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 story follows Sydney and the effects the downwards spiral of her older brother has had on her family. It’s as if their mother can find no fault in Peyton, even after drink driving and hitting a young boy, she finds a way to put some of the blame on the young boy. I felt for Sydney, there were certain points in the story where I really wanted her to snap and finally yell at her parents – a scene like this did come somewhat later. Along with all of this, she also has to deal with Ames (her brother’s friend from a mandatory Narcotics Anonymous group) who has somehow managed to weasel into her family. Long story short, Sydney finds him unbelievably creepy – as she should – yet her parents are oblivious to all of this and leave her alone with him OVERNIGHT on multiple occasions. I just didn’t understand (even if they were as oblivious as they were and could forgive the shady background) how they could leave their daughter alone with an older guy she was clearly uncomfortable with, for an entire weekend.
One point I wish was more developed is the story between Sydney and David Ibarra, the victim of the crash. Sydney has this crushing guilt that she carries and though she does finally go to the victim at the end of the story, as a reader, I would have loved to learn more about their encounter.
There was quite a lot of hype surrounding this book before and during its release, which meant that I had very high expectations. Pair that with a book slump and the chances of this book getting a good rating were very slim. But somehow, not only did it get me out of my book slump, but I really enjoyed it. Sarah Dessen is an amazing young adult writer and this is clearly supported by her list of bestsellers. I do remember reading a couple of her books at a younger age but not extensively. After reading Saint Anything, I am definitely planning on grabbing a few more.
Overall, I liked how the story unraveled and what I learnt: that you may see something or someone in a certain light, expecting them to see themselves that way too, but more often than not you find that they don’t. This was highlighted by Sydney and Peyton’s relationship; she always saw him as the brave and fearless one, the one that everyone loved and admired, where she sees bravery though, he sees stupidity. It really makes you wonder.