Monday, June 1, 2015

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen's new book Saint Anything, was just released at the beginning of May, and already I've shared my copy a couple of times. I've been reading Dessen's novels since the 1990s, when That Summer, Someone Like You, and Keeping the Moon came out. 

Saint Anything follows Sydney, who's brother Peyton has just been sent to prison for drunk driving. He left a young boy paralyzed from the waist down, and Sydney is obsessed with the consequences her brother has left behind, seemingly immune to the fall-out of his accident. She decides to switch schools, moving from the prestigious Perkins Day to Jackson High School, a huge public school that she chooses because it enhances her anonymity. She doesn't want to be recognized as her brother's sister, and doesn't want to be connected to the accident. 

But when she attends Jackson High School, she doesn't end up being as anonymous as she hopes she'll be. She's quickly taken in by the Chathams, brother and sister Mac and Layla, whose family owns a local pizza place Sydney visits after school. The Chatham family seems magical to Sydney. Mrs. Chatham, who has MS, Mr. Chatham, Mac, and Layla, who work at the pizza place, and Rosie, a figure skater who has recently had difficulties of her own. Pizza and french fries factor heavily into this novel, as Sydney becomes a staple at the pizza place, and Layla crusades for the perfect french fry. 

Still, Peyton never disappears from the picture entirely. His weekly phone calls home assert his presence in their life. His old friend Ames, a recovered drug addict and alcoholic, also hangs around Sydney's house. He is the most unsettling character in the novel, and often "babysits" Sydney alone in the house when her parents are away. I had read an article Dessen wrote for Seventeen Magazine just a fews before Saint Anything was published. "I Thought Dating An Older Guy Was Cool - Until I Sensed That Something Was Very Wrong" is Dessen's account of her relationship with a twenty-one-year-old when she was fifteen. I didn't realize how much it would factor into her novel, and in fairly insinuating ways. 

I found myself so frustrated with the Sydney's family, especially her parents, who don't do anything that they should to keep Sydney safe and loved. Their complacency in Ames's influence on Sydney's life is hard to read at times. Which is certainly what Dessen intends, if her Seventeen Magazine article is any indication. 

I'll always look forward to the next Sarah Dessen book, and Saint Anything was no exception.

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