Author: Sarah Dessen
Provided 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 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.
Review: After my reaction to last year’s release, The Moon and Me, I was unsure if I was ready for another of Sarah Dessen’s recent endeavors. I saw this one sitting at the library though, and the synopsis was enough to intrigue me to give it a shot; I am glad I did.
Sydney needs a change. In her neighborhood and at her school everyone knows of her older brother and his troubles. Now that Peyton has been sentenced to prison after hitting a teenager while driving drunk, she decides to switch from the private to the public school in her town. There she befriends Layla, along with Layla’s family and group of friends. After so long of living in a world in which she felt invisible in the shadow of her brother, Sydney learns what it is to be seen, and the power that can be held to look for someone when they need it most. This is story of the loneliness and isolation one can feel after a tragedy, and the journey to remove the weight to be as close to happiness as one can.
Saint Anything was a very character-driven novel; I would never go as far as to say there was any sort of true plot here. However, while this lack of plot typically is what annoys me about contemporary stories, this one always managed to hold my attention. I really do feel as if Sarah Dessen did a good job bringing these characters to life; the situation amongst Sydney’s family as each of them attempt to cope with Peyton’s sentencing in their own way drew me in. And while Dessen’s books always feature a romance, I appreciated how the most important relationships in this book were the friendships. Whether it was Sydney with Jenn and Meredith, or Sydney with Layla, or Sydney with Mac, these were the friendships I like to read about and the ones I like to have in my own life. As friendship grows into more between Sydney and Mac it felt completely natural, like it should happen and was not the contrivance of necessity to what the author felt the story needed.
Just when I was ready to doubt Sarah Dessen, she lured me back.