Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

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.”

saint anything

Synopsis from GoodreadsPeyton, 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

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The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

I have almost completed my quest of reading all of Sarah Dessen’s books! One more!

“The truth was, there was no way everything could be the Best. Sometimes, when it came to events and people, it had to be okay to justbe.”

moon and more

Synopsis from GoodreadsThe perfect life?  At first glance, Emaline seems to have it all. A great boyfriend, a close-knot family, an idyllic beach town to call home. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough. Then she meets Theo, an ambitious young New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. He’s sophisticated and exciting, and thinks Emaline is destined for bigger things. Emaline wants the moon and more, but can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?

Feelings: I ended up liking this book a lot more than I thought I would. It wasn’t long before I was highly invested in these characters and had chosen sides in this Luke vs. Theo debacle. (This is like when everyone was Team Peeta and I was over here like NO NO NO PICK GALE.) I had my theories about where things were going and why certain things were happening, then everything would change. This book kept me engaged and interested!

Issues: I couldn’t figure out why Clyde was insistent on Emaline being in the middle of everything…why does he care about her? What connection do they have?

Characters: I liked Emaline. I don’t always super connect with Dessen’s female leads, but I could really understand Emaline. I think she’s one of those people that some people wouldn’t connect with, but she and I clicked. (Not sure what that says about me..) I thought it was really interesting how she got to watch her absent father parent Benji. Not everyone gets the chance to come to terms with the type of person their absent parent really is, accept it, and get past it. I enjoyed reading about her family dynamic and how she approached the issues that surfaced as the story went along.

Luke is that great male character that Dessen is so great at writing. He’s the quintessential guy: charming, attractive, swoon-worthy, confident, thoughtful…I mean he’s not perfect…and he made a mistake…but he’s still great. I was rooting for him the whole time.

I liked that Emaline’s BFFs in this book weren’t a group of girls. Girl friends are great and all, but the dynamic of having 1 girl BFF and 1 guy BFF was great to see. It brought a different little something to this story. Plus…Morris is…well, Morris.

At first I kept thinking, Why is Theo even here? But I really think Emaline needed to experience a different kind of relationship (consider she and Luke had been together for so long). She needed to find out who she was. I’m not saying she found her identity in Theo or anything like that, but in being with him, she realized what she really wanted and even better, what she deserved. Part of me wishes that she and Luke had run back to each other in the end, but I’m glad she went off to college with some Emaline focus, rather than a boy. Also, Theo is kind of a creep. Bye, Theo.

Final thoughts: I really liked this book! This felt like a Dessen beach read more than some, since there is so much actual beach happening. I’d put it in my Top 5 favorite Dessen books! I’d recommend it if you haven’t read Dessen before and you’re not sure where to start.

Pick this up if you liked:

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Goodreads rating: 3.63/5

Amazon.com rating: 3.9/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Welcome to Week 5 of Sundays with Sarah!

“‘Listen…the truth is, nothing is guaranteed…So don’t be afraid. Be alive.'”

truth about forever

Synopsis from GoodreadsA long, hot summer…That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father. But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to question her sheltered life.

Feelings: This is one of two Dessen books that I’d read previously. And I loved it the first time around. I couldn’t remember why I loved it, I just knew that I did. After reading it a second time, I can safely say that I still love it. I’ve heard a few people say that this one isn’t their favorite of Dessen’s books, but it might be mine. I think that’s because I connected with Macy on so many levels. I understood her – her fears, where she was coming from, her motivations – and I wanted to heal alongside her.

Issues: I think the only thing this book was missing was a little more conversation about her belated gift from her dad. A little more closure there would have been nice.

Characters: As I said before, Macy is a character that I could really relate to. She’s experienced tragedy and been stuck in a limbo of healing ever since, unsure how to tip toe around her family members and wanting to please everyone. She’s stuck in a relationship that feels safe and steady, something she’s been desperate for. Then the beautiful Wish Catering crew come along and show Macy how to truly be alive. I want to run away and join a catering business after meeting this band of misfit toys.

I loved how this group ran on chaos. They didn’t need perfection and good luck made them antsy. They were the antithesis to Macy and her Jason-centered universe, which meant that she needed them desperately. I loved Wes’s calm, confident demeanor and the way he balanced Macy out, reassuring her of her worth and value. Every girl wants a Wes. [This girl included.]

Macy’s relationship with her mom and her sister was something that kept me a little bit on edge. I wasn’t sure how things would develop or whether things would have to get worse before they got better. In the end, I was ok with how things turned out. I wouldn’t say it was a beautiful, miraculous, tear-jerking come to Jesus meeting at the end, but sometimes that type of ending just isn’t real.

Final thoughts: I liked this one about the same amount that I liked Someone Like You. It just all felt very realistic to me. It was easy to read, easy to connect with, and easy to enjoy. This is a good summertime read!

Pick this up if you liked:

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright

Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories by Stephanie Perkins and others

Goodreads rating: 4.14/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 4.75/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Summer Reads

As a teacher, summertime is a reading mecca for me. I always have a giant stack of books that I want to get through in those few short months. Because I’m from Texas, I want some light summer reads that’ll help me survive the heat. I don’t normally read heavy books with large page counts…but sometimes I do just because I have the free time.

I’ve come up with a list of 5 books that I think would be cool for the summer. I’ve got a variety – some light and easy, others thoughtful and a little deeper.

summer days

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories by Stephanie Perkins and others

I’m so excited for this book! I really enjoyed the previous anthology that Stephanie Perkins put together with her best writer friends. [Read my review for that HERE!] This collection of summertime stories has some different author than the holiday set, including Libba Bray, Leigh Bardugo, and Cassandra Clare. I preordered it…that’s how excited I am. It’s sitting on my kitchen table, awaiting the end of school. I really love anthologies like this, except for when I find a story that I love and it ends…there’s always a couple that I want to see as full length novels!

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Anything by Sarah Dessen

I’ve only read a few of Dessen’s books, but I’ve decided that this will be my Summer with Sarah. Can I get a hashhtaggg? A friend of mine told me that her books aren’t sequels or even companion novels, really, but you do see familiar characters pop up every once in a while. I know that if I spread these books out over a year or longer, I won’t notice those little Easter eggs, so I’m going to just marathon them all! Her books always deal with very real issues and situations, but they aren’t terribly heavy or dense. They’re always entertaining and have funny moments. Plus, Dessen really knows how to write a hunky dude. Starting this weekend, I’ll be reviewing Sarah’s books every Sunday!

aristotle

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

This is a book that takes place mostly during the summertime months. The two main characters in this story are boys, so this book pick is different from the others I’ve listed. The story happens in El Paso, Texas, and when the main character mentioned Chico’s Tacos, I died a little. Heaven. #Memories Anyway, this is a story of self-discovery, friendship, and family. It’s not a light, fluffy read, but it’s one that’ll stay with you. Great for summer!

anne of island

Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery

I always think of fields and summertime and friendship when I think about ol’ Anne and her adventures. I love these books. I think they’re so funny and full of heart, taking me back to a simpler time. These aren’t exactly beachy romance books, but they’re lighthearted and memorable. I’m a fan!

different

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

This book doesn’t take place during summer; it happens at a university. But it’s so different from anything else I’d read before and I swallowed it up. This is a book about writing and words…and there are  a few strange narrators. We see the perspective of a bench. And the perspective of a squirrel. Need I say more?

What books would you recommend for the summertime? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn