Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Details

Title: Saint Anything
Author: Sarah Dessen
Published in: 2015
Pages: 417
Genres: realistic fiction, contemporary, romance

Summary

“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.”

– from Goodreads

Plot

Sydney’s older brother Peyton has always been the focus of her parents’ attention. Even now after he ended up in jail for a drunk driving accident that nearly killed a 15 old boy, he’s still receiving all her parents’ attention. Her mother doesn’t believe anything Peyton can do can be all his fault and her father’s always busy with work. Sydney feels invisible. Then she meets Mac and Layla and the rest of the Chathams. There’s Rosie, who’s made her own mistakes. Mrs. Chatham, who has MS and is the center of the family. And Mr. Chatham, who runs the family business, Seaside Pizza. Sydney quickly becomes friends with Layla and Mac and finds it easier than she thought to talk to them about anything on her mind. She soon realizes she’s in love with Mac. With him, she finally feels seen for the first time. But when Sydney does something and her parents keep her from seeing her friends, she once again feels alone. Unlike last time, though, she doesn’t feel invisible. She knows she’s seen by someone, even if she can’t spend time with him.

My Thoughts

All Sydney’s parents focus on is Peyton. Even now that Peyton is in jail, all the focus is still on him. Her mother’s only concerned about Peyton and how he’s doing. She doesn’t seem to care about the boy Peyton hit. Just how miserable Peyton must be.  She’s in denial that anything he does can ever be fully his fault. Sydney’s dad is always busy with work and never pays attention to her either. Sydney comes second to both her parents. She’s basically invisible to them. She has a couple of friends at her school, but they’re often busy with afternoon activities, so she spends her afternoons alone, watching TV and doing homework.

Before her junior year, Sydney decides to transfer from private high school, Perkins Day, to the local public one, Jackson High. She says she just needs a change. I think what she really wanted was for a clean slate where no one knew her and wouldn’t judge her for what her brother did. After her first day of school, she decides to stop at a pizza place near the school. She doesn’t like being home in those hours between school and dinner and wants to push it off for a little while longer. The pizza place is Seaside Pizza and it’s there she meets Mac and Layla. Their father owns and runs the restaurant himself. Sydney finds herself opening up to Layla about herself and her life, which she finds odd since she’s a stranger.

She starts to spend a lot of her time with Layla and Mac at Seaside Pizza and then at the Chatham’s house. She finally feels seen and doesn’t want to go back to how things were before. One day she wants to help her friends out, so she invites them over to use the recording studio in her basement while her parents are out of town, after her parents told her she couldn’t. But her parents came home early and her mother caught her drinking. After that, her parents, especially her mother, do their best to keep her away from her new friends. They ground her, make her attend a study group at lunch, and go to SAT prep/tutoring sessions after school which later turns into working at the tutoring center during that time instead. Sydney still manages to talk to her new friends, though. She talks to them before first period, on her way to lunch, and before she leaves to go the tutoring center. She also talks/texts nightly with Mac on her phone.

I felt that Sydney’s parents treated her unfairly throughout the entire book. They never pay attention to her, but are hesitant in allowing her to spend time with her new friends. They make all their decisions about her based on how their conversation with Peyton had gone. At first they had given her permission for her friends to use the studio, but then Peyton called, saying he didn’t want them to visit him, and they changed their minds only because of that. They treat her like she’s her brother and has her brother’s history, but don’t give her the attention they give him. They act suspicious and strict towards her, though she hasn’t done anything to warrant that before the night in the studio, yet treat her brother, who almost ran someone over, as if he can do no wrong.

There’s also Ames, who’s a friend of her brother’s that he met in rehab. Her parents like him because they see him as the example they want Peyton to follow now. He had made a mistake in the past, but is trying to fix his life. However, whenever he’s around Sydney, he acts creepy towards her, with some of the things he says and does, like hugging and touching her. Towards the end, he’s acts even more creepy. And her parents never noticed until then.

I thought that Saint Anything was like another one of Sarah Dessen’s novels, The Truth About Forever. As I was reading, all throughout Saint Anything, I noticed things that reminded me of The Truth About Forever. Even the plots were kind of similar to each other.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Saint Anything. It was a great novel about friendship, romance, and life.

Rating: 5/5

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