Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Having read a few Sarah Dessen’s novels, I can say that she does have a formula. Girl has a problematic past, nice guy comes and draws the girl out of her shell, girl falls for boy. Saint Anything is no different. However, that doesn’t make it a poor reading experience. Sydney has always lived in her older brother’s shadow, even more so now that a drunk driving conviction landed him in prison. With her parents completely focused on her brother, Sydney’s life is adrift until she meets the Chathams, Layla, Mac and their parents, at their family pizzeria. Sydney makes for a fairly good heroine. She has her flaws and fears, but she is getting by as best she can. It’s actually Sydney’s parents who are the hardest to read. Neither trusts Sydney after what happened with her brother. It is infuriating at times and led to some very predictable drama. Overall, I think the best way to describe this novel is adequate.
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Annabel Greene is alone. She’s been ostracized by her former best friend and the rest of the school has followed. Her family has some major issues that no one seems to want to address. Then Annabel meets Owen Armstrong, when they are both relegated to the fringes of the school lunch area. Owen isn’t perfect either, he’s got an anger management problem. But Owen’s unfailing honesty helps Annabel admit that she’s been lying to everyone, including herself about how to deal with the realities of her life. Although Annabel is the protagonist, I found some of the other characters to be more interesting. Annabel’s sister, Whitney, who is struggling with an eating disorder, felt more real to me. Also, despite his anger management trouble, Owen was always the voice of reason. This book deals with some important issues well and others not so well. It was worth the time spent reading it but could have been better.