Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

saint anything

Saint Anything

Sarah Dessen

5/5 Stars

Release Date: May 5, 2015

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on 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 culminatebos 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.

Review:

Sarah Dessen’s inspiration for Saint Anything are “invisible girls” and I don’t think there’s a book that better represents this. I felt it was an emotionally gripping, superb portrayal of the experience so many people have felt or continue to feel. It also extends to the things that make us visible, in ways we don’t want as well as those invisible beasts clawing at us daily. When I finished this book, I wanted to re-read it – but without knowing how it ended – so that I could relive this book constantly. If someone invents such a device, Saint Anything will be the first book I try it out on.

The main character, Sydney has always felt invisible and not only could I see myself in her, I could see the experiences of others in her as well. Dessen creates this flexible character, one who doesn’t just appeal to one type of reader, but several. Additionally, there are certain moments when Sydney and her mother are at conflict with one another and the after effects had me feeling very frustrated for Sydney [in terms of unfairness etc.]. I can say without any doubt, Sydney is a very real, very three-dimensional character to me.

Saint Anything is also about perspective, in that “grass is greener” type of way. Other characters have invisible fears of their own and the way they view others, compared to how Sydney see’s things, is very surprising for her. This is definitely a moment of character development. For example, we have Mac Chatham who provides a curious dynamic because he see’s Sydney – she thinks for the first time – and some fears of his own are revealed. Dessen has created a cast of characters embodying different types of invisible fears, and it’s with Sydney that this cast is able to grow astronomically (even Sydney herself).

The plot revolves around Sydney’s older brother, Peyton and how he’s always been the limelight of her family, particularly their mother. Peyton is currently serving time for a drunk-driving accident, one that caused someone to become permanently paralyzed, and Sydney is left with this huge guilt on her shoulders, feeling as if she’s the only one of her family to carry this burden. The plot is engaging, there’s nothing monotonous about Dessen’s storytelling. It’s with the author’s storytelling skill that a concept like “invisible girls” can be told so well. The more I read, the more I was drawn into the novel. And of course, the ending has that sense of conflict resolution; Saint Anything is entirely captivating!

There was one thing that bothered me. In chapter one, we’re introduced to Sydney, her father, mother, brother Peyton and Ames, a friend of Peyton’s. The scene starts with the reading of the jury’s verdict for Peyton’s trial. Ames is first mentioned on page 2, and I found his introduction to be confusing. Unlike the other above mentioned characters, it’s not made clear who he is to Sydney and her family [this is revealed mid-chapter 2]. I actually went back to page 1, thinking I’d missed something. A similar thing could have happened with Peyton, but Dessen uses a flashback to confirm that “brother” and “Peyton” are the same person. I feel this confusion could have been avoided by using a similar technique.

As a final point, Dessen’s writing is stunning, but this fine portrayal of invisibility is what truly stands out to me. This is an important read not only because of the various issues explored in the plot, but how the characters express them. Saint Anything is composed of a very relatable cast for the young adult audience. In my opinion, this is a near mirror image of what the reader might have, is or could experience and to see yourself in the characters is a feat. For this, I give Saint Anything five stars.

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