Book: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Details: Stand-alone YA Contemporary
Publishing Information: Published May 5, 2015 by Penguin Young Reader’s Group
First Sentence: “Would the defendant please rise.”
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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 broth Mac – quiet, watchful, and protective – that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.
“THAT’S THE THING, THOUGH. YOU ALWAYS THINK YOU WANT TO BE NOTICED UNTIL YOU ARE.”
Cover Review: I love this cover! Most of Sarah Dessen’s other covers are just pretty girls doing summery things, and it’s nice to see a cover of a contemporary that actually matches the tone and events in the book. Plus, my cover has a little sticker that says “Signed Copy”, which is a bonus.
It’s been way too long since I’ve read a Sarah Dessen book! They never disappoint me and this one is no exception. Like her other novels, this book takes place in the same general town as her other books, mentioning the same schools and I’m assuming some familiar names as side characters (I’m guessing because she does that in all of her books but – as I said before – it’s been so long since I read them that I can’t confirm that for sure). Despite taking place in the same setting, this story was still incredibly unique and a refreshing new story from Dessen.
Obviously – since this is a contemporary novel – there was a love interest in this book. I have to say that it was mildly (but tolerably) instalove-y… not in the way that immediately when the characters met each other they started dating, but just because as soon as the character was introduced there was no doubt in your mind that he was going to be the love interest. However, I did really like Mac’s character. I liked the fact that he wasn’t in-your-face adorable throughout the entire book. He was just a guy who played drums and delivered pizza and was oh-so casually everything goals.
I also like the two families involved in this story. You had Sydney’s family that was falling apart and pretty much going crazy because of everything going on with her brother, but you also had the perfect family that Sydney could escape to, the Chathams. Except… the “perfect” family had tons of issues, too, which made it feel real and relatable and a lot more interesting to read about.
You only really fall apart in front of the people you know can piece you back together.
Most contemporary novels sacrifice quality writing for an easy-to-follow plot with tons of sappy dialogue, but this one did not. Sarah Dessen’s descriptions of characters and the setting helped add a lot of depth to what is a very cutesy story.
I did have one big issue with this book. There were a couple of times that the main character drank alcohol in the story. Normally, I wouldn’t care. Usually these elements are included in YA novels to prove a point about how awful underage drinking always turns out, and there were a couple of times that this book did this. However, you have to keep in mind that this entire book takes place after Sydney’s brother is arrested from drunk-driving and severely injuring someone. Heck, half of the plot is Sydney trying to get over the guilt she feels from her brother’s mistake. So in what world would it make sense for there to be a scene where Sydney drinks with her underage friends just because and no consequences or lessons or deeper meaning come from it? I found it incredibly frustrating and it made me lose a little respect for Sydney as a main character.
However, back on the positive note, Sarah Dessen was good at getting me emotionally invested in these characters. Saint Anything is on the longer side for a contemporary, which is fine with me. In my opinion, long contemporaries are the best kind of contemporaries. There were so many incredibly well developed characters in these books – not just within the two families, but in the characters they’re friends with or even just interact with sporadically throughout the book. One character, Ames, is Peyton’s creepy friend. His way of fitting into the storyline is that he’s basically just the dude that Sydney’s parents always have babysit her when they had to go away. Sydney is incredibly creeped out by him, not because he’s done anything bad necessarily, but just because she gets a bad vibe from him. Sarah Dessen conveys that bad vibe in the way that she describes him and talks to him that you can’t help but despise him and dread scenes where he would be present. You just knew that something bad was going to happen even though he hadn’t done anything to suggest that.
Also, you know that beautifully cheesy moment where the meaning and origin behind the book’s title is revealed within the story? This book had one of those moments. *happy sigh*
I absolutely love Sarah Dessen, and if you’re looking for a solid contemporary I’ll always be bringing up that name. If you’ve been a fan of Sarah Dessen’s other books, I would definitely recommend picking up this one because it was just as good if not better than her others. I did have some issues with it, of course. Like every contemporary it has its cheesy and mildly cringe-y moments, but they don’t occur often. I would of course recommend this book and I plan to continue reading any and everything Sarah Dessen writes.