Book Title: Saint Anything
Author: Sarah Dessen
Published Date: May 5th, 2015
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository
Synopsis from Goodreads
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.
Disclaimer: Library book.
It’s no secret that I haven’t really clicked with Sarah Dessen’s books. I’ve tried several of them and except for The Moon and More, none of them have been to my taste for various reasons. I had heard this one was different, darker, and that made me curious. Everyone who knows me, knows that I prefer my contemporaries to be dark as opposed to fluffy.
That’s why Saint Anything really worked for me.
Yes Sydney really drove me crazy, but it was not unexpected given Dessen’s usual plot point of having a quiet female character who never speaks up for herself. Sydney’s older brother, Peyton is in jail after being involved in a drunk driving accident in which he paralyzed the boy. Sydney has always felt like she’s invisible and it gets even worse as she watches her parents deal with this.
Especially her mom. Wow, her mom was a tough woman to like. I mean, I knew it was probably hard for her to know that her son had caused such a serious accident, But she becomes so focused on trying to “fix” this, when there really is no such thing as fixing it. Even her husband, Peyton (yes there are two Peyton’s in this story, father & son) isn’t as obsessive as she is. As much as Julie Stanford believes that getting the whole family involved will help her son, this is jail, not the PTA.
Let’s not forget the creepiest guy in the entire book. Ames. He was Peyton’s best friend in prison and now he’s constantly around the Stanfords, sucking up to Julie, and creeping Sydney out. Does she tell her parents how much he creeps her out? Nope, and that really bothered me.
“It wasn’t like he had ever done anything to me, so I felt like it had to be my problem.”
I wanted to strangle Sydney so much when she said this, because it didn’t matter if he had ever done anything to her. She had a right to feel however she felt about him, even if he never touched her in any inappropriate ways. That is such a teachable moment for girls, especially young girls. They need to know that it doesn’t matter if a guy never did anything to them. What matters is that they feel uncomfortable around a certain guy.
Peyton doesn’t tell her mom or her dad about her misgivings about Peyton. She doesn’t want her mom to lose him. Ames had been her mom’s rock during the latest crisis with Peyton.
“He hadn’t done anything except creep me out. And that wasn’t a punishable offense.”
Just being creeped out by him is reason enough to not want him around.
“Especially since I had nothing specific to point to, just a feeling. Everybody has those.”
Um, no Sydney, they don’t, and if they did, most people would speak up about them.
The Chatham clan really reminded me a lot of the Garrett clan from My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. I loved the Garretts, and I loved the Chathams just as much, maybe even more. Something about the chaotic family subplot really works for me. Maybe it’s because I have such a small family, and sometimes wish I had a bigger family.
Layla accepts Sydney even as she learns about Sydney’s family, and especially about Peyton’s troubles. Layla is no stranger to siblings who have troubles, as her sister Rosie has a drug past. There’s also Mac who has made eating healthier a priority, and their mom, who has MS and their dad who owns a pizza place.
I have never craved pizza as badly as I was craving it the entire time I was reading the book. Well pizza and fries.
I love stories about friendship, and Layla and Sydney’s friendship was golden. Layla is the one who Sydney confides in the most. About Ames, about Peyton, about her parents, about David Ibarra, but there’s one thing that Sydney can’t talk to Layla about.
Her growing feelings for Mac.
I loved the romance in this one. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of the romance Dessen writes, but Sydney and Mac were awesome. Mac was swoony and Sydney grew stronger with him, which I absolutely loved. She started to realize there are other people who want her in their life without expecting anything from her.
Mrs. Chatham was awesome. She provided Sydney with a mother figure when Sydney’s own mother was too busy with Peyton’s troubles to pay any real attention to her daughter.
“Why do you feel like you have to shoulder your brother’s responsibility?”
Totally valid point because Sydney felt a lot of guilt. Guilt over something that was never her responsibility to begin with. It was utterly maddening to see her feel guilt for something her brother did.
“Because someone has to.”
Um yeah, like your brother. Sydney needed to realize that it was not on her to shoulder this burden. It was her brother’s responsibility. Not hers.
Because this book was darker than most of Dessen’s previous books, I really liked it a lot. I enjoyed Sydney’s story arc especially because it was so important for her to realize that she matters, and her voice matters. The Chathams helped her realize that.
I am going to give this book 4 stars because it is my favorite Dessen book so far and it was captivating and interesting.