Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Published by Viking on May 5, 2015
Genres: [Young Adult] Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
4 Stars, Completed May 2, 2015
– SPOILER free –
For the past couple of years I haven’t been buying books unless they’ve been marginally cut down in price, but, after reading the preview for Saint Anything back in early March, I knew I had to grab this one upon release. Rarely do I do this anymore due to my buying books full price ban, but I was browsing the teen section at my local bookstore a few days ago and by some miracle I saw a prereleased copy. Naturally, without thinking I grabbed the book and ran, giddy, to the register (not an impulse buy at all), and from there I began my journey of devouring this book in less than a day.
In Saint Anything, Sydney has always been left unnoticed and her brother, Peyton, has received the attention because of his strikingly good looks and natural charm. And Sydney doesn’t seem to mind or blame her brother for her invisibility. However, this all changes when Peyton’s popularity rises and he begins to participate in illegal activities. After some temporary rehab and counseling, Sydney’s parents believes Peyton’s bout of recklessness is cured until the police notify them of his arrest. And so, the readers are sent to where the book begins in the courtroom, where Sydney and her family are waiting to hear her brother’s sentence for driving under the influence of alcohol, creating an accident, and consequently causing a teenage boy to become permanently paralyzed. With these tumultuous events, everyone, especially Sydney’s mom, views Peyton as the victim, and Sydney can’t help but feel obligated to feel guilty towards the paralyzed boy and his family. With her brother’s actions to haunt her, Sydney soon decides to start anew at a public school. And one day, driving home from school, she discovers Seaside, a pizza parlor, where she meets the Chathams, a warm but chaotic family. As she’s just making new friends and adjusting to this new life, her mother begins to take interest and monitor Sydney’s every step, in fear of her becoming like Peyton. And for once, Sydney wishes she could escape the limelight she once admired her brother for.
I’ve come to realize that I should let go of my high hopes of Sarah Dessen creating a book that rivals the story of The Truth About Forever, my absolute favorite by her. So with this book, I didn’t have any TAF or even Just Listen expectations, but instead anticipated a great Sarah Dessen novel. So I wasn’t disappointed at all. This book was different and introduced unique themes that haven’t been present in Dessen’s previous work (I’ve read all of them but The Moon and More and Dreamland). It also still showcased Dessen’s usual, beautiful style. The writing was simple, but well written and almost lyrical. The plot remained unpredictable and intriguing, and Dessen still managed to make small mundane things appear not so ordinary and important for the protagonist’s character development. Each character was relatable and realistic, but also possessed distinct and quirky qualities Dessen’s known to create in her characters. And as crazy as it sounds, it was refreshing to have Ames, a super creepy guy that added to the subplot. I also really enjoyed the Chathams’ unspoken loyalty towards one another and found the role of Sydney’s new and old friends to be touching and realistic. The main love interest and guy was flawed but, no different from the other Dessen novels, he understood and healed the protagonist in a way no one else could in the story. And, of course, the ending wrapped up nicely but also left some food for thought as to what’s in store for Sydney in the future. And speaking of food, the references to food in this one was divine. I’ve been vegetarian for a little over 5 years and I do tend to eat healthy, but I can’t deny my love for French fries. And there are plenty of fries in this. And other greasy yumminess.
However, despite all the usual Dessen elements present and my obvious enjoyment, this book didn’t deserve 5 stars for a few reasons. Putting aside that it wasn’t exactly TAF perfection, it also wasn’t a book that left me speechless because the writing and ideas resonated within me. There weren’t as many inspiring or life-changing quotes in comparison to other Dessen novels. Another thing I was a bit disappointed in was Mac’s role. And even though I liked Mac, I also thought his character lacked depth. He was a supportive figure for Sydney and a guy that made all the fictional girls sa-woon, but the reader never really understands his story, except for the backbone of why he eats so healthy. His character just wasn’t that dynamic, therefore making the relationship not really special in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, Dessen never writes about an all-consuming love story anyway. And I’m aware that she’s writing about young teenage girls falling in love for the first time but I just expected more from Mac’s character and Sydney’s relationship with him. And probably the main reason why I shaved a star off the rating was because of the parental roles. Dessen’s known to feature divorce and the absence of parental guidance in her books, but Sydney’s parents really bothered me. Sydney’s mom probably could’ve won the most controlling and obsessive mother of the year award in this book. While Sydney’s father literally did nothing for her, the family, or the book. There may as well not have been a father role in Saint Anything for how little his character contributed to the story. And more often than not did I find myself in frustration for the parents’ blindness toward certain situations.
Even though Saint Anything isn’t worthy of making top tier with The Truth About Forever and Just Listen, it probably is one of the better Dessen books for its uniqueness along with Along For the Ride and This Lullaby. Roughly every summer when a new Sarah Dessen novel is released I always read it. I’m glad I didn’t sway from my usual summer routine this year. Saint Anything left me content and wonder why I don’t read more wonderful ya contemporary. I definitely recommend this to returning Dessen readers, but suggest new readers to start with The Truth About Forever and Just Listen before this one to get the full Dessen experience.