BOOK REVIEW | Saint Anything

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Rating: 5/5 Stars

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Summary from Barnes and Noble:

Sydney has always felt invisible. She’s grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world. 

Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.

Review:

Sarah Dessen has a knack for taking hard hitting topics and making them seem relatable, even if you have never been in the situation covered or known someone who has.  These books take you to a place where you can remember a feeling you had once upon a time and allow you to empathize with a character and family you have never meet in your lifetime.  They allow you to relate to a situation that many hope to never experience.  That in itself is incredible, especially when many think that Young Adult contemporary literature is made of fluff and rainbows.

Saint Anything focuses on the life of Sydney, a girl who seems to be stuck in the shadow of a brother who is an addict, a brother who made choices that set his life on a drastically different path than hers.  Throughout the story it becomes very apparent that to her family Peyton, her older brother, is the sole focus and to some extent that is needed.  Dessen makes the reader aware of how one person’s choices effect the choices and decision of those around us by examining the relationship between Sydney, Peyton and their parents. Sydney from the start is seen as invisible to her family and in some cases she likes it that way.  But soon it became very much a story of finding a way to be seen and heard through the chaos.  Sydney is a character that finds a way to speak her mind and make herself seen to those around her simply by finding herself and in true Sarah Dessen form, ends up being a character that pulls at the readers heart strings and makes them empathize with a character whose traits they have seen in the people around them, if not in themselves.

Although Sydney is the main character is this story, the other characters find themselves becoming the prominent character throughout different parts of the book.  I have always felt that Dessen had a flair for making readers aware of the strings that hold everyon’es lives together.  When one string is cut or tugged or tied to another it sends ripples through the rest of the strings we are touching.  Saint Anything captured the most intensely beautiful idea that there is always at least one other person who can, if you will, feel when our string is being tugged or cut.

As a final thought I think it’s important to add that books like this in the YA contemporary genre start a discussion. They present the reader with the idea that YA contemporary can be fluff and rainbows but it can also dissect the lives of those around us.  Saint Anything presents situations like substance abuse, terminal illness, friendship and finding who you are and makes them relatable to the general public.  Books like this cause us to think and examine the relationships we form with those around us and why we chose the people that we did.  Dessen and so many other authors in the YA contemporary genre use books like Saint Anything to allow people to have their voices heard and to me that is the greatest and most incredible thing literature can do. I encourage everyone to pick up this incredible book.

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Book Review: If I Stay

Book review on Goodreads

So I’m normally hesitant to read books where death is the main plot point.  I’ve read my fair share of books with characters that have terminal illnesses or are thrust into life-threatening circumstances and I’ve discovered that I’m really picky with how the subject of death is handled.  I was very impressed with how Gayle Forman took the idea of death and the decision to either stay in the world of the living or move on to the afterlife and made it something that could be beautiful and connectable.  She allows the reader to see the depths of the characters life, the pieces that might not be as pretty, the best times and the worst.  It allows the reader to see life as it is.

For me this book definitely had it’s moments when it drew me in.  I will say there were a couple of sections that I had to power through which was a bit of a turn off for a book that wasn’t terribly long.  But overall this book was well-written and provided an interesting perspective on a topic that is definitely not an everyday “table talk” kind of subject.