Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Viking Juvenille, Expected Release Date: May 5, 2015
*ARC provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter - Thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*
Sydney has spent her whole life in the shadow of Peyton, the older brother she idolizes. He's always had a way about him, something that's made him the center of everything, even when he started to get in trouble. In fact, he's still sun that their entire family revolves around when he's locked away in jail after his drunk driving left another boy in a wheelchair. Her mom acts as if Peyton was the victim, her father is barely around, and Sydney is wracked with guilt about her brother's actions, her best still never being good enough. But positive changes come into Sydney's life in unlikely places - at a new school where she doesn't know anyone and at a family run pizza place with pies too perfect for words. The Chathams are completely unlike Sydney's own family - loud, loving, and they actually look at and accept her. Someone finally seems to care about where Sydney is and how she's doing.
A voracious reader, I always have at least a book or two I'm working my way through. But that's the thing - sometimes these 200 page books have felt like work. Saint Anything's 448 pages, however, flew by far too quickly. I was completely enraptured in this story. This was one of those books where the rest of the world disappeared around me whenever I was reading it. Though I have never been in the exact same situation as Sydney, I have felt a lot of the same feelings both in my high school years and even as an adult. It's agonizing to have people looking at you for all the wrong reasons, and such a relief when it happens for the right ones.
While many are describing this as Dessen's darkest novel, I don't think I'd agree with that sentiment. In her 12 published books, Dessen has not shied away from serious topics such as abusive relationships, body image, teen pregnancy, loss, and substance abuse. This story isn't an easy one - there's a lot of anger and hurt, but it's honest and realistic and it made me appreciate this book that much more. While it's true that this author has given us plenty of swoonworthy relationships in her books, they've never just been about romance. The same can be said for Saint Anything. Did I fall for Mac, the oldest boy in the Chatham household, just as hard as Sydney? Oh yes. But I was just as in love with the friendships that make up the core of this story, especially Sydney's with Layla Chatham.
All in all, Saint Anything has to be one of my favorite Sarah Dessen books ever, which is saying something since I have such high praise for her other titles as well. Even though the the subject matter can get dark, it is also full of hope and light, and I already can't wait to reread it.
Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!
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