I’ve always had a love hate relationship with Sarah Dessen, author of Saint Anything. It’s never been her writing that’s the problem; I think she writes magnificently and the stories always flow well. I used to think the problem was that the plots seem pointless in some stories, where the characters never grow and learn from their mistakes and everything goes back to the way it was before the story began. During this story, however, I realized what my real problem was with her: she markets herself as a Young Adult Contemporary Romance author. In reality, her stories are usually not as focused on the romance, and more focused on the families and how to overcome their flaws. And if you go into it expecting that, then you’ll be very pleased.
The romance in Saint Anything wasn’t anything special. Sydney falls for her best friend’s brother and they get together. I wasn’t specifically rooting for them or not rooting for them, it was just something that happened. To me, it demonstrated a bigger aspect of the story: Sydney’s acceptance into her new friend group and her growing defiance towards her mother. However, I really did enjoy this book, and it did consume my thoughts, as a good book should. I was intensely rooting for Sydney and her mom to come back together, for Sydney to get to know her imprisoned older brother again. I was rooting for the familial growth as they overcome the shock and tragedy of an imprisoned member.
As always, Sarah Dessen does a marvelous job of painting a picture of a flawed family, who used to be close but now is broken. Usually, the mother is the deciding figure, the one the characters spends most of their thoughts on when they think about their broken family, and this was also true in Saint Anything. Both Sydney and her mom had to look past the “Before” and recognize each other as human, capable of mistakes, and see each other for who they truly are.
I loved how Sydney’s friends supported her every step of the way, and even though they didn’t always understand, they were there for her. I love how Sydney slowly started to redefine herself after her brother, and discover who she was.
“You only really fall apart in front of the people you know can piece you back together.”
I would highly recommend this book, however it did not give me anything above a couple flutters in the romance department. But the story itself was very heartwarming and inspiring, and not, at it’s core, a romance novel. So if you are in the mood for some family growth and rediscovery, Saint Anything is a solid choice.
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