Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

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Penguin, 2015. ISBN: 9780141361734
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Adolescent. Coming of age. Change. Sydney has always felt second best in her family, her brother Peyton always the star. But Peyton has become increasingly reckless and finally after badly injuring a teen in a drink driving accident, is sent to prison. His mother refuses to believe that he is guilty at all and no one in her family seems to be worried about the victim of the accident. Then she meets Leyla and her brother Mac and finds a haven in the warmth of the Chatham family.
The story flows along beautifully as Sydney has to come to terms with the dynamics in her family and the social impact of having a brother in jail. She leaves the expensive private school and goes to the local high school to avoid the whispers that follow her around. At home things are difficult. It is hard for the reader to fathom how Sydney's mother can overlook her and concentrate all her energies and affection on Peyton and how her father can withdraw from facing the problems, and Sydney's slow recognition of her own worth holds the story together. The warmth of Leyla and Mac and the group that befriends her at her new school help her self-esteem grow and she is able to take a step back from being in her brother's shadow and begin to value herself and her own beliefs.
The growing feelings between Mac and Sydney are gently described, and Mac is a great character, caring and supportive. It was also interesting to read about a boy who has been overweight and who has managed to regain a healthy lifestyle. The Chatham family has its own problems but the kind-heartedness of its members and the attentive care they give Mrs Chatham who has multiple sclerosis is heart-warming.
I am a fan of Sarah Dessen's books. I love her characters, the way they manage to overcome adversity and learn to value themselves. I read this in a couple of sittings and it is sure to appeal to readers who enjoy stories about families and change.
Pat Pledger