Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

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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.

Sarah Dessen is an author that has stuck by me for years, and was one of the first authors to introduce me to YA. Because of this, diving into Saint Anything was like wrapping myself in a warm blanket. It was soothing to be in a world I knew so well, however predictable. I can liken Dessen to Disney movies for me, I know the pace and character profiles so well, yet her books are different enough to keep me on my toes. I was skeptical to go back into her stories having not read them since I was in my mid-teens myself, but I still thoroughly enjoyed this one as a 20 year old woman.

There was a sharpness and emotion to Saint Anything that threw me slightly, and I felt a deeper connection to Sydney than I ever expected. Dessen manages to write emotionally relatable characters so well, and I found myself even sympathising with Sydney’s brother Peyton, which surprised me as he had such a bad past.

“It was fluid and easy, like everything had been since we’d met,”

Dessen seems to write with such a fluidity and effortlessness, I couldn’t help but find myself so absorbed in her writing. Towards the end of the book, I was reading up to 100 pages at a time, which thrilled me as I haven’t been reading as much recently! Dessen writing might not constantly be poetic, but some scenes made me just put the book down and smile, because they were just simply beautiful and really touched my heart.

The only small complaint I have is that Dessen can be quite predictable. I found this familiar and comforting but I can also see how it can get a little annoying having very similar characters across a vast number of books.

“as I stood on my tiptoes and finally, finally kissed him.”

Overall, if you’re looking for an easy but emotional read, this one is definitely it. I loved seeing Sydney grow as a character and adapt to the changes around her as she matured. This one brought tears to my eyes but also made me smile quietly to myself on so many occasions, because it was just simply lovely.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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