A Review of SAINT ANYTHING by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything gives us relatable characters and real feelings

***This review is based off a galley that was given for an honest review***

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen takes you on a different kind of journey.  Not one with fast-paced action or “the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen with [name your favorite color] eyes.”  The main protagonist is not battling some evil magical force or dealing with some power that manifests itself when she turns a certain age.  Saint Anything is not religious or hard hitting.  But it does have something to offer to the reader – a candid story you can relate to.

I have to admit that I’m not a big reader on realistic fiction.  I’m usually drawn to sci-fi/fantasy and dystopia.  But for all the action and magic and super fast romances those stories entangle me in, this subtle piece of realistic fiction does the same, in a different way.

Saint Anything is about Sydney Stanford, whose seemingly idyllic life is turned on its head when her older brother is sent to prison after he is found guilty of driving while under the influence and seriously injuring a young boy.

Although the fault lies to her brother, she nonetheless still feels the guilt and shame of what happened to the boy, but no way of knowing what to do about it.  The one thing she does do is switch schools.  This at first seems to alienate her more from her peers, but things start changing as she finds new people to be friends with, people who don’t know her or her brother’s recent history.

The story sounds simple enough, but it’s definitely a story that I believe readers will be able to relate to, maybe not for the situation Sydney first finds herself in, but in the aftermath of that devastation.  There is so much that Sydney is experiencing for the first time that we’re able to connect with.  We get to see her really start to find herself despite the difficulties that her and her family has had to deal with.

Her strength lies within her self-control, especially when dealing with her parents and what’s expected of her.  Her friends are quirky and funny and completely different from what she was used to before her troubles.  But they’re completely loveable in their own way.

What I enjoyed about this book was the ordinariness of all the characters.  The author doesn’t really get into the details of how a character looks, so you won’t get a whole lot of description of a person’s beautifully colored eyes or their attractive features or their muscle-ly arms.  Even with romance involved, she doesn’t have the character dote all over him in that fashion, which is refreshing.

The strength of the book itself is the character’s steady journey – not only in stepping out and creating her own story separate from her family or her brother, but also in the way she handles each situation, including her trepidation in how to handle certain circumstances, the poignance in others, and her happiness in some very surprisingly unique moments, each without being pretentious or overly confident in herself in a way that’s not relatable.

And even with so many small situations going on at the same time, as tends to be the case in a teenager’s life, the author doesn’t make the character overly dramatic about it, having her feel constantly sorry for herself.  She does have her moments, but they are stated as matter-of-fact more than a way of gaining sympathy.

With that said, Sydney is a likeable character in that she deals with very realistic problems, one even particularly dark, and handles it in a very realistic way.  We see her in the beginning as a somewhat timid person, probably due to being in the shadow of her big brother.  But as we read on, we see her grow and learn and come out on her own not only in her personality, but in her relationships as well.

I believe that many readers will be able to find something about Sydney that they can connect with, and if not, then with her friends.  And in that connection, there’s a hope that anyone can learn from Sydney’s story, no matter how old the reader is.  Because really, there’s a lot to learn and really like in this twelfth book from Sarah Dessen.

Rating: 8.7 out of 10 / B+

Saint Anything cover

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