Reading has always been a favorite pastime of mine. Before college, I could binge read for days. It provided an amazing escape for me and took me on adventures for hours on end. Come college, my reading content changed. Gone were the YAs, Sci-Fis, and fantasies, and in came Maternal and Child, Pharmacology, and Anatomy. Basically, for the past four years, I haven’t been able to pick up a good fictional read. Now that I found myself having a bit more time, I was finally able to lose myself in a book again.
For my first time back, I read through Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. Now Dessen was one of my absolute favorite authors back in late middle school and throughout high school. Her stories were just so sweet, but still realistic and relatable. Once I discovered her years ago, I went through her whole publication collection in less than a week. (At the time, it was from That Summer until Lock and Key). I honestly loved every single one of her books. In each one, I could find someone I could relate to, though not necessarily the main character. Her stories just never failed to draw me in. Once I started back up in school, I wasn’t able to keep up with her publications (which I think there are 3 or 4 that I missed). But I was, during a quick break, able to buy Saint Anything last year, and only now am I able to have the time to read it.
Saint Anything introduces you to Sydney and her family as they are going through a tough transition what with Sydney’s charismatic brother being sentenced to prison for paralyzing a 15-year-old. After so long staying in her brother’s shadow, feeling invisible, never really noticed, Sydney is then faced with the dilemma of finding her own place in her family, friends, and community. Always perceptive of her family and their needs, she proactively made adjustments that she felt would lessen some burdens for her family, even if it displaced her own self. After years of being in a private school, she makes the decision to transfer to the public one to help alleviate costs. This places her in an unfamiliar environment, but a refreshing one, as no one from her new school knew anything about her and her family’s trials. This also places her in the path of the Chathams, a solid yet dysfunctional family. Enchanted by their unquestioning acceptance and unwavering support despite the short time of knowing each other, Sydney begins to gain a sense of self. But the guilt of her brother’s actions still weighs on her, and her mother’s obsession with her brother’s case prevents her from truly flourishing. Saint Anything will take you through Sydney’s ups and downs and all arounds in 417 pages.
I actually really enjoyed this book. Truthfully, I haven’t completely forgotten Dessen’s style of writing. Because of that, I had a little trepidation about this, thinking that I may find it too trite and predictable. While there were parts in this that you just knew what was coming, and there are most definitely some cliches, it wasn’t abundant enough to take away my enjoyment from the book. The book definitely targets the teen and young adult demographic as well.
For me, Dessen still has her magic. From her first book, she drew me into the lives of the characters and took me through their journey. Now, it still holds true. Sure, the whole story and theme is something that can be predictable with Dessen (a tragedy within the family, a huge adjustment, some bad coping habits by one of the characters, a sense of peace, a climactic breakdown, and eventually settling into a sweet, but realistic ending). I still found myself eager to read on and know more about Sydney and her mom and Layla and Mac and everybody else.
That said, there are some aspects of this story that felt unresolved for me though. The biggest one being about her brother (MINOR SPOILER ALERT)!!!! I didn’t really feel a good enough closure from his side. I wish Dessen would have given a better insight into his mind, his reasons, his motives. I still find myself asking his character just Why? She did give a bit of light about him, but my own curiosity is still unsatisfied. So maybe that’s just me. Also, there’s another loose end that you’ll see once you read the book. Its one of those things that I feel some are probably okay with it and can appreciate it, while others won’t. I’m definitely not okay with it, but I saw what she wanted to achieve. I just don’t like it when it happens. I’ll leave you to find that out for yourselves.
Other than that, I found this book worth a read. If you love Sarah Dessen, this is definitely something to add to your collection. If you’re looking for a quick, sweet read, this may satisfy you. As usual, she leaves you with some sort of lesson to learn, and I find it a pretty good one. It takes you through different forms of heartache, but finally brings you to a sweet ending that somehow still leaves you with enough reality to be anchored down by.
Have you read this book or any other book by Sarah Dessen? Leave your thoughts below! As well as any other suggestions! I’ll always be on the hunt for another good book.