You only really fall apart in front of the people you know can piece you back together – Sarah Dessen.
Sarah Dessen is one of my favourite young adult authors. The first book I read of hers was Just Listen. After that, I read Lock & Key and The Truth About Forever. I fell in love with her characters, the families that surrounded them and the fact that they were every day sixteen year olds facing the problems that sixteen year olds in this world face every day.
Saint Anything is the latest in my personal collection. I specifically asked for this one as it was only released in May 2015, meaning that it is the latest book Sarah Dessen has written.
It centres on Sydney. Well, it centres on her brother Peyton as he is the star of the show for all the wrong reasons. Sydney has to come to terms with the fact that her brother is in prison and her whole family revolves around how he is doing, how and when they can get him released, how he feels… never about how she is dealing with it. Sydney finds a ray of hope when she meets the Chathams, a family who runs a pizza parlour with problems of their own. It is here that she feels most at ease, especially with a new best friend in the form of Layla and a love interest in Layla’s older brother, Mac.
For me, a huge thing that I love in Saint Anything – and the rest of Sarah Dessen books – is the character development. For a book of 417 pages and a time span of a few months, we really see every aspect of the main characters and the support ones too. Dessen goes into depth – not in an intrusive or long description kind of way – about how each character feels and does, plus their reasons behind it. That is what drives this story forward, that is what makes me never want to put one of her books down. I feel this especially with Sydney’s mother, who although is a support character in Sydney’s story has a lot of influence over Sydney’s well-being and happiness. However, she is too focused on Peyton to see how any of this is affecting Sydney. At times it seems a little far-fetched because you would think at one point she must look at how Sydney’s character has changed slightly. It is a roller coaster and a domino effect of emotions for everyone in the novel.
Relating to the immense character development is the theme of friends and family. It is at the core of the novel – the spine so to speak. Friends and family are a huge part of any character’s or person’s world. To put it in written form is allowing ourselves as the reader to follow another person’s life for a week or so (maybe even one day) and to see whether we resonate or empathise with them. The relationships between the characters are sacred because they can remind you of your own relationships and friendships. In Saint Anything, as with the rest of Sarah Dessen novels that I’ve read, the relationships between the characters can make a huge difference to their personal development as exemplified between Sydney and her mother – briefly mentioned above. Furthermore, it is only when Sydney meets and creates a friendship with the Chatham family that she notices a difference in herself, a happiness that she has never felt before.
Alongside this is the emotional factor. The emotion towards the end of Saint Anything is overflowing – there’s a near sexual harassment, a huge wave of relief, a hospital and more. The characters build up their relationship once more, which ultimately creates the happy ending for Sydney in this period of her life. I almost always wonder what becomes of the characters after I turn the final page. This is why I prefer books to films, because as much as a film can make me cry, a book can really get me thinking.
Saint Anything is a lot darker than her other novels which is why it is so inspiring and its honesty with Sydney’s character says a lot about what it could be like to live in somebody else’s shadow.
Have you read Saint Anything? What are your thoughts? I can’t wait to read another one of Sarah Dessen’s novels.
Love, Faye x