Review: Saint Anything - Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Genre: YA, contemporary, romance
Published on May 5, 2015
Published by Viking Juvenile
Pages: 417
Read From: 7.18.15 - 7.18.15













SYNOPSIS
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 weekend, and pitch in the 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.

Review

Dear Saint Anything,

I never thought I'd find a contemporary novel that would speak so thoroughly and warmly to my soul. You are my first Sarah Dessen novel and I don't think I could have chosen a better one. No other could have made me fall so totally and completely in love with her writing. You came into my life when I needed you.

Sydney is a very nice, unassuming protagonist. She tries to be a good friend, student, and above all daughter. But her parents are so absorbed with Peyton that they never pay attention to her efforts or what she wants. The only time they notice anything about Sydney is when they want to take their frustration over Peyton out on someone and they imagine that Sydney might make the same mistakes as Peyton, even though Sydney has done absolutely nothing to ever make them suppose that she would. On top of being ignored and punished for her brother's mistakes, Sydney also deals with the guilt of what her brother did. Her mom is obsessed with Peyton, but seems to forget entirely that the person he hit is the real victim. So Sydney bears the burden for her entire family. Some Readers might find her quiet acceptance of her parents' slights annoying. But as someone who has a habit of doing the same thing, I totally understood. And with her family dealing with such a difficult situation, it would be even harder to stand up for yourself and risk being perceived as unfeeling and selfish. And I just loved that Sydney's solution to being swallowed up by her brother's shadow wasn't to be a bratty, rule-breaking brat. Instead, she fought to be the best person that she could, while silently pleading to be seen for who she was. Just once. It spoke so deeply to me that I found myself crying a lot.

Sydney's parents drove me up a wall, especially her mom Julie. She completely ignored her daughter, denied her even the smallest request, then took her anger and frustration with Peyton out on her. To top it off, Julie never listened to Sydney about Peyton's creepy friend Ames who had a thing for Sydney and was just a total user. Oh my gosh, I hated Ames so much!! And I hated Julie for not tuning in to what a manipulative little creep he was!

However, the Chathams I loved. Layla was all levels of awesome and fun and quirkiness, with her fry obsession and protectiveness of Sydney and her family. I immediately fell in love with Mac, of course; I would so love him as my big brother. I wanted to cry and laugh and squeal with joy when he told Sydney that she was never invisible to him. Good feels all around!!

Probably what surprised me the most was how subtle the romance was in you, Saint Anything. It's obvious from the beginning which direction the romance is going to swing, but it isn't at all the main focus of the plot and it's very gradual. Sydney is best friends with Layla and it's made pretty clear to her that being interested in Mac is kind of off-limits once you're friends with Layla. On top of that, Mac is actually a pretty secondary character and then gradually becomes more and more prominent as the story continues. You aren't just a sweet romance novel, Saint Anything; you're also about family and difficult struggles and fighting to be seen in the world; of being heard in the face of tragedy.

You were full of so many feels for me, Saint Anything. I adored and connected to your characters, I loved your plot, and that ending was so perfect and wonderful and - I just can't even. You spoke to me on so many levels; you are my new go-to book and I can't even begin to imagine how many times I'm going to re-read you. Some Readers may not feel so strongly about you as I did because they didn't connect in the same way, but for people out there who are like me - this book is a must read.

Feeling totally understood,
~ Mara A. ~

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