Monday, August 10, 2015

Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

           Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Release Date: May 5, 2015 
Publisher: Viking Juvenile  
Source: Library
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.
If y’all don't know, I love Sarah Dessen. I’ve reviewed two of my favorites from her on the blog recently and when I heard about Saint Anything, I had to get my hands on it. Billed as the darkest book Dessen’s written, Saint Anything should have become my new favorite Dessen. Instead, I wasn’t as impressed by Saint Anything as I wished I had been. While I loved some of the characters in this novel, I wasn’t as happy with the family relationships and the romance that was a part of this novel. Furthermore, the supporting cast of characters I’ve come to love from a Dessen novel bothered me to some degree.

So, lets talk about the plot because it was probably one of my favorite aspects of this novel. I loved that Dessen decided to talk about a topic not often seen in YA—incarceration. Something that actually affects more teenagers than meets the eye, talking frankly about this situation made me very happy (not that it happens but the fact that it's getting more attention). For those of you who don’t know, I’m a political science major so incarceration rates are something we talk about often. There's more to incarceration than just being put in jail and and example is the racial disparities among those incarcerated so seeing a young white man incarcerated was very different from the narrative we see on TV all the time. And seeing how this event changed Sydney and her family was a big aspect of why I enjoyed Saint Anything. Their family was not perfect to begin with and this allowed Sydney to figure out who she is and what she wanted. I liked that this plot focused on family and self-discovery even if I wasn’t as happy with the execution at times.

But with the good, comes the bad and for me, the relationship between Sydney and her mother was frustrating to boot. The blind way Sydney’s mother treated her brother frustrated me because she didn’t put any blame on Peyton. Parents are not perfect but personally I cannot handle parents who treat their children as if they can’t be touched. For me, this exemplified privilege. Peyton was in a facility where he was well taken care of and could take classes to better himself and call him family often. I’m not saying that this was a negative in the common sense but it was hard for me to look away from. Probably, in my opinion, because of all of the police brutality cases happening recently and since its something I'm looking into often, it was hard for me to truly sympathize with Peyton and his mother. Sydney was easier to deal with and I'm glad that Dessen didn't change Peyton and Sydney's mother.

As for the character, I am so sad that I was disappointed on this front too. Known for her wonderful characterization and romance, I loved Sydney’s characterization to a point. I could understand how she felt when her parents paid more attention to her brother and not her and maybe this is why I wish that she had spoken up to her parents, especially her mother. It was frustrating and annoying and understandable but I wish she had attempted to stand up for herself a little more. Maybe I’m being too picky but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted her to allow her anger and frustration to come through. And as I said, I wasn’t as impressed with the romance. I know that this was more about family than the romance but I felt like Mac and Sydney didn’t have as much of a connection as many other Dessen pairs. I wasn’t as excited or happy when Mac and Sydney finally got together. I knew that they’d end up together and I was happy for the coming together but it didn’t happen.

Overall, I wasn't as impressed with Sarah Dessen most recent release. While I enjoyed the book and the fact that such a tough topic was the main subject, lots of things fell flat for me. The characters, the romance, and the plot itself did not move me as I had hoped it would. I was left wanting more from all aspects of this novel.

It’s an okay book. I don’t dislike it but I'll probably not re-read this book. I would recommend it to some people but it won't be the first book to pop into my mind.

I like this cover a lot actually. The merry-go-around is significant to the story and the deep colors of the cover give off the serious tone of the novel very well.

I wanted more from SA. I didn't love the MC as much as I wanted to, the romance was as lackluster and the family aspect was frustrating.

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