There are some things you are just never too old to enjoy. For example: eating s’mores, sleeping in, playing with cute animals, watching Frozen, eating peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon, sneaking dollar store candy into a movie and last but certainly not least: reading a Sarah Dessen book. So when I caught wind of the fact that there was a new Sarah Dessen book to enjoy I was all like:
I am (obviously) a massive Sarah Dessen fan. To this day, I will never forget reading This Lullaby for the first time. I’d compare it to something of a religious experience for me and although my copy of it is much loved, This Lullaby (among other Dessen novels) sits proudly in my book collection. I spent so much of my middle school/high school years reading her earlier books and connecting with them so wholly, that now, as an ‘adult’ (term used loosely), I wondered what the experience of reading her books would be like.
“It was like stepping into a fun house hall of mirrors, only to find you had to stay there. I was the sister of the neighborhood delinquent, drug addict, and now drunk driver. It didn’t matter that I’d done none of these things. With shame, like horseshoes, proximity counts.” - Sarah Dessen, Saint Anything
I think there is some stigma against reading YA books as you get older. I’m not sure why this exists; just because they’re intended for a younger audience doesn’t mean they’re not good works of fiction. However, I found myself naturally starting to gravitate away from them as the number of years between myself and high school became greater. I just didn’t relate to those books like I used too and they became an anomaly on my TBR list.
But with Sarah Dessen, there is just something so inherently relatable about her protagonists and their situations in life that they still make me feel all the feels. The same could be said for Dessen’s latest effort, Saint Anything. Sydney’s journey in Saint Anything may not be directly applicable to my life now but the sentiments of her struggles still rang true. She has strained relationships with her immediate family members: dealing with hooligan brothers, trust, acceptance, forgiveness and the like. That stuff is hard and it never truly goes away no matter how old you get. It may change and morph over the years but the struggle to coexist in peace and harmony still exists. Same with issues like: ‘can I date my best friend’s brother? What kind of girl code does that break??” “Is it okay to grow apart from what you used to consider your best friends?” “Did I have these friends because they were convenient or because they were real?” And you know what sucks, these issues still exist in post- high school/college life as well!! Granted, it may be more like “hey… I slept with your brother-in-law when he came into town for thanksgiving… hope that doesn’t make Christmas awkward for you guys…” but you get the picture.
All in all, this was a wonderful read. I particularly loved Dessen’s supporting characters- Layla and her extended family members. They were fun, quirky and incredibly real- a good balance to Sydney’s dysfunctional family who seemed to be teetering on a precarious ledge, just waiting for the littlest nudge to cause them all to fall to pieces. In true Dessen style, there are a million quotables and a swoon-worthy romance; I certainly enjoyed reading it!
“We moved quickly, then faster still, the night and woods big and wide all around us. It was one of those moments that, even while it was happening, I knew I would remember forever, even before the ring came into view and my grasp. I didn’t reach for it though; I didn’t need to. I felt like I’d already won.” - Sarah Dessen, Saint Anything