In my high school years I spent many a late night reading Sarah Dessen books. Her characters are relatable, flawed, and I almost always cried at least once while reading about what they were going through. I don’t know how she does it, but Sarah speaks straight to the teenage soul, wisdom, adventure, angst, heartbreak, and all. I’ve reread a couple of my favorites of hers since high school but until reading Saint Anything, I’ve never started a new one. I thought perhaps I would have a significantly different reading experience now that I’m all of almost twenty four years old. Other than some added perspective on how to handle unfortunate situations, it was just the same as when I was in high school. I cried more than once. I had moments of wondering whether or not Sarah was writing about me and I realized maybe I haven’t changed all that much since high school.
Saint Anything follows Sydney and her family as they navigate the fallout from her brothers bad decisions which led him being sent to jail. Sydney has switched schools to help with the cost and to get away from the gossip, so not only is she figuring out how to feel about and react to her brother (and avoid her brother’s creepy friend that keeps hanging around), but she’s trying to make new friends in a brand new environment. Basically, there is lot going on in this book. It’s all interesting and emotionally captivating, but occasionally while reading I would wish that a certain topic would be explored more deeply. It was not possible to get immersed into any single problem because by the time I started to fully understand what was happening we were jetting off to the next scene. This slightly hectic series of problems gave me whiplash sometimes, but I do think it’s a more realistic portrayal of life. There is never time to focus on just one thing everyday, if we did that we’d burn out very quickly and we’d be sacrificing so many other parts of our lives.
Books tend to be snapshots of one certain event or problem that the characters are dealing with. They delve into every detail of this event and how it affects their lives and there are no other problems happening that aren’t directly related to that event. While this gives the reader time to be completely emotionally invested, it simply isn’t true. If someone you love goes to jail your life and all the problems in it carry on with a little bit of extra emotional baggage. If you’re lucky you can fall asleep some nights forgetting to worry about the person in jail. If you’re unlucky you never stop thinking about it and everything else in your life falls apart. Sydney and her mom showed both of these examples. Her mom forgot everything (including Sydney) but her son in jail, while Sydney is left feeling guilty for not giving up her entire life to help her brother. It was an interesting character comparison.
Ultimately, this is not my favorite Sarah Dessen book, but it was a good one. I still believe it was more realistic than other books because of the many story lines it had, but I’m a sucker for putting reality on hold for the sake of emotional investment. It was a fabulous story for reminding me of the impact our actions have on the lives of people we love, even when those actions seem to have nothing to do with them. Fallout is hard to contain and loved ones tend to be the first ones hit.