Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen Review: Coping with a jailed sibling

February 26, 2016 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen Review: Coping with a jailed siblingSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Published by Penguin Australia on May 5, 2015
Source: Publisher
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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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.

It took me a while to work up to reading Saint Anything, because of its emotionally heavy content. But it turns out I needn’t have worried, because Sarah Dessen writes beautiful contemporaries. It is an honest and real representation of how the incarceration of a sibling can impact your parents, your friends, yourself and the public perception of everyone around you.

The impact on Sydney’s parents is major, with Sydney’s mum in denial over her son’s actions, and becoming stricter on Sydney. Her father withdraws and immerses himself into work. Although they’re all hurting and coping in their different ways, it was hard to see Sydney try and appease her parents although they’re strict and unreasonable at times. Her mum drove me crazy with how she failed to support Sydney and how she projected her worries of Peyton onto her daughter. Seeing her leave Sydney with the creepy Ames was pretty disturbing, although I wanted Sydney to just say something to her mum. But the issue here was the breakdown in their relationship, which was the core focus of the story.


Sometimes coping with loss, involves changing your life and everything around you. While Sydney’s home life is swept up into discord, she decides to change school and make new friends outside of her old friendship group. Some friendships are borne out of convenience, while others are there to support you, no matter what happens. I like how Saint Anything explored these types of friendships and highlighted what it is to be a good friend.

While Layla and Mac are from a different walk of life, they make Sydney feel comfortable and are there for her, no matter what. They’re warm, caring and simply understand Sydney and what she’s going through, which is something her old best friend could have never offered. I’m glad she was able to find someone to lean on through such a difficult time, demonstrating that surrounding yourself with supportive and healthy friendships is important.


If you like slow burn romances, the one in Saint Anything is subtle and sweet. It comes out of friendship and a mutual respect for one another, which I found healthy and encouraging. Despite Mac being sweet, dependable and caring, I didn’t really get a good feel for his character or really feel the chemistry in the romance. He’s simply there as a part of Sydney’s growth and character development.

…”I mean, I’ve always loved my brother. But I really hate him right now.” – Sydney


Saint Anything is different to Sarah Dessen’s lighter summer romances and represents an honest, poignant story of a jailed sibling and the lasting impact on his family. It’s a complex, beautifully written contemporary with well developed characters and a focus on family and friendship. Also this book will make you hungry for pizza and garlic knots.

Rating: 4 out of 5


Thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me this book for review! 


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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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37 responses to “Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen Review: Coping with a jailed sibling

  1. sumlynnnguyen

    Ah, love this review, Jeann! You're spot on with all the points you made especially the one with it being different from Dessen's other usual more light hearted contemporaries. And right! Ames was uber creepy. I really wanted to knock some sense into Sydney's parents. I mean, who is okay with a male "babysitter" staying over at their daughter's house-with or without the nonexistent girlfriend…? 😮
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  2. I don't think I have ever actually read a book by Sarah Dessen! I think I started one MANY years ago, and just never got into it. But there is so much love for her books in the book blogging community, I kind of feel like I should rectify that!

    I have heard pretty good things about this book, and I think it tackles a really interesting topic. It's so sad to see how badly Sydney's mum is handling the whole situation :/

    A slow burn romance is my favourite kind, but not having a good feel for the love interest and not being on board with the chemistry are things that really impact whether I ship the couple or not!

    I'm glad you liked this one, Jeannie <3
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  3. Omg how creepy was Ames?! I was just like scared for Sydney throughout the whole book because he was such a creep. The pizza was probably my favourite aspect of the book HAHA. The descriptions made me so hungry and when I thought about Mac making pizza *licks lips creepily*

  4. Awww that's such a shame that it ended up falling flat for you! Yeah, it was more about her coming to terms with everything that had happened and then moving on. Thank you so much for visiting my blog Eli!

  5. I love this review! I have had this book on my Kindle for a while, but I keep putting it off, probably because of the heavy subject matter. I have never actually read Sarah Dressen before, but she gets such great reviews. I am sure I will love it. I think your review has inspired me to actually read it soon! Great review.
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    • I know, that's why I put it off for a year too but it was amazing! Her writing is great and I feel like anyone could enjoy it. I hope you pick it up soon Cynthia!

