Disclaimer: I'm obsessed with everything Sarah Dessen. I don't think there's anything she could write that I wouldn't love. So as always, my review is honest, but I am completely influenced by my love for Sarah Dessen and I'm not sorry for it. At all.
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 absolutely adored Sydney and think all readers will fall in love with her, whether you want to or not. I personally related to her more than any other Dessen character and that's the beauty of her books. They're all similar, but just different enough that the narrators are surprising. There are characters with parent problems, boy problems, friend problems, and Syndey has brother problems - an issue too often ignored in YA literature. I love that Dessen approached this issue and I think she did amazingly. Syndey is funny, unique and you can't help but want her happy ending for her - especially since that happy ending is more complex than just finding a guy.
Clearly from the summary, there will be a romance. And trust me, when there is a romance, I'm always the first one to roll my eyes. But it works in Saint Anything. It's not the main focus, it's not the solution to everything - it's just a nice little part of a very complex story and it's realistic. Yes, realistic YA romance. Syndey and Mac build up their relationship slowly and cautiously - there's no instant true love. It reads like real life and that makes it that much more enjoyable.
Even as one of the biggest Sarah Dessen fans, I must acknowledge the clichés in this book. Every single thing is a symbol for something bigger, which is something that I never really understand. In real life, symbols are rare, so why fill your whole book with "deep meanings that we didn't see?" I'm not sure, but Sarah gets away with it. Yes, you'll notice it and yes, you'll sigh when you realize from the beginning who Syndey will end up with, but it doesn't happen often enough to stop you from reading. The writing is too good that it's impossible to stop. Plus there are a ton of food related clichés that are only in there to make you hungry, so they're very easy to enjoy.
The more Sarah Dessen books I read, the harder the rating gets. There's a trend in her books and the things such as the clichés become more noticeable the more I read her work. Did this prevent me from loving this book? NO. I absolutely adored it and wanted to finish it in one go. Does this make me aware that it's not flawless? Yes. I think Sarah Dessen has a very specific audience and if you think you can handle some clichés if the rest of the book is amazingly written, then read it. If you hate clichés, maybe leave this one for someone else.