This is it! I’ve reached the end of my Summer Sundays with Sarah! Look out for my wrap up on Thursday with my thoughts on each book and all of the connections I found amongst them!
“You never knew what lay ahead; the future was one thing that could never be broken, because it had not yet had the chance to be anything. One minute you’re walking through a dark woods, alone, and then the landscape shifts, and you see it. Something wondrous and unexpected, almost magical, that you never would have found had you not ket going.”
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
Feelings: One thing I love about Dessen’s books (consistently) are her characterizations. Each character seems so real and their dialogue is on point. I can hear these conversations happening in my head (beyond straight words on a page) and can see the characters coming to life. Sydney and Mac and Layla all felt like real people. I read these 400+ pages super quickly because I was invested in their lives from the beginning.
Issues: Why would Sydney’s parents have Ames and Marla stay with her for an entire weekend? That’s so obviously a terrible idea. It just didn’t make any sense. I get that they were trusting of Ames because he was like a surrogate son, but also..he wasn’t. He hung out there in the afternoons, but he wasn’t their son. How much did they really know about him? If they’d even questioned it before going through with it, it would feel more realistic, but they didn’t. Super weird. Speaking of that, what was the purpose of the Ames story arc? Sydney never confided in her parents about how he made her feel. Did he wake her parents up to what was going on around them? Not reeeeaallly. There were so many conflicts in this story that I feel a few of them could have been taken out and turned into their own books. This is one of those conflicts.
I really wanted Mac to not remind me of Owen (from Just Listen), but it just couldn’t be helped. The demeanor, the kind and protective attitude towards his sister, the pizza deliveries…he just didn’t seem like his own man, in the Dessen universe. I was disappointed by that. He wasn’t necessarily memorable…I’ll just forever think of him as that kind that reminded me of Owen.
Characters: Having said that about Mac, I did still like him! Maybe because I also liked Owen… I mean, when he recalls what Sydney was wearing the first time they met – so precious. And the way he really sees Sydney…adorable.
Sydney is a dynamic character. She does experience growth and change throughout the course of the book, in the sense that she discovers her value and worth. Is she a frustrating teenage girl? Ya darn tootin’. I wish she’d gotten a little more resolution with her parents (and that they’d had a come-to-Jesus meeting about why she didn’t mention how creepy Ames was).
Layla – the BFF character for the win! I knew I’d like her from the very beginning. She’s so perceptive and kind. The way she stayed with Sydney all weekend and slept in front of her bedroom door made ME feel safe and valued. I want a friend like Layla! I want to read a Layla spinoff – but no Spence.
Final thoughts: I think this was a good book. Not my favorite, but it had some redeeming qualities. And it reads like Dessen’s great books – easy to get caught up in, easy to breeze through. There are other books I’d recommend for first time Dessen readers, but if you’re a fan of hers and you haven’t picked this one up yet, I say go for it.
Pick this up if you liked:
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen (This book has a few of the same issues it tackles, but Saint Anything is just better overall.)
I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Goodreads rating: 4.04/5
Amazon.com rating: 4.5/5
My rating: 4/5
Happy reading! – Caitlyn