I’ve been a fan of Sarah Dessen ever since I checked out Someone Like You from my middle school library. I’ve never met a Sarah Dessen book that I didn’t like, so it should be no surprise that Saint Anything was no exception.
— Tiffany Khyla (@tiffanykhyla) March 20, 2015
Saint Anything told the story of Sydney who has lived her life in the shadow of everyone in her family, namely her older brother, Peyton. She’s the do-gooder who always gets good grades, never misses curfew, doesn’t break the rules, and never draws too much attention to herself while Peyton is constantly getting into trouble, usually with the law.
Sydney has spent a good portion of her life just going through the motions. She wants to be as little of a burden to her parents as possible, and by doing that, she kind of gets lost in her own identity. Instead of figuring out who she is, she’s trying to show her parents that she’s not her brother.
After Peyton screws up big time and lands himself in jail, Sydney realizes she needs a change. She changes schools and ends up meeting the Chathams, who welcome her with open arms and who never view her as invisible.
If you’re a fan of Sarah Dessen books then you know about the little breadcrumbs that she leaves in all of her books. She likes to leave references to her other books, which I absolutely love. Sometimes, it’s a character. Other times, it’s a saying or a band. Really, it can be just anything. I was able to find three in this book.
1 | Deb
She was a fun and lovable character from What Happened to Goodbye. Just like she was the welcome committee for McLean in that book, she did the same thing for Sydney when she transferred to her new school in Saint Anything.
2 | Anger Management
When Sydney sees Mac for the first time at the pizza place, he’s wearing an Anger Management t-shirt, which is the name of the radio show from Just Listen.
3 | Truth Squad/Spinnerbait
When they’re talking about band stuff in the book, one of the characters mentions a record company that signed two bands – Truth Squad and Spinnerbait. When he says this, Mac quickly says, “Hate Spinnerbait,” which is a line from This Lullaby. Also, both of the bands are mentioned in that book as well.
There may be more in the book, but I was reading so fast that I probably missed them! I love that I was even able to find those.
I love all of the characters that Sarah created for this book. There are so many, yet, you feel like you know so much about all of them. Layla was easily my favorite character. She was the first friend that Sydney made when she transferred schools. She’s the perfect best friend and also the perfect contrast to Sydney’s invisible-ness. She has a huge personality, she’s loads of fun, and she has the silliest and greatest of quirks like her love of reading instruction manuals (even for things that she has no interest in actually doing), remembering every face that she sees, and being a fry connoisseur. She’s understanding, even when finding out about Sydney’s brother, and she’s not judgmental. I love how she took Sydney under her wing and tried to protect her. My favorite example of this is when she and Sydney had a sleepover, and Ames was there. Once you read the book, you’ll understand a little more about what I’m referring to here.
— Tiffany Khyla (@tiffanykhyla) March 24, 2015
Speaking of Ames…he’s my least favorite character. There was really no hope for liking him, and Sarah wrote him in a way where you could see how he’s viewed from the eyes of Sydney and also the eyes of her parents. Ames is Peyton’s best friend, and they’ve been through a lot of the same things. When Peyton is sent to jail, Ames swoops in to be a sort of faux-son to Sydney’s parents. Unfortunately, he’s a huge creeper, but Sydney seems to be the only one who seems that.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Sarah Dessen novel without a love story, and this one was definitely one for the books (pun intended?). One thing I love about Sydney is that she’s never looking for love. Her concern is always for her family and later her friends, namely Layla, so when she starts looking at Mac differently (FYI – Mac is Layla’s brother and also the aforementioned person wearing the Anger Management tee), her first thought isn’t to jump into it headfirst. She thinks first about Layla and how she would feel about the relationship. I think that’s a common theme of the book when it comes to Sydney. Most of her actions are actually kind of reactions. Before she does most anything, she thinks about how it will affect the people that she loves, whether that’s Layla, Mac, her parents, Peyton, her other friends, and even Ames. The love story between Sydney and Mac (#Sac? #Mydney? We’ll work on it) wasn’t super obvious from the beginning. It started out slow, and then there were little stolen moments that were sweet and unexpected for both the characters and the readers.
I was a huge fan of Mac, even though my favorite Mac will always be from Veronica Mars. It’s not that I love her more; it’s that I’ve loved her longer. And that is a paraphrased quote from Cadet Kelly, my friends. But Mac is totally swoon-worthy, but not in an obvious way. He’s never been invisible in his life, but not for the reason you’d expect. I love his background story so much that I don’t want to give anything away here. I will say that he plays drums in a band. He’s also kind of quiet (mostly because he usually has his head in a book), but when he says something, it’s usually pretty significant. I love what a good big brother he is, and the relationship he has with Layla is one that any brother and sister would envy.
OTHER THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS
Eric: He is part of the band Mac is in. I’m not mentioning the name because that’s actually a fun part of the storyline. Eric is one of Layla’s ex-boyfriends, and I love how his character is seen through Layla’s eyes. He’s egotistical, but not in an intolerable way. He’s a mini musical visionary, and he’s passionate about his band, but also naive about it in a way.
Sydney: She’s definitely a likable main character. She’s very, very flawed, but in a relatable way. She’s quiet and finds comfort in being in the background most of the time, and she’s never one to take the spotlight, which means that she’s also afraid to stand up for herself. She bottles everything up, and everyone knows that makes her a ticking time bomb (okay, that’s pretty dramatic of me to say, but you know what I mean). She’s a great friend, even when they don’t deserve it. You see a lot of growth in her throughout the book in the best possible way.
Sydney’s Parents: Sydney’s parents were easily the most frustrating part of this book. Her mom was blinded by Peyton. She kept viewing him as the victim in the situation that landed him in jail and kept treating his prison sentence like a school trip. Meanwhile, her father is on the sidelines offering no opinions. Even though her parents frustrated me to no avail, I love that you also get to see growth with them throughout the book as well.
Mrs. Chatham: She was such a lovable character, even more so because she’s suffering from multiple sclerosis, but she has the most beautiful heart. She welcomes Sydney into her chaotic family and home, and serves as a mother-figure while Sydney’s own mother is worrying more about Peyton. Mrs. Chatham is the glue that holds her husband and her three children, Layla, Mac, and Rosie together. Speaking of which…
Rosie: Even though I wouldn’t consider her to be a main character, she was still pretty significant. Rosie is the third Chatham child and Layla’s older sister. She’s a former ice-skater, but after a few issues, she couldn’t skate anymore. She’s pretty bitter, but at the same time, you see the Chatham heart shining through. She has so much love for her family, particularly her mother, and even though she’s bitter about her own life, she doesn’t let that get in the way of the love for her mom.
There are several mini cliff hangers through the book, mainly at the end of the chapters. Some are more significant than others, but they all make you want to keep reading, which is why I finished the book within a few days (around my work and blogging schedule). Some things even got pushed to the side just so I could find out what happened next.
I give Saint Anything a 5 out of 5. The last couple chapters tie everything up with a nice little bow. No stone is left unturned, and unlike most books, I wasn’t left with any questions. Most of the things that I wanted to happen happened, and I wasn’t left questioning the paths of any of the characters. When I shut this book (or scrolled to the blank pages on my phone), I was so satisfied with the ending and how all of the characters went from point A in the beginning of the book to point B at the end.
Thanks so much to Penguin Random House’s First to Read program for allowing me to read this book before it was released! Trust me when I say you should go ahead and pre-order Saint Anything for when it comes out on May 5, 2015!