Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

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Title: Saint Anything
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: 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.

I really love Sarah Dessen novels. I’d forgotten how much, though, as I hadn’t read one since high school. This Lullaby is still one of my favorite books. I think I’ll have to reread it soon.

So Saint Anything was such a treat for me. Dessen’s style is so effortless and welcoming that it was easy to get drawn back into it. I found myself remembering why I’d read so many of her books years ago.

Saint Anything is a coming of age story about a girl named Sydney, and her journey from feeling invisible and lost, to being visible and found. We begin the story with an unapologetic account of Peyton’s transgressions through Sydney’s eyes. The siblings slowly but surely grow apart from each other as one becomes more reckless and the other secludes herself. The pattern reaches it’s peak when Peyton, driving home drunk from a friend’s house late one night, hits a boy on his bike. David Ibarra would quickly become a source of tension Stanford household.

It’s not just that Mrs. Stanford won’t talk about him at all, or that all of the energy in the house is relegated to a recently imprisoned Peyton, but Sydney takes the guilt, shame, and responsibility onto her own shoulders. She thinks that if her parents, or Peyton, won’t do it, someone has to.

There’s only so much emotional torture a person can take, however, so the last sentence (and expensive lawyer bills) give Sydney a chance to start over at a new school. There she meets the Chathams. Layla, a friendly and assertive girl who brings Sydney into a new world where decisions are made based on emotional need instead of practicality, and Mac, the strong, kind, and gentle boy who takes the time to notice her.

A lot of tension ensues, between Mrs. Stanford’s overbearing need to be in control of the Peyton situation and Sydney’s discovery of a family that sees her as more than just Peyton’s brother. Cue family drama, falling in love, powerful friendship, and resolutions totally and completely earned by the turn of the final page. I feel so much joy at the other end of this novel and so much inspiration to continue my own. I really couldn’t have asked for a better post-residency read.

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