother’s history. It’s unfair and hurtful but it’s her reality and something that many younger siblings can identify with.
- Dialogue flowed with light and laughter one moment and seriousness the next. One of Sarah Dessen’s writer super powers is capturing the everyday with authenticity and a new eye. The scenes with band members and at lunch were real, something you could easily walk into at a high school.
- Layla is like a magical rainbow of joy. She’s weird and quirky but mostly she’s awesome. She has a flair and personality that draws you in, she feels bigger than the story, bigger than her tiny body. Mac is sweet, honest, and thoughtful. He looks at the world like an engineer, he thinks long and hard before he speaks, constantly observing. Each character has a past and something that haunts them but they don’t let it rule them.
- Saint Anything is about self-discovery, finding out who you are beneath all the expectations and assumptions. Sydney must sift through her brothers mistakes to find the girl she is and who she wants to be. The pressure to be perfect, to lead an exemplary life, to put her own needs aside to keep the peace and no stress her parents is all like a veil over her personality. Through reclaiming herself, Sydney is able to forgive, accept, and love.
- Sydney’s interactions with her brother are painful and brief. The sibling dynamic is largely one-sided and we don’t get Peyton’s perspective on anything. Sometimes Sydney’s view of her brother feels harsh and exaggerated. Peyton reads like a spoiled, entitled brat who has no redeeming qualities. For someone who admired her brother so much her disillusionment is bleak and at times, too strong.
- Parts dragged where not much was happening and relationships developed in summaries. I would have liked more physical interactions between characters, especially when it came to romance. While the attraction was there, chemistry was lacking. They seemed more like friends than anything else and when romantic scenes happened, the heat was absent.
- It was hard to connect Sydney’s old life with her new one and to feel the sincerity of her friendships. Scenes with her old friends felt random and forced, because there wasn’t much interaction between them or memories, whether or not they were active in Sydney’s life wasn’t important.
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