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.
Rating: 4 Stars
Book Title: Saint Anything
Author: Sarah Dessen
Release Date: May 5th 2015
I haven’t picked up a Sarah Dessen book in years, and I am so bummed it took me this long to get back into her writing. Saint Anything is another Dessen hit, full of those life lessons she always manages to squeeze into each of her books. Main character Sydney is dealing with the overwhelming guilt she feels on behalf of her brother. Just a few years ago her older brother, Peyton, drove drunk and hit a teenage boy on his bike. The accident left the boy in a wheelchair and paralyzed him for life, while Peyton was thrown behind bars to serve time. Although the accident was a result of Peyton’s poor choices, which had only been increasingly worse as his high school years progressed, the rest of his family is left to suffer the repercussions. While Peyton is in jail, his younger sister Sydney has to deal with the pity looks at school and in town. Her identity changes from simply “Sydney” to “that boy’s sister.” Peyton’s parents are left scrambling for lawyers and paying hefty bills for court and the accident.
When I first started to learn about the accident while reading Saint Anything, my initial reaction was disgust. I know that’s a terrible thing to say because Peyton made a mistake and things like that happen, but I have zero patience for drunk driving or reckless driving in general. That being said I couldn’t believe the situation at home that Sydney has to deal with. While some parents might choose to write off their child completely for committing such a horrible act or put the blame on their child and make them serve their time as punishment for what they’ve done, Sydney’s parents see it differently. In their eyes, Peyton is the one suffering and they do everything they can to help Peyton. Specifically, Sydney’s mom is the leading force in getting him help behind bars and trying to shorten his time as much as possible.
As a result though, Sydney’s guilt is so huge, it’s as if she’s taken on all of the guilt for her family. Her mother is so worried about Peyton that Sydney can’t help but think her mom doesn’t feel guilty for the boy injured at all, and since Peyton refuses to see Sydney she can’t talk about any of this with him either. Sydney spends so much time harboring this guilt that anytime the accident is brought up or Peyton’s name is mentioned, she feels sick. I couldn’t imagine carrying around that type of guilt with me and I give Sydney so much credit for putting up with her parents and not standing up to them for as long as she did. In an attempt to be the good child, she follows orders and pretends like the lack of attention they pay towards her (since it is all spent on Peyton) doesn’t bother her.
o Layla: She’s completely eccentric and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. When I first started typing up my review for Saint Anything I just wanted to insert pizza and french fry emojis. Having met Layla and the rest of her family at their pizza shop, Sydney is around pizza constantly! I am actually quite proud of myself for getting through this entire book over the course of a week and NOT succumbing to the peer pressures of a really big and cheesy pizza. I was severely tempted though! And then there’s Layla, who has a penchant for french fries and spends their entire lunch break telling Sydney the perfect way to prep a bag of french fries and dipping sauce. It’s a whole process with Layla and extremely odd, but it’s what made me love Layla so much! That and I can totally side with her tendency of falling for the wrong boys. I knew from the start that Layla’s new boy was trouble, and I think she did too, but she couldn’t help but give him a chance anyways. I admire other people’s faith in love and their willingness to give something a shot even if they know it’s going to break their heart in the long run.
o The metaphors: Specifically I am referring to the introduction of the carousal at the start of the book and how it played into Sydney’s life and how the course of events she was dealing with resembled that lost beauty in the woods. It was definitely a Dessen metaphor and I thought it was perfect for Sydney’s situation. If you’ve seen the book cover you’ll know how gorgeous the carousal on it is as well.
o Mac: I don’t want to spoil the fun, but if you know Dessen at all, you know there’s always a love interest in her books. Mac was wonderful and the dream “boy next door” that every girl is secretly crossing her fingers for.