Thursday, July 9, 2015

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Summary (from Goodreads):
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’ve been reading Sarah Dessen since I was 13. Some of her books are better than others. But, I always enjoy reading her books no matter what. Her books are the books I set my standards for YA contemporaries against. They all kind of deal with the same things: growing up, friendship, first love, and family –yet they are each remarkably different. Every character Dessen writes is different. And also, so believably real feeling.
I had high hopes for this book, and I was not disappointed. Again, came a different and remarkably believable main character, who has to go through all the things Dessen’s main characters go through, yet it still felt like nothing I have read before. This author’s ability to write character is so amazing. I felt so bad for Sydney and her situation. I felt her guilt, her anger, and her worry. I also felt her new best friends’ love, charm, and fear. I felt the love interest’s story too and all he overcame.  I had so much feels.
I never really liked Sydney’s parents, though I don’t think I was supposed to. I get why they were the way they were. But, I just felt so bad for Sydney. Yes, she had so much freedom (initially), but unlike with other YA main characters who have that freedom, she felt kind of neglected. Her parents never really saw her or worked to understand her. They were too focused on her brother.
I loved that Sydney was so good. There were several things that happened where I don’t think I could have been as good as she was. She stayed and helped a friend who was not acting like a friend, when she was the needed the most. She followed the strict guidelines set by her parents even when she didn’t agree with them. She missed important moments because she listened to the rules set by her parents. And it was kind of nice having a main character who didn’t break rules. She certainly had all the reasons not to break them. One of the reasons she started a new school was because she knew her parents had put a lot of money into lawyer costs for her brother.
I guess it was also hard for me to like her parents because of the character, Ames, the boy who creeps her out. Her parents invited him to live with them! Sydney never talked to her parents about him, so I could see why they’d be a little oblivious. But, they were 100% oblivious to how Sydney was feeling all the time, and this bothered me. She clearly did not like being in the same room with the guy, and argued against all his visits, every time. No one thought to ask why? I felt so horrified by her parent’s neglect and ignorance of the whole situation. I don’t think I would have been able to handle her parents as well as she did.
I loved the romance. I loved the friendship that developed first and all the sarcasm and witty dialog that came with it. I loved Sydney’s new best friend. And I even kind of loved her old ones too. The characters in here were so real. I felt like I knew them.
I also liked Sydney’s brother and that he wasn’t exactly how she always saw him. I liked that he saw all the craziness coming from his mother just as much as Sydney did. And this book did a lot of cool things with perspective. People surprise you. Not everyone sees you how you see yourself. And not everyone sees people the same way you do.
There’s concerts, hidden carousels in the woods, pizza delivery, school, romance, and family drama. There’s also some more intense topics like sexual assault, terminal illness, prison sentences, and addiction. This book had everything I expected and more. I read the whole thing in under 24 hours. It’s probably one of my favorite Dessen novels and I recommend it to all YA contemporary fans out there. I give it a 10/10.

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