(Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Also by this author: The Truth About Forever, Saint Anything, Once and for All
Published by Penguin on May 5th 2015
Genres: Family, Friendship, General, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Sydney has always felt invisible. She's grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world. Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last. Saint Anything is Sarah Dessen’s deepest and most psychologically probing novel yet, telling an engrossing story of a girl discovering friendship, love, and herself.From the Hardcover edition.
I was trying to explain what I loved most about this book to my lovely friend Meg the other day… I knew when I struggled with that, that I was going to struggle with writing my review.
I rambled on about how I have only read a couple of Sarah Dessen’s books… I’d liked them but they weren’t anything that really stuck with me.
This however… this was different.
And I knew it was going to be different from the very first chapter.
Sydney… always admired her charismatic older brother, but as they got older, his behavior became more concerning and more dangerous and ultimately leads to an accident and a jail sentence. While her parents focus on Peyton and what they can do to make his time in jail more tolerable, Sydney struggles with the guilt that she feels her family should instead be focusing on. Determined to start fresh, she transfers from the private school she attends to the local public school and tries to disappear in the flood of students who have no clue who she is or what her brother did.
A random stop at a local pizzeria introduces her to Layla and Mac and the Chatham family… owners of the pizza place.
The dichotomy of Sydney’s family to that of Mac & Layla was reminiscent of that of Sam & Jase in My Life Next Door, and I think that is part of what I loved about them so much. Where Sydney’s family is reserved and concerned about appearances, the Chathams are loud and messy and chaotic and so different than what she is used to.
Ultimately this is Sydney’s story… her story of building friendships, hanging on to the ones that matter and finding new ones that are life changing. It’s about coming to terms with things in your past and finding the strength to create a future and of course there’s some romance… though that definitely takes a backseat in this story.
I found it hard to put this book down once I started… the story itself isn’t an easy one. Sydney’s guilt for the things her brother did was understandable… the anger Sydney harbored for her brother was understandable… the irritation at her parents for their lack of care for the family of the boy who was injured was understandable, but I really wanted Sydney to stand up for herself a lot sooner than she did. I wanted her to make her mom see who she was and acknowledge how she had been neglecting her needs and her feelings in order to coddle her brother.
I loved that the romance in this one took a back seat to the friendship for the most part. Layla and Sydney form an incredible friendship, one filled with bumps and bruises but when it comes down to it, they are there for each other no matter what. And while I say the romance takes a backseat, it’s still there. I loved the evolution of Mac and Sydney’s relationship because it was friendship first. Mac was such a wonderful leading man, his story was interesting and unique and a wonderful addition. Watching their friendship turn into something more was done so subtly and it was just lovely.
Dessen develops every character carefully and weaved into the story… though I struggled a bit with the brother’s friend storyline, and why he was such a big fixture in Sydney’s mom’s life. That doesn’t mean it didn’t make sense… it’s just that parts of it didn’t work fully for me. I think we could maybe have done without it and the story would still have been amazing.
Dessen’s Saint Anything is a story of grief, guilt and loneliness… but it’s also a story of finding yourself and forging you way. Definitely my favorite of hers!
I could probably go on and on here, but I won’t. I’ll just say get this one as soon as you can and enjoy!