Sydney is Sarah Dessen’s latest protagonist, and her latest contemporary story involves a destructive older brother who is now in jail and a larger, warmer family that Sydney meets and kind of falls in love with. It reminded me of My Life Next Door – the larger, poorer, and happier family, a family-run business, and a richer, quiet girl who discovers them.
I’ll admit, I came into this story expecting not to be too impressed. Yes, I’ve given some of Dessen’s books 4.5 stars, but it seemed like that mostly happened with her middle-ish books, and the books I read early in my journey through her many, many stories. I couldn’t help but worry that I had seen all that she had to offer, and that I wouldn’t find anything new in her latest. Luckily, I was quite wrong – as soon as I started the book, I couldn’t help but find myself interested and engaged in Sydney’s story.
Since cliches and familiar tropes seem like a big part of this book for me (not in a bad way, it just seemed like a fact to me – any tropes can be good if done right).
The Interesting Family Next Door (ish)
This book really reminded me of My Life Next Door because it had a fairly cold, not-touchy-feely-at-all family, and the full-of-life, poorer family that the girl from the former family bonds with. They’re not neighbors, but Sydney switches to the public school that the Chatham family also attends, so they have that bit of a connection. The Chathams aren’t as big as the Garretts, but they’re about as loud and happy, despite their struggles, so they reminded me of the Garretts in all the best ways. Some people might get tired of the big, happy family in comparison with the smaller, “typical” and boring family, but I have yet to get bored with this trope.
Rebellious, Troublesome Older Sibling
Yes, Peyton is one of those, but he takes it a bit farther by getting sentenced to jail at the very beginning of the book. He’s more of a character in flashbacks and through the various phone calls he’s allowed from the prison to his family. The book isn’t about him, it’s about Sydney trying to finally come out of his giant shadow, but it did feel a bit tiresome at times – I wouldn’t mind a few younger siblings who are the trouble children, and the older siblings have to deal with expectations coming up to them rather than down. It was interesting in this book, but still a bit tiresome.
Girl Meets Boy
I feel like this book kind of played with the typical romance. I admit, when I read the summary, I was disappointed when it started by talking about the Chatham girls before talking about the romance with the one boy – I was seriously hopeful that this would be a girl-girl relationship. In a way, though, it was – Sydney’s friendship with Layla is very important, and Sydney is initially quite willing to put off any romance in favor of preserving her friendship with Layla. I really loved their friendship, but I also quite liked Mac, the love interest, so I was able to forgive the book for not going in a more interesting direction and developing a romance between Sydney and Mac.
There are plenty of things to love about this book, but I feel like it’s not the type of book I can gush about with a lot of specific examples. I liked the book, Sarah Dessen has done it again, I look forward to whatever else she comes up with in the future – and that’s about all I have to say on the subject. You know, other than the nice, long review I already wrote…
Title: Saint Anything
Author: Sarah Dessen (Along for the Ride, Dreamland, Just Listen, Keeping the Moon, Lock and Key, Someone Like You, That Summer, The Moon and More, The Truth About Forever, This Lullaby, and What Happened to Goodbye)
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.