"Sydney has always felt invisible. She's grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world.
Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.
Saint Anything is Sarah Dessen’s deepest and most psychologically probing novel yet, telling an engrossing story of a girl discovering friendship, love, and herself." Publisher's summary
If you're like me and have read several of Dessen's previous novels, you know, or perhaps not, that she has a clear formula that she uses in most of her novels: a girl comes from a troubled situation into a new life, trying to make friends, feeling like a strangers and she meets a mysterious guy and perhaps a girl that becomes her friend. While she fights her feelings for the mysterious guy, things at home get complicated, but they start to solve themselves as she finds who she really is, or a new strength she didn't know she had in her. Almost in the end, when you think she's finally going to kiss the guy, they have a fallout and they take distance, but in the end she goes back to him and apologizes and all is good.
I thought this novel was going to follow that formula, but come on, is Sarah Dessen, so I still wanted to read it. I was surprised to know it didn't follow it.
Let's start with the cover: it's 'and mysterious, the material of the paper is velvety... yes, that caught my fancy as well. Unfortunately, liks e other Goodreads reviewers pointed out the carrousel only takes part in the story once, and I agree with them that it should have more space in the novel: just one night didn't cut it.
The title: it's smart. It's a play between Say Anything, and Saint Anything, which makes you wonder...
Now, the characters. The main character is Sydney. I don't like the name, as a matter of fact, I tend to not like Dessen's choice of first names for the main characters: Remy, Macy, Auden, McClean (hated this one). The only one I like is Ruby from Lock and Key. Sydney says nothing to me and that's why perhaps she feels invisible?
I don't understand characters that feel invisible or living under someone else's shadow, that take no ofr an answer time after time and don't scream their wishes and desires out for everyone to hear... but that's me.
Syndey lives under her brother's shallow, a criminal, enabled by her mom. But as she progresses in the story she starts finding her voice without doing a 180 degree change, in that Dessen is coherent in keeping with who the character really is.
Layla is the girl from the new school that embraces her and introduces her to her world. She's bubbly and welcoming but has her own issues as well. Her brother is the mysterious Mac, someone with his own distinct personality but that doesn't like to take center stage. Layla's and Mac's world is completely new to Sydney and she likes to find some relieve from her home.
Overall I think the characters are realistic, as well as the conversations. I did feel like in the middle of the novel I started to doze off because nothing was happening, there were a lot of situational scenes, where the characters were developed and all but it felt slow. I kept on reading because I wanted to know what happened and I wasn't disappointed because like I said, this book didn't follow the regular Dessen's formula I was used to.
I will continue to read Sarah Dessen's novels until I feel I am too old for them... for now, I don't think I am.