Expected Publication: May 5th, 2015 by Viking Juvenile
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.
I can't believe I'm writing this, but here we are. I've never been a die-hard fan of Sarah Dessen, but I've definitely enjoyed her books, even back when I was avoiding contemporary like the plague. But Saint Anything was a huge letdown for me.
The thing is, I love the idea. Which sounds kind of morbid. But the story of a girl being forced to deal with the drunken mistakes of a family member is entirely too familiar for me, so I was excited to read this one. Way more excited than any of her other novels. But the delivery weak and barely there, in my opinion. Sydney's life hasn't really changed all that much since Peyton's accident. It was pretty messed up before, it's pretty messed up after. And honestly, I got sick of her repeatedly talking about how she was invisible. Because she wasn't. Her mom was preoccupied and her dad was the typical let-someone-else-take-care-of-it kind of parent for most of the book, but Sydney clearly was not invisible and the fact that it was reiterated so often was tiring.
I wish Peyton had been more present in the novel besides in a few phone calls and Sydney's memories. We don't get a glimpse of him in jail. And I understand that Saint Anything isn't supposed to be about him, but I feel like I had way too many questions about him left over and more of him would have added to the development.
To be honest, I felt like this book was going nowhere. It's almost 100% a character driven book, but the way it's told did not work for me. At all.
"If I hated the crowds but also my own company, where did that leave me?"
See, if you look "show, not tell" up in the dictionary, you'll find Saint Anything as an antonym. More than three-fourths of the development happens in a few paragraphs that gloss over the events. We don't get to actually see most of it happen. Sydney will start describing something that happened yesterday, and in a paragraph or two, it's done. This happened over and over and over again, and it was SO BORING. I found myself skimming more and more as the novel progressed.
And this affected the romance, too. Most of Mac and Sydney's relationship happened in single paragraph moments. We never got to see any of it. It was so frustrating. Because I didn't really get to see it developing, I couldn't get behind it in a way that made me feel any sort of emotions. And on top of that, Mac's backstory just didn't feel genuine to me. I think it could have had a much bigger impact than it did. Instead, it felt (to me) like it was just thrown in to make Mac seem a little more real. It didn't work for me. I loved the touch about his necklace and its symbolism, though.
It was nice to see Sydney finally feeling accepted with a warm and caring family and new friends. But, once again, I found myself constantly skimming scenes with Sydney and her friends. It was nice that they were in a band - it meant I wasn't irritated that our characters didn't appear to have a hobby - but none of it gripped me. (I swear I'm not always this hard to please.)
"I would have loved to know how it felt, just once, to have something fall apart and see options instead of endings."
Overall: I can't believe I'm saying these things about a Sarah Dessen book, but this one almost bored me to tears. This story could have been incredible and heartfelt, but I don't think the book did it justice. I really don't. While I always except cute fluff from Dessen, the writing in this one didn't bring the depth and heaviness that this topic requires at times for me. I absolutely think that fans of contemporary will enjoy this - I just couldn't do it. 2.5 stars.