Saint Anything

saintanythingSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Number of pages: 417
My copy: paperback, ordered from Book Depository

Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

But of course the newest Sarah Dessen will not escape my grubby hands.

Saint Anything is about Sydney, whose life changed when her older brother Peyton was convicted for drunk driving. Everyone loves Peyton, so when he was taken away, it felt as if Sydney’s life went with him, especially with how her family was left coping with the loss. Everyone was so concerned about Peyton, but Sydney couldn’t help but wonder about the his victim – what about him? Then Sydney meets the Chathams, a family that runs a pizza parlor near her school. They befriend Sydney, and soon, she gets into their world of pizza, the perfect fries, and bands. For the first time ever, Sydney feels that people are finally seeing her.

As with every Sarah Dessen I have read, Saint Anything starts out a bit slow, laying the groundwork for the story to come alive. I have read enough Dessen to know that this was her style, so I was patient, knowing it will all pay off in the end. And it did, as I was introduced to the Chathams. They charmed me, they really did. I loved their family dynamic, and how they were all crazy in a good way. I loved the pizza place, and Layla and Mac’s friends from school. The lunch scenes were perfect in so many ways and I looked forward to reading all of that.

Then there’s Sydney’s mom, who, I must admit, was a bit too much with holding Sydney to a certain standard. But again, it’s what mothers do, I think? It wasn’t really so surprising. But the real “villain” here wasn’t her mom, but that creepy guy who keeps on worming into their story. I suppose it was because I knew about him before I started reading, and that made him creepier. But either way, even if you don’t know him before this, I doubt you’d find him less creepy.

In a way, Saint Anything reminds me of my most favorite Sarah Dessen book, The Truth About Forever. There were many similar elements that make it almost a mirror novel, but not too much that they’re too similar. Mac is no Wes, but I still really liked him, and I really liked his slow-burn chemistry with Sydney. Bonus points to the Saint reference. :)

I really enjoyed Saint Anything, and if you’re a Dessen fan, this does not disappoint. I’m still waiting for a book in the POV of a Dessen boy – it’s about time, right? While I’m waiting, I think I’ll go and reread her previous books. :)

Rating: 

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

“There’s no shame in trying to make stuff work. It’s better than just accepting the broken.” I wanted to say he was lucky he even had a choice. That for most of us, once something was busted, it was game over. I would have loved to know how it felt, just for once, to have something fall apart and see options instead of endings.

You weren’t invisible, not to me. Just so you know.

Relationships evolve, just like people do. Just because you know someone doesn’t mean you know everything about them.

When faced with the scariest of things, all you want is to turn away, hide in your own invisible place. But you can’t. That’s why it’s not only important for us to be seen, but to have someone to look for us, as well.

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The Mysterious Benedict Society

mbsThe Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society #1
Publisher: Little, Brown
Number of pages: 456
My copy: paperback, bought from Powerbooks

Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they’ll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you’re gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

I’ve had The Mysterious Benedict Society in my TBR pile for years, after I bought it when I read reviews about how “smart” this book was. Back then I was still a series completist, so I had to start with the first book and planned to get the rest of the books later on because it was just right, right? But anyway, that didn’t happen, and the book remained in my TBR pile until one day, I decided to pick it up because I wanted something else to read. And I figured it’s about time to get this off there.

An ad in the newspaper appears, looking for smart kids who were willing to go through a series of tests. Out of all who took it, only four children passed: Reynie Muldoon, Sticky Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire. The kids were brought to Mr. Benedict, who tells them of an evil plan that they need to stop and sent them as spies to the Learning Institute of the Very Enlightened, the school where all this evil seems to be coming from. Adventure follows, as well as danger, but there was too much at stake for them to just give up.

They were right. This book was fun and smart, and a lot of it made me think of just how they’d get out of the scrapes they get into. The kids were easy to like, even Constance, who started out so annoying and stubborn but later became endearing just because of those qualities. There was mystery, yes, and as a reader I had to keep on thinking, too, about  just what was happening and how they would ever get out of the messes they got into.

I just think the book was just a tad long. I know all scenes worked out to the ending, but I remember being a bit impatient with this at some point that I was almost skimming. It could just be a case of reader ADD, though, but I can’t deny the relief I felt when I was finally done. To be fair, the ending was pretty heartwarming, and it felt like a reward after reading the length of the book.

The Mysterious Benedict Society is a smart and fun book, and while I was a bit lukewarm about it (Maybe that means I won’t be one of those kids who will take that exam. Or pass it. Heh), I think I’d really like to keep this copy around once my nephew is old enough to read. :)

Rating: 

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.

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