Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Caitlin Muchow ‘18/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

The beginning of summer is the perfect time to relax with a fun, enjoyable novel. With an intriguing plot, and complex characters, which is exactly what Sarah Dessen’s latest novel Saint Anything is. The popular author’s novels are the epitome of contemporary young adult fiction, and her newest novel, published by Viking Juvenile on May 5th 2015, is no exception.

Like many of Sarah Dessen’s other novels Saint Anything is from the point of view of a young woman who is struggling with some, or many, aspects of her life. However, unlike many of Dessen’s other novels this one focuses more on family relationships than romantic ones. Saint Anything follows Sydney Stanford, a junior in high school, who has lived her life in the shadow of her charismatic, trouble-maker brother, Peyton, even after his shenanigans became much more serious when he went to jail for crippling a young boy. In the aftermath, Sydney decides to change schools and meets the Chatham’s. They are a warm, welcoming family with even more issues than hers, who finally see her for who she is, and not who she is in relation to her brother.

"Saint Anything" Cover. Source: Penguin Young Readers
“Saint Anything” Cover. Source: Penguin Young Readers

The novel explores many complex family and friendship dynamics. One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is Sydney’s mother’s struggle to balance her love for her son, and the need to take care of him with the knowledge that he has done something very wrong. Another intriguing aspect is the juxtaposition between Sydney’s family and the Chatham’s, who are facing similar family struggles but show very different ways of dealing with them. Layla Chatham proves to be an entertaining character, and her brother Mac is the most low-key, no drama Dessen boy so far. However, the most admirable Chatham is Tricia, the mother, who is fighting a deadly illness, and still has compassion and wisdom in every word she speaks. This exploration into the inner workings of these two families is the best part of the novel.

The novel also takes one of its most important story line’s from Dessen’s own experience, which she wrote about for In the novel Sydney’s brother’s friend, Ames, is always hanging around, even after Peyton has gone to jail. Though Sydney’s mom thinks he’s great, something about Ames always makes Sydney uncomfortable. In her own life Dessen found herself spending a lot of time with an older man who made her feel uneasy. As Dessen writes in the article for Seventeen, “As a teen wishing to be an adult, it is easy to get in over your head. Especially for girls, who are often taught that being polite and sweet should override all other instincts. It was with this in mind that I began my narrator Sydney’s story in Saint Anything.”

Saint Anything is definitely different from Dessen’s other novels in a lot of ways, but it holds up to all the high standards that she has set with previous novels by being funny, entertaining, and insightful.

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