Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

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. (Summary from

Saint Anything is a beautiful novel. Even if so much of Sydney's story hadn't pertained dead-on to my life, it would still have been a beautiful novel. Sydney isn't a girl looking to be saved by a bad-guy paranormal immortal. She doesn't need to be saved at all, but she does need to be seen. She needs to be seen as a person separate from her family, as a girl with her own likes and interests. She needs to be seen and loved for who she is.

But Sydney's story did hit close to home.
Like Peyton, my brother Zeb was also sent to prison. I sat through the trial and fought on his side, but he was sentenced to serve 8 years and currently has four of those years left before his release. 

Also like Peyton, my brother didn't intend to hurt anyone, but the consequences of his actions have been costly. Reading about how Sydney's family dealt with the fallout of her brother's jailtime was carthartic. Everyone dealt with it and grieved in their own ways, and it really is grieving. You have to learn how to cope with a complete transformation in your lives. Everything is different. 

I really commend Dessen's ability to show the different ways of handling grief through the family. It shows what an experience like that can do to a family by pulling it apart and bringing it closer together than it ever was. 

Read it. 

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