Monday, April 13, 2015

Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Members of the Vise Library were selected to review Saint Anything.  We received a copy of Sarah Dessen's book for an honest review.

About the book:

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.
I have always been interested in reading books by Sarah Dessen, but for one reason or another have not found the time to read any of her books.  I am so glad I was given a review copy of her newest book.  It dealt with some heavy subject matter, but I didn't feel weighed down reading it.  I thought this showed what a great storyteller Dessen is.  

Sydney's family is shaken up by a terrible decision made by her brother.  One night he hits a teenager on a bike while driving drunk.  The young boy is paralyzed and will probably never walk again.  Sydney's family is dealing with the aftermath of her brother's poor decision and all of the heartache that comes with it . Sydney realizes that her parents may not be as financially stable after all of the legal fees and decides to alleviate a financial burden.  She decides to switch from her private school to a public school in order to get a fresh start.  She is tired of living under the dark cloud that her brother cast and wants to be seen in a different light.  At first the adjustment to the new school is difficult, but she is befriended by Layla and her brother, Mac.  Here she is able to be herself and have someone to talk to about the horrible thing her brother did and not be judged for it.  

Sydney's family, her mother in particular, is really having a hard time coming to grips with what has happened to their family.  Sydney's brother, Peyton, has been sentenced to jail and their mother is trying to control and coordinate Peyton's life in jail.  She is of course trying to protect her son, but she is not focusing on the wrong that he inflicted.  She is trying to make his life easier and putting all of her focus on him.  Sydney's mom does not appear to understand what Sydney needs and cannot even see that one of Peyton's friends is not a good guy.  This "friend" of Peyton, Ames, is constantly being pushed on Sydney, even though she is very uncomfortable around him.  Everyone outside of Sydney's family is able to label him as a "creeper" but Sydney's mom and dad cannot understand why she doesn't want to be around him.  I think this showed how focused the mother was making things comfortable for Peyton and eventually something awful happens to wake the family up.  

Sydney wants to be seen, but she also wants to understand why no one in her family is apologizing to the young boy that her brother hit.  It makes her mad at her mother and her brother that no one has apologized to the boy.  She feels the need to carry that burden and take it on herself.  Sydney eventually makes a mistake to lose her parent's trust and because of the path her brother went on they are super strict on her to make sure she does not end up in the same place as Peyton.  While her mistake was very small, there was something in the book that really struck me.  Sydney tries to argue that it was just one small mistake, but her mother says that Peyton made one mistake and look what happened.  

This book really pulls at your heartstrings.  Like I mentioned before, this book had some very heavy subject matter and Dessen navigates it wonderfully.  Even though Sydney has a lot of terrible things to deal with, I never thought she played the victim in this.  In fact I would say that Sydney is very sympathetic and sad about the situation.  What her brother did not only impacted his life or the boy he hit, but everyone who knew him.  Sydney is very strong and navigates it all very well.  She finds some true friends and a boy that truly sees her.  After I read this book I knew three things: 1) I wanted some Seaside pizza, 2) I wanted to know Layla and Mac's family and 3) that I don't want to put off reading anymore of Sarah Dessen's books.  They will be moving to the top of my list! :)

Our copy of Sarah Dessen's book will be added to our catalog very soon.  Make sure that you keep an eye out for it!

My favorite quote from the book: "That was just it.  You never knew what lay ahead; the future was one things that could never be broken, because it had not yet had the change to be anything."
First To Read

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About the author:

I've been writing, in one way or another, for as long as I can remember. I was always a big reader, mostly because my parents were. I used to get frustrated with my mom because she bought me books for Christmas when what I really wanted were the gifts my friends got, things like sweaters and jewelry. But I did love to read. When I was eight or nine my parents gave me an old manual typewriter and a little desk in the corner of our den, and I'd sit there and type up my stories. I was the kind of kid that people always sighed over and said, "She has such a wild imagination," which usually meant "I wish Sarah would try to stick to the truth." I have a tendency to embellish: I think it's just a weakness of fiction writers. Once you learn how to make a story better, it's hard not to do it all the time."The books I read when I was teenager, the good ones anyway, have stuck more in my mind than anything since. I still love books, but while I couldn't tell you complete plots of novels I read even six months ago, I do remember even the smallest descriptive details from Lois Lowry's A Summer to Die or Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I think it was because back then books were still somewhat new to me, and when I found an author who seemed to say just what I was feeling, it really struck me and resonated. I hope that my books do that for the people who read them: I think it's the best thing to which any writer can aspire. "As far as my other life, my non-writing life, I live in the country with my husband, some lizards, and two dogs who are completely spoiled and rule me completely. I like to work in my garden---although I have not yet perfected the art of keeping everything alive----and, in my weaker moments, shop. I have a bit of an addiction to the Gap clearance rack, to be honest. I have this strange need to buy huge quantities of black pants. How many pairs of black pants does one person need? (Obviously for me, the answer is 11 and counting. But I digress.) What else can I tell you? I love Starbucks mochas but they make me way hyper. I subscribe to too many magazines. I make a mean bean salad. I could go on, but the truth is, my books are much more exciting than I am, and that's a good thing. It's always more fun to make stuff up anyway."

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