Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen | Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5)
“For as long as I could remember, other people had either overshadowed me or left me out in the open, alone. But Mac, as Layla had said all those weeks ago, was always somewhere nearby. He left me enough space to stand alone, but stood at the ready for the moment that I didn’t want to. It was the perfect medium, I was learning. Like he was my saint, the one I’d been waiting for.”
Saint Anything marks the twelfth (I know!) book released by the wonderful Sarah Dessen, otherwise known (in my mind) as the Queen of Young Adult and shows us once more why she is so beloved in the literary world. I cannot get enough of her stories and the way the worlds flow in a raw, beautiful manner. Each story is completely different but completely beautiful and undeniably Sarah Dessen.
Saint Anything is an instant Dessen classic in all its fluffy, realistic to the bone and romantic glory. It’s wise, it’s heartfelt, it’s an important story with a voice that needed to be heard in our narrator Sydney who seems wise far beyond her teenage years.
Life isn’t a cakewalk for Sydney, per say, because her life is clouded with quite a few complications, brought out mostly in the form of her older brother Peyton who has his fair share of addictions and the struggles which come with it. After he makes his biggest, most massive mistake yet by hitting a young boy with his car (who thankfully doesn’t die but is, unfortunately, paralyzed) he is forced to, at last, pay for his behavior.
It was a long time coming, this much we know from Sydney’s thoughtful narration and we can’t help but to feel for her and the boy that her brother hurt.
I had a hard time tolerating her mother. This is where my review is going to truly begin, this is the first thing I wish to voice. It isn’t that I don’t understand why she acts the way she does, nor that I’m not sympathetic towards her, I just don’t think it’s fair that she’s either constantly hovering over Sydney as if she’s Peyton or not listening to anything she has to say. Sydney seems to be invisible to her mother until she does/says something that is flawed in her mind.
My biggest problem, mostly, was the fact that she seemed to always be ignoring her daughters obvious discomfort by the constant visits from Ames, Peyton’s sleazy friend. While Sydney didn’t push the topic or voice it much, so many outsiders could see the uneasy way Sydney felt around Ames. For Gods sake, woman, open your eyes!
It was very uncomfortable and made my skin feel like something was crawling on me when I got to reading and thinking about Ames. He was always, always pushing his luck and while I’m sure Sydney’s mother was grateful for him and viewed him as a replacement son; it still baffles me how she could be so oblivious to it all and how she was always so willing to leave Sydney alone with Ames when frankly she didn’t need a babysitter.
Your daughter isn’t a preteen. In fact, she’s nearly done being a teen at all. There’s no need for a babysitter at this point in her life, especially one male who is frankly just some family friend.
For me, it felt very much so that her mother wasn’t viewing her as her daughter or even a real, breathing person. Sydney even states that she feels as if she’s just something to be crossed off on a list. And that bugged me. It was made up for in the end, as Ames’ true colours were beginning to show through and while it was great to see her mother get her head in the game a bit, it still felt off to me. I was highly sympathetic to both Sydney and Peyton because the mother was certainly one extreme to the other with both her children.
Which is, obviously, very dangerous to the well being of your children.
I was indifferent to the father because he wasn’t always present in the story. But then came the moments I was cheering him on. Like when he expressed his frustration with his wife treating Peyton’s sentence so lightly and had to make sure she wasn’t drowning in delusion. And finally when he pulled Ames from Sydney the night A was taking creepy to the next level and crossing the ultimate line.
But Saint Anything tells a tale beyond the suffocating family dramatics. Sydney is, as I said before, wise beyond her years and an absolute delight to get to know. She comes to life right before your eyes and her growth by novels end is realistic and overall lovely. I felt like I knew her on an intimate level by the time Saint Anything wrapped up and I hated to see her go.
Other topics explored in Saint Anything include the dynamic of families outside Sydney’s. Upon transferring from her private school to a public one, Sydney befriends a brother and sister duo; Layla, who I wish to know more about and Mac. She is integrated into their circle of friends and brings together some sort of a family that Sydney hadn’t yet experienced despite her close friendships with two girls at her old school and a family of her own.
There’s always something so easy going, beautiful, that blooms in various friendships and other relationships of Sarah’s books and Saint Anything doesn’t disappoint. It delivers a remarkable circle of friends that came at just the right time for Sydney and it reminds me what it’s like to find somewhere you truly, truly belong.
Somewhere that doesn’t make you feel less than you are or invisible.
In the time that passes from the novels start we see Sydney gain an absolute best friend, something of a surrogate family and see her bonding with Mac and Layla’s ill mother. More than once this family saves the day for Sydney and it’s just a beautiful thing to witness knowing that such a family exists in all its warmth. It’s easy to see why Sydney grows so attached to them and they grow to her.
Some of the best quotes come from Layla and Mac’s mom and in that, the true heart of the story is found.
There are some moments of great guilt in Sydney’s heart every time she thinks about the boy her brother hurt and how his life has been damaged beyond what he deserves. This makes it incredibly difficult to hear, see or think about him and also causes her to feel awkward and uncomfortable around her old brother. She doesn’t understand how he could let this happen and how her mother seems only to care about her brother and not the boy.
It’s heartbreaking and realistic to hear all degrees of thought when it comes down to it and serves a wonderful platform for thoughts and discussion.
As for romance, Mac and Sydney fall together in an unexpected and beautiful way. It’s the sort of relationship that grows steady, healthy and free amongst friends and its biggest flaw is the possibility that Layla will not react well to her brother and best friend dating. I really, really enjoyed these two together and can’t help but to feel so strong for them both. I think they are really good for each other.
Overall Saint Anything was a joy to read from start to finish and is the perfect read for anyone during the summer time. I only wish that it was longer, really.