Thursday, 7 May 2015

Saint Anything - Sarah Dessen; Review

Book Details:
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Penguin (5th May 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0141361735
ISBN-13: 978-0141361734
Source: Review/Purchase/Gift


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.

Links To Buy:


I read this book on the train. I READ THIS BOOK ON THE TRAIN. I’m going to stop there, and let that sink in for a minute. London trains are savage, especially at rush hour okay. It’s the worst combination of sweat, heaving people, lack of personal space boundaries, loss of etiquette that hits just as the clock strikes 5:30pm. Yet there I was okay, on a packed and delayed train, hanging on for dear life with one hand, holding this book in the other, so engrossed that I forgot to stick my nose up at the damp smell around me. I repeat – I read this book on a train, that’s how much I loved it.

Thank you first off to the wonderful team at Penguin (where I’ve been working for the last 3 weeks, eep! More on that next week) for giving me an early copy of this book. To the lovely lady who handed me this, if you’re reading, thank you once again! Dessen has been one of my favourite authors, ever since I stumbled upon The Truth About Forever and fell head over heels in love with it. Thus of course, begins Dessen-ism (nounthe state of being obsessed with Dessen books), whereby you consume every book she’s written after that. This is the second time I’ve been asked to review a Dessen book, and nothing could possibly make me happier, than being given the chance to share my thoughts on authors I grew up reading.

Anyway I know you’re not here for my rambling and foul train descriptions, so on to the book I go. I started Saint Anything on Tuesday night, and every spare moment since, I’ve been picking it back up because I honestly couldn’t bare my hands parting with this book.

Dessen promises this is somewhat of a departure from her usual stories, whereby Saint Anything is slightly darker, and delves a little deeper into the issues raised in the book – and I have to agree, she expanded her horizon in this sense – yet all the loveable elements that make a Dessen book were still present. This isn’t a romance, but rather a journey that we undertake with our main character, Sydney – as she deals with the repercussions of her once golden boy brother Peyton, after a DUI that results in the paralysis of a kid, and Peyton landing in jail. The ever-protective Mum, the silent but grieving father, and a member to burden the guilt, it’s all there in this book. I was so pleased with the way Sydney’s character developed, her internal musings and thoughts, the acknowledgement. Despite the frustration I felt at times with her Mum and how she turned a blind eye to everything in favour of trying to look after Peyton, and the urge I had to shout at Sydney to stand up for herself, I loved the way Dessen filled out these characters and came to understand where they all came from.

Sydney’s voice was honest, probing, not afraid to ask herself or others the bigger question. I liked the focus she had, the loyalty to her friends, the way she didn’t break herself in half between Layla and Mac, but instead managed to stay loyal and present for both in the right way. She was a friend, a girlfriend, a sister, a daughter – all played out so well. I really liked Sydney, I felt she was a great representation and forefront to ask and answer some important questions about guilt, morality, and individual ideas. The issues themselves that Dessen raised in the book, were dealt with tactfully, though nothing hugely serious or life-changing would come out of it, I felt it was still done well enough to deserve the praise. I do wish though we had seen more into Peyton’s head, his side, his view, aside from the brief bits we get – though understandably the book wasn’t even about him (though it did all start with him). I just wanted everything to be longer okay, I literally did not want the book to end. There. I SAID IT.

*cough*. ANYWAY. The entourage of new friends that rally around Sydney as she changes school are loveable, larger than life, and worthy of the snort-inducing that follows. They’ve all been so well crafted, with their individual characteristics and the role they play in Sydney’s story, each gently pushing her along on the path and person she’s becoming. Layla, the loyal and fry-fanatic friend, Eric the over-exuberant guitarhead, Irv (who I loved) the eat-a-holic, and Ford (the want who just wants to get high) LOL the last one, Dessen’s description, not mine okay? They were all such a wonderful array of characters, the trademark almost to every great Dessen book. And of course, then there was Mac. You just know I saved the best for last.

Of course I loved Mac. How could you not. He was the perfect balance between protective, laid back, and loveable, oh so loveable. The way he quietly watches Sydney as she enters all their lives, how he’s around when she needs him, his healthy food addiction, (a trait I can both admire and envy, even in fictional characters). I also loved how there was no drama between them, like you’d usually see in a couple’s relationship, you know after the honeymoon period comes the breakdown of communication, or hiding something from each other (with the best of intentions, as always). As others have said, this book isn’t focused on the relationship, it does take a back seat, but at the same time it’s fulfilling and tender – and no Dessen book would be complete without it. They came together as naturally as you’d expect and seriously, I just couldn’t get enough of them. Did I want chapters upon chapters of their interactions, cute moments, more on Mac’s story? OF COURSE I DID. My inner-fan-girl will ALWAYS want that. But I know that often less is more, and getting just a glimpse of this relationship rather than a whole chunk, is surely for the best.

Saint Anything was reminiscent of Rebecca Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door (in a wonderful way) – the different dynamics of family played out alongside each other - chaos vs calm kinda thing. Again, the inclusion of these differing relationships, from Mac and Layla as brother and sister, vs Peyton and Sydney. All done to expand Sydney’s view of her life and what she wants from it.

A lovely read, and now amongst my Dessen favourites, full of fun, family, and food. Talking of which *she says as her stomach rumbles on cue* I will warn you though, this book will leave you with a serious case of the munchies. No joke. Dessen does this with every book, the inclusion of food, whether that be pies, pizza, fries (hey, that rhymed!) either way, it leaves me with such a comforting feeling, such a homely feeling. In this case, I swear all I’ve wanted to eat for the last few days was the greasiest, cheesiest pizza and crunchy fries with ketchup. I don’t even like ketchup, yet here I am, all because of Dessen, wanting that damn condiment with my fries. Sigh.

PS. Don’t even get me started on Ames. Where’s my chainsaw? WHERE’S MY CHAINSAW?!

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