Title: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher through Penguin’s First to Read Program
Sydney has always felt invisible.
She’s grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world.
Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.
Saint Anything is Sarah Dessen’s deepest and most psychologically probing novel yet, telling an engrossing story of a girl discovering friendship, love, and herself.
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen is a thought-provoking and poignant young adult novel that will resonate with readers of all ages. This riveting story is a well-written exploration of friendship and family and it is both heartwarming and heartbreaking as main character Sydney Stanford deals with the aftermath of her older brother’s drunk driving accident.
Sydney has been eclipsed by her older brother Peyton for most of their lives. Charming and outgoing, he is the family’s golden child until he falls in with the wrong crowd and begins a downward spiral that culminates with prison sentence. In an effort to escape his infamous legacy, Sydney switches schools where she revels in her newfound anonymity. But it is her new friendship with Layla, Mac and the rest of their gang that Sydney appreciates the most and with them, she finds acceptance, understanding and the freedom to finally break free of her brother’s shadow.
Sydney is a smart young woman who has never given her parents anything to worry about. She does what is expected of her but unfortunately, her mom is so wrapped up in Peyton, she pays little attention to Sydney. Her dad works long hours and he travels frequently for his job, so he leaves most of the household and parenting decisions up to her mom. Sydney is also very passive and she has been shut down so many times by her mother that she easily gives in even in very troubling situations.
Life at Layla and Mac Chatham’s house is the completely different than Sydney’s quiet, tightly controlled household. The Chatham’s are very family oriented and everyone expected to help out with whatever needs to be done. Sydney is surprised to learn that she shares a common bond with the boisterous but loving family and they welcome her wholeheartedly into their world. Much to her delight, she quickly discovers they are very compassionate, sympathetic and non-judgmental friends who are easy to confide in.
As Sydney becomes further enmeshed with her new friends, her relationship with Mac takes an unexpected turn. Their friendship slowly deepens into a very sweet romance. It is an easygoing relationship that is trouble free and easily withstands a tense situation with Sydney’s overprotective mother.
Saint Anything by is a fast-paced and engrossing novel. Sarah Dessen brilliantly presents a true to life portrayal of teenagers that does not downplay the sometimes serious consequences of bad decisions. The storyline is refreshingly unique and well-written with little angst or drama. The characters are multi-faceted with plausible flaws and imperfections. The growth of the different characters is absolutely phenomenal and the resolution of the various issues is realistic and immensely satisfying. A heartfelt and moving story that I highly recommend.