As much as I admire this author and what I feel it her work did for the YA genre, her books are hit or miss. Saint Anything was a miss. It is still a decent YA contemporary romance, but it just isn’t one you have to have right away. Save your money and add yourself to the waiting list at your local library. While you wait, you should definitely check out Just Listen or The Truth About Forever.
Saint Anything is another lukewarm offering from Sarah Dessen. Sydney’s older brother lands himself in jail following a drunk driving accident, the last in a long string of arrests and misdemeanors. Syndney’s mom is distracted and hyper focused on his incarceration and her dad is a hard working side note, leaving Sydney alone and disconnected. When she transfers schools and meets a family who owns a local pizza place, Sydney begins to connect with their messy, average lives. Like The Truth About Forever, there is a stifling and strict mother figure who cannot deal when things aren’t going as planned. An oracle-like maternal figure acting as wise mentor is a character that fans will recognize again, and the quirky friend character that takes a shine to the withdrawn protagonist will feel familiar as well. This time, the person with the big personality is the love interest’s sister — sound familiar? It is because we all met her in Just Listen. And like Anabelle, Sydney is not someone to speak up when things are troubling her, and her isolation and loneliness are the result of a sibling’s problems consuming a parent’s life. There is even a loosely disorganized band with issues about musical direction and practice times trying to get a record deal a la This Lullaby.
While Saint Anything does have elements of my most favorite Dessen books, it fails to create main characters who stand out in a crowd. Sydney is so generic that readers will forget about her almost as soon as they finish reading. Her love interest in this book, is equally dull. Beyond his health food kick and his interest in engineering, he is unremarkable, and Sydney’s slow gravitation towards him is so slight and inexplicable that it barely registers before they are suddenly in love. The romance doesn’t even have the obligatory, seemingly insurmountable obstacle because Mr. Dull manages to stick by Sydney thanks to the modern miracle of texting. As always, there is an element of redemption, acceptance, and forgiveness, but the trifecta doesn’t seem to impact the life of Sydney as much as it did other characters who got the treatment.
As much as I just beat down this book, most readers won’t have a problem with it. Dessen does give readers the satisfactory ending that they expect. She also keeps the insider jokes and references going. Hate Spinnerbait. This book is also about real people living a real life, something that has always resonated well with the YA crowd — it just lacks the epic but believable love that makes her best books feel exciting. Dedicated fans will write this one off as another “meh” read and add the next one to their wish list. Those picking up Dessen for the first time won’t know the difference, but it won’t inspire their reader following and the loyalty that her earlier books demanded.
This book is available in the MHS library.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.