    • I completely agree Emily! I've only read this one and The Moon and More and wow, this really left a lasting impact! It was just so sweet the way they got to know each other. Thank you lovely <3

    • Thanks Lekeisha! It really depends on your mood, her other ones are fun summer romances but this one had more of an impact. Hope you enjoy them!

  6. This sounds like such an emotional and powerful book Jeann. Definitely going to have to give it a try – I've heard so many wonderful things about it. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

  7. elimadison2019

    I had such strong feelings about this book, I just couldn't even. I feel like it had an amazing start, but ended up falling flat for me. I did really enjoy the themes though, so that was a plus. I'm glad you liked it! And those are beautiful bookstagrams 😀 <3_<3

    – Eli @ The Silver Words
    My recent post Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

  8. Nerdybirdy @ Daydreaming Books

    I've never read any books by this author but I really want to. This sounds like an incredible book, I'm glad you liked it. Loved the review! 🙂

  9. Maraia

    This is probably my second-favorite Sarah Dessen novel, after The Truth About Forever. Sydney's parents were infuriating, but I loved the friendship and the slow burn romance with Mac. And the pizza, of course. 🙂

    • Ohhh I have the rest of her books on my shelves but I've only read The Moon and More. I'm glad you liked that one! Yesss the pizza made me hungry hehe.

  10. Larissa

    I have read one book by Dessen before (The Moon and More, quite enjoyed it) and I honestly need to read more. She certainly does seem have the contemporary novel down, I just adore her quiet yet utterly engaging writing style. They manage to be so honest and raw emotionally too without being over dramatic or over the top.

    I honestly don't think I've read a YA story about a sibling in prison before? It certainly sounds interesting to see about the effects this would have on the family and in turn their behavior towards Sydney in this case. Though I must say already I know that Sydney's mother will not be a favorite of mine LOL. And Ames ewwwww, sounds creepy.

    Loving the focus on friendship, because like you said there certainly is a difference between friendships of convenience and friendships built on true support and long time love. I'm glad Sydney finds that and because of it is able to truly grow and develop as a character. And ooooo slow burn romance Jeann, girl you know how to sell a novel to me [; FOOD PORN TOO <33 Ughhhh it makes me hungry but I love it. Like pizza and garlic knots, can I have some magically made for me and set on a plate to eat ASAP? Thanks (;

    Lol lovely review girl <33 really want to check this one out now! omfg. Now my TBR is growing even larger thanks to you [;
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  11. Cyn @ Bookmunchies

    I don't usually read a ton of emotionally heavy books, but I'm glad this book was a lovely read for you! I've been meaning to read Dessen for years but just haven't started yet /sigh. I like the sound of the slowing burning romance and I love books with a bit of food love it it 😉 Beautiful and poignant is definitely always nice, too!

    Great review Jeann!
    My recent post Review: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

  12. booksbonesbuffy

    I have yet to read a Sarah Dessen book, but I have read other good reviews of this one, and it sounds like I'd enjoy it, even though I don't normally read contemporary. Great review, Jeann! And I love the view:-)

    • It was a really great book that doesn't feature the usual annoying tropes you know? I think if you don't usually read contemporary, you'd still enjoy this one. Thank you Tammy! Take me back to that view lol!

  13. I completely agree Jeann, there's something so lovely about Sarah Dessen's writing and this sounds like one of her more mature and engaging reads. I can't recall any other book that touches on having a family member in prison apart from Aristotle and Dante. It sounds wonderfully warm and compassionate. I bought a copy of this one ages ago when it was released, think it's time to crack it open. Wonderful review Jeann <3
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    • I completely agree Kelly, this one was done so well! It took me ages to get around to it (I'm not good with darker books) but I shouldn't have waited so long, it was perfect. If you read it, let me know your thoughts!

  14. This book will make me hungry for pizza?!??! *SOLD* *dashes to library* I NEED HEAR NO MORE. Well, also I don't think I've ever read a Sarah Dessen book, so this sounds like an excellent place to start. hehehh.

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