Sydney has always lived in the shadow of her older brother, Peyton. He was always the star athlete, the perfect student, and the golden child in their parents’ eyes. However, in recent years, Peyton has turned to alcohol and drugs, and has had multiple altercations with the law. Everything culminates when Peyton hits a teenager on a bike in a drunk driving accident. Sydney is left with distraught parents, and confusion about where she fits in in her family and in the world.
In order to help with lawyer bills, Sydney volunteers to transfer from her expensive private school to the local public school. There, she meets Layla, a fun-loving girl who has a passion for French fries and whose family owns a pizza parlor. Layla is easy to talk to, and Sydney feels like Layla is the only one who truly understands what she is going through because Layla has been through something similar with her older sister. Layla introduces Sydney to her family and her brother’s band and Sydney is surprised by how welcome she feels among people when her own mom and dad have always been so cold to her.
Sydney starts spending more and more time with this new family, even developing a love of helping Layla’s older brother, Mac, deliver pizzas. Meanwhile, her parents still hold her older brother as their top priority even though he is in jail. Sarah Dessen does an incredible job at writing parents in SAINT ANYTHING, something many YA authors often shy away from. Sydney’s mother is a very dynamic character who deals with something tragic. She’s not a likeable character, but she feels real.
There is a romance in this book, but it is by no means the center of the plot. If anything, this book is about the growing friendship between Layla and Sydney and how Sydney deals with everything happening in her life. For example, one of Peyton’s old friends spends a lot of time with Sydney’s family as her parents seek comfort in him; however, Sydney finds him extremely creepy for various reasons. Layla helps Sydney through this situation which helps strengthen their friendship.
Sarah Dessen is an amazing writer who paces stories and fully develops characters masterfully. SAINT ANYTHING is one of her newer books, and it is so obvious that she is a veteran writer with many years of experience. She also captures the teen coming-of-age experience very well. You will finish this book thinking a lot about your own life and feeling like all of the characters are your friends.
CRITICS HAVE SAID
- “A rich emotional landscape . . . A many-layered story told with a light touch.” —Kirkus
- “Another incisive and sensitive character-driven story sure to please her many, many fans.” —Booklist
- “Taut, tightly structured with well-rounded characters, this novel is sure to please Dessen’s many fans and attract new ones.” —School Library Journal
IF YOU LOVE THIS BOOK, THEN TRY:
- The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen, 2019
- The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen, 2006
- Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, 2011