Wednesday, 6 May 2015
Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: May 5th, 2015
Add to Goodreads
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.
Every other spring I become super antsy. Why you might ask. Well because I'm highly anticipating the next Sarah Dessen book. Years and years ago I came across my first of her books and it has been a solid love affair since. I absolutely adore every story this women writes. No doubt that Dessen is one of the reigning queens of YA contemporary.
As excited as I was for Saint Anything, I went in to it kind of blind. Of course I knew what the general premise would be. But you can say I was a bit surprised when Saint Anything started out in a court room. Sydney's brother, Peyton had just been sentenced for drunk driving. He hit a boy on a bike which has left the boy partially paralyzed. That accident was just the bottom of Peyton's downward spiral. Sydney's larger than life brother, even in jail, is still front and center with her family. Sydney is use to being invisible, but it's becoming harder and harder for her to stay that way in her parents eyes. Especially since it affects her life and happiness.
Dessen has always been spot on with her mix of relationships(family, friends, boyfriends), self discovery and real life story telling. I've never found her books fluffy. They tend to be complex and feel inducing. Saint Anything was no different there. But I felt like Saint Anything stood out in its maturity. Sydney is not the eldest MC, I'm not talking about that. It was more the story arc. Well the romance is definitely there. The focus was more on Sydney speaking up for herself and learning to be forward with her parents. I always want to see my ship get together, but in this case I was just flipping pages, holding my breath for when that moment when Sydney just says something.
Sydney is a quite girl. Goes with the flow and let's other people, like her mother, dictate her life. Even before Peyton started to act out, it was always about him. So Sydney was content being the invisible one. It was hard reading along with Sydney not sticking up for herself. I'm out spoken, so we're very different people. I understand not wanting to hurt someones feelings with your opinion or such, but there is a time to speak out for yourself. I just needed Sydney to do that. Especially with her mother. Her mother is over bearing and controlling. She did and said a lot of things that really pissed me off. Ignoring Sydney(not purposely) being one. Another being the fact that she didn't treat Peyton being in jail, like him being in jail. It was like he was at boarding school. Like with Sydney, I couldn't believe how she failed to realize that Peyton put a kid in a wheelchair The seriousness of that.
There's some really uncomfortable moments between Sydney and her older brothers friend. He's this fixture in their families life, has been for a while. Now that Peyton is in jail, he's become more prominent. Sydney doesn't like him. He has yet to make a direct advance towards her, but he's super creepy and getting to close to her through his actions and words. It's odd yet understanding why he's constantly around. He's a life line for her mother with Peyton. Sydney didn't really speak up about how uncomfortable she is around him. But when she is constantly saying in nicer terms that she doesn't want to be around him to her mother, her mother passes it off as being rude. It just kind of flabbergasts me that you could probably see this look of horror on your daughters face at having to be around him and yet you don't confront her about it.
The absolute best part of Saint Anything is the Chathams. A fantastic, family next door type of family. Upon Sydney changing schools and thus finding a new pizza place she becomes friends with Layla and Mac. Layla kind of bursts herself onto Sydney. Giving Sydney a friendship, a different type of friendship, one she needed. Sydney finds herself being able to finally open up to someone. Layla's personality welcomes openness and truth. Also Sydney finds it easy to bond with Layla over parts of her life. Layla understands.
The romance with Mac was definitely slow burning. Sydney instantly found Mac attractive. But the friendship with Layla was more the focus here. It also doesn't help that both Sydney and Mac are kind of shy. Still the lead up to them finally getting together was adorable. Spending more time together, getting to know each other outside of Layla. It was cute and I was so on board with this ship. I adored Mac. He's genuine, supportive and kind. He noticed Sydney and made sure she knew he was never invisible to him.
Again, another slam dunk for Dessen. I really believe she has her priorities straight. I've never been able to start and put down one of her books before the last page. The focus on complex and dynamic family relationships will speak to any reader. Like with Saint Anything the romance is there, and I loved how once the couple got together it was solid. But it was the point. The friendship with Layla was important and Sydney was able to recognize Layla came first. As well as Sydney finding her voice and coming out her shell. Making herself and her parents realize she's just as important and part of the family as Peyton. Dessen did a fantastic job conveying all of that in her signature style.