Monday, April 20, 2015

Saint Anything

Saint Anything
Sarah Dessen
Viking, 2015 417 pgs.
Grades 9-Up
Realistic Fiction, Romance

Sydney's life is on hold.  Her constantly troubled brother, Peyton, has recently been arrested for a drunk driving accident, which landed a teenage boy in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  Sydney's mother is frantically trying to connect with Peyton and advocate for him, while her father is distant and emotionally checked-out.  Because of legal fees and embarrassment, Sydney must leave behind the exclusive prep school she attended all her life and attend the local public high school.  Here she becomes friends with two siblings who's parents own a pizza parlor.  Layla becomes Sydney's best friend, someone who understands what she is going through without judgement.  Layla makes it very clear that her brother, Mac, is off-limits.  As the school year progresses, Layla falls in love with a local bad-boy, forcing Mac and Sydney to spend more time alone together and, eventually, fall in love.  They keep their relationship a secret, until one fatal night when after a bad choice all is revealed and Sydney lands in a lot of trouble with her parents, resulting in sever lock-down.  Meanwhile, a family friend of Peyton's is lurking around the house offering support, but creeps Sydney out.  Her parents trust him and leave the two of them alone often, which makes Sydney uncomfortable.  Finally, Sydney must disobey her parents in order to support Mac and Layla when their critically ill mother lands in the hospital.  It is during her escape that the situation with Ames (the family friend) comes to a head and her parents are forced to see her for who she is.

Saint Anything is deeper than romance writer Sarah Dessen's usual fare.  Issues such as a family member's incarceration, a parent struggling with Multiple Sclerosis, and rape are all explored.  The many serious issues take place in front of the backdrop of Dessen's characteristic romance and the ups and downs involved.  The two lovers in questions in this book (Sydney and Mac) have very few struggles working their relationship out, it serves more as a subplot between the greater issues.  For older teens, this book raises some mature issues and contains content not meant for a younger audience, such as teen drinking and recreational drug use.  Dessen draws her main character very well, showing much growth through out the book.  Sydney goes from an "invisible" and lonely teenager, who lives her life through reality television, to a strong and independent young woman, capable of making her own decisions and fighting back.  Layla, Sydney's friend, is also an interesting character and has some funny lines.  The rest of the characters are a bit one-dimensional.  The book reads quickly and is hard to put down, characteristic of Dessen's books.  The first person narration encourages readers to relate to Sydney and identify with her struggles.  Considering all of the issues faced during the book, the end gets wrapped up a bit too neatly and Sydney gets a "happily ever after", working everything out with her parents, best friend, and brother, all in the last few pages.  Creepy family friend is eliminated and all is well with the boyfriend.  The book ends with Sydney facing up to her brother's victim, looking for forgiveness and redemption.  Teens will find a lot of content here, along with a great story-line and the romance that they come to depend on from Sarah Dessen.

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