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.
I read a lot of contemporaries. I would say it’s my favourite genre, but why have I not read a Sarah Dessen book? She is the Queen of Contemporaries. Summer @Xing Sings persuaded me to read a Sarah Dessen book and here I am.
“I was used to being invisible. People rarely saw me, and if they did, they never looked close. I wasn’t shiny and charming like my brother, stunning and graceful like my mother, or smart and dynamic like my friends. That’s the thing, though. You always think you want to be noticed. Until you are.”
Sydney has always lived in the shadow of her older brother, Peyton. Peyton is the golden boy of the family, he’s charismatic and has always been that kind of guy that everyone wants to be. Sydney didn’t mind being invisible and just accepted how it is. As time went on, Peyton gets involved in drugs, alcohol, rehab and police arrests. He eventually got cleaned but then relapses in a drink and driving accident that fatally cripples a fifteen-year-old boy and now faces a jail sentence. Because of this, Sydney’s invisibility increases.
I felt bad for Sydney because her parents neglected her. Her mother was so focused on Peyton because he’s the “golden boy” and her father just stood there, like a freaking penguin agreeing with everything she said. She was extremely controlling and she changed her mind way too quickly. Yes, Sydney you do can do that, no Sydney you can’t, I’ve changed my mind. That really irked me. Like, HELLO? He committed a crime! His mother treated him like he was a victim and Sydney was the bad guy. She didn’t even seem to acknowledge that he nearly killed someone. All she said was “What was a fifteen-year-old doing out riding his bike at two in the morning anyway?” Perhaps, she was hiding her guilt, I don’t know for sure. I get it; she was just behaving like every other mother in that kind of situation. Different people cope with it in different ways. Sydney is forced to feel the guilt for what her brother did, whilst her mother is choosing to cope with it by supporting Peyton.
One of the things I really liked about Saint Anything was the Chatham family and their pizza parlour! Ah, it made me hungry. First we meet Layla at the new public school Sydney attends. I really liked Layla! She was exactly the kind of friend that Sydney needs. Layla often falls for the wrong guy, but she was very funny, warm and understanding, but never judged. There’s Rosie who is the eldest of the Chatham family, she is talented at singing and ice-skating but appears to be cold and resentful because of her past. Then there’s Mac, the brother of the family and also Sydney’s love interest.
It was interesting to read about Mac’s past. He use to be overweight with bad acne, but then went on a serious exercising routine and a strict diet. The romance wasn’t the main focus of the book. Mac and Sydney started off as friends and it gradually developed into something more. I really liked the mother of the Chatham family. She was such a wonderful character. Mrs Chatham has been diagnosed with MS for a while but I loved how warm and nice she was. She took time to talk and listen to Sydney and to give her advice, almost like a mentor or a counsellor. Even though Sydney couldn’t talk to her mother, she could talk to Mrs Chatham and she would listen.
“I’d done the right thing. I always did. It just would have been nice if someone had noticed.”
I really liked how Mac helped Sydney open up and helped her became less invisible. Essentially this whole story is about Sydney learning to come out of her shell, speaking her thoughts and feelings and making sure everyone around her knows she’s there. Overall the whole Chatham family really helped Sydney become less invisible. Sarah Dessen really took her time to create character development because I felt like I really got to know Sydney and I had a lot of empathy in understanding what she was going through.
I’m going to talk a little about Ames. Just what was the deal with Ames? I know he was Peyton’s friend from rehab, but why was he always there? Why did Sydney’s mother have so much trust in him? Allow him to temporarily move into Peyton’s room was a step too far. This dude is downright creepy. I think he was a bit of a subplot put into the story to make it a little interesting.
That’s all I have to say on Saint Anything. I think my issues with it were from the mid-way point, it sort of dragged on a bit and the pacing was slow. Sydney is a good girl; she really didn’t want to disrespect her mother by talking back. There were some parts of the book where she did talk back and that was great because it’s good to let people know how you feel about things, but wished there was more of it. Sydney’s mother really frustrated me. With Mac, I felt like I didn’t know him very well; he was more of a supporting role and I would have liked to see more character development. There was no instalove, which is a big plus but I wasn’t really feeling the chemistry between Sydney and Mac.
I like the ending, but wished there was more because it was like a cliff hanger. I’ve been waiting for that moment to happen throughout the book and very glad that Sydney plucked up the courage to do it.
I give it a 3.5ish stars out of 5. I liked the writing style and it very much felt like a realistic story. It’s my first Sarah Dessen book. I was going to read The Truth About Forever, but Saint Anything’s storyline just appealed to me more because it sounded a little dark.