|Book Review: Saint Anything (Sarah Dessen)|
|Book title||Saint Anything|
|Category | Genre||Young Adult | Contemporary|
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.
Saint Anything was one of my pick for ReadThemAllThon. I failed the read-a-thon as expected, but I decided to read the book anyway. I have read most of Dessen books in the past, opted to binge-read them because they were so easy to read. Looking back, however, I regret my binge-reading decision because after 3 books I started to mix them all together. I cannot tell you who is the MC in The Truth About Forever or the plot of What Happened to Goodbye. So when Sarah released The Moon and More and Saint Anything, I didn’t rush to read the books. Now seems a good time to catch up on my Sarah Dessen reading, started with Saint Anything.
Dessen knows how to write a likeable, relatable character. Sydney is no exception to this. She is a good girl who’s trying to do everything right only to be dismissed to the background by her parents, her mother especially, who are coping with the aftermath of Sydney’s brother incarceration. Sydney is smart and kind, but ironically she is somewhat forgettable and interchangeable with some of Dessen MCs.
The love interest, Mac – short for Macaulay – was described as hot, caring, and smart. In other words, he is too damn near perfect to exist. Thankfully, he got a sense of humor so he still gets a pass from me.
Sydney parents really infuriate me because of the way they treated her after her brother went to jail for hitting a boy while driving under influence. They both deal with the jail sentence by ignoring Sydney or treating her like she’s her brother. Which is totally unfair, yet completely relatable. Readers who have siblings are likely to have this kind of experience, when they were treated unfairly because of their siblings’ mistakes. I think Sarah really nailed this one.
Any Sarah Dessen book would not be complete without a good dose of BFFs relationships and Saint Anything provided plenty of them. The spunky Layla, the kind-hearted Jenn, and the discipline Meredith are Sydney’s anchors. I’m really glad that the author made decision to keep all three of them throughout the story, even if Layla got the biggest portion. I am so tired of books where the MC ditched their BFFs for 8 years within 20 pages of meeting the new one because “they have nothing in common anymore.” Relationships, including friendships, require effort and time, and that is very apparent here.
My favorite character in this book is perhaps Layla and Mac’s mother. She had multiple sclerosis that made her wheelchair-bound, but her presence in the house and in the book is so strong and positive.
I’d only known this family a short time, and it was a testament to the power of Mrs. Chatham’s personality that I couldn’t imagine them without her. Like my mom, she was that center of the wheel, with everyone drawing strength from her. She needed a saint of her own.
Plot and Narrative
There really isn’t much to talk about. Despite the promising premise of a family struggling to adapt with life after a son went to jail, this book didn’t deliver on the promised tension and conflict. At times, it felt too careful, playing it safe to avoid stepping out of the line, too tame to deliver the punch.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re looking for a light and heartwarming read.
There are several things in this book that I think could be explored further. The main one would be Sydney relationship with her brother, Peyton. They don’t interact much in the book except through a few phone calls and I am okay with that because Sydney is still mad at him. What I expected to find more in the book was Sydney and Peyton changes in dynamic, something that is written but I never really felt.
In term of MS representation, I actually like what the author did here, writing a character with MS instead of making her story all about MS. You could see that the family dynamics was affected by the illness, but the author didn’t venture into the forest of medical jargon and I think it’s a good decision.
The plot building can be slow at times. I read Saint Anything in 1.5 days because I was having good reading days (I am usually a slow reader), but it still felt slow. And totally predictable. The anticipated climax happened toward near the end of the book, but it just didn’t emotionally impact me that much. Perhaps because I spent so much time waiting for it to happen, I was mostly glad it’s dealt with.
Besides Dreamland, Saint Anything is one of the darker Dessen book. However, it is still as sweet and heartwarming as ever, with relatable characters and cute romance. If you’re looking for a good read with those characteristics, Saint Anything might just be what you’re looking for.
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)
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