Saint Anything

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Saint Anything Book Poster Image
Sensitive romance digs deep into difficult relationships.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Sobering depiction of the damage that can be done by drinking and abusing drugs.


Positive Messages

Relationships can be painfully complicated, and the best way to keep them healthy and to repair damage is through honest, open communication. You may not be responsible for someone else's harmful actions, but you can share in trying to make up for them. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sydney is a good kid and works hard to take care of herself and her friends. Under extraordinary pressure, she's empathetic and loving toward her parents. Her close friends are fiercely loyal, protecting and supporting one another with patience and affection. Parental figures have their hearts in the right place, even if their actions are damaging, and they undergo positive changes as well.


Man forces himself on a teenage girl (a brief assault that's quickly ended before it goes beyond a forced kiss), and the girl's father is rough with the attacker.


A young man's unwanted attention makes teen girl feel uncomfortable and sexually vulnerable; suggestion that teen couple engaged in sexual activity; mild romantic kissing.


"Asshole," "goddamn," "s--t,” "bitch," "ass," "hell."


References to several car makes and models (such as BMW, Camry), sweets (Slurpees, Pepsi, Yum Yums), Les Paul guitars, and Xanax. Use of fictional social media.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Unflattering portrayal of drinking and drug use, focused on the resulting harm to the user, friends, and strangers. Young man is in prison after paralyzing boy in drunk-driving accident; another young person is repairing damage done while addicted to painkillers; teen shows up drunk at a gathering. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Saint Anything, the thoughtful 12th novel by Sarah Dessen (The Moon and More), deals with underage drinking and substance abuse in a touching and realistic way. Two peripheral characters have made a mess of their lives -- and others' -- through drug and alcohol use. Central characters occasionally drink, but drunk characters are presented as repulsive, making selfish choices that cause widespread damage. Well-intentioned but distracted parents make some poor choices but eventually work hard to make things right. The victim of a sexual assault chooses not to press charges against her attacker, with no discussion of why she made that decision. Due to the mature content, we recommend this book for a slighter older audience than the publisher suggests.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byabbacus January 24, 2016

Another great book by Sarah Dessen!

This was one of my favorite books of 2015! Awesome! Read it!
Teen, 13 years old Written byTaitymB February 26, 2018

Good book

Good for kids who feel left out of their family/get less attention
Teen, 14 years old Written byBRgirl November 22, 2017


I loved this book! It shows how your life can derail based on the actions of one person. Sydney, the main character, forms great friendships and a nice relation... Continue reading

What's the story?

Sydney has always felt overshadowed by her charismatic but troubled big brother. After he’s imprisoned for injuring a boy while driving drunk, she feels more invisible than ever: Her mom is obsessively focused on him, and Sydney’s expected to fall in step. She seeks anonymity and a fresh start by enrolling in the public high school. Before long, she's pulled into the orbit of the Chatham family: lively, welcoming Layla is soon her best friend, and Layla's quiet brother, Mac, and their friends make her part of their circle. Sydney takes solace from her time with the Chathams, especially their mother, whose health is failing. When her own mother finally takes notice of her, Sydney fears her carefully built world will fall apart.

Is it any good?

Sydney, the likable, relatable heroine of this well-crafted romance, is a perfect example of how complicated life can be even when you try to make the right choices and be a good friend and daughter. Prolific author Sarah Dessen can always be counted on for nuanced characters and naturally unfolding plots. She's at her best in SAINT ANYTHING: The opening is high drama, but then Dessen settles into a comfortably paced, intimate story of a teen trying to find her place in her family and among her friends. The core teenage characters soon feel like familiar friends. Both maternal figures are simplistic characterizations, though their roles -- sage-sounding board and controlling disciplinarian -- will resonate with teens.

The rippling effects of alcohol and drug use are treated subtly but firmly. Dessen is less careful with a story line involving a sexual predator: The victim is dismissive of counseling and, without explanation, decides not to press charges. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the depiction of alcohol and drug use in Saint Anything. Do you think it's realistic? 

  • Why are Sarah Dessen's books so appealing to teens? Do you see this as a romance or a coming-of-age story?

  • How would you handle the creepy presence of Ames? Whom would you bring your concerns to?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories and romance

Themes & Topics

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