Published by Penguin Australia on May 5, 2015
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!