I know I already did a post on Sarah Dessen’s books, but I couldn’t help myself from writing this one on her latest book, “Saint Anything.” It is so much different from her other books, and I had nothing else to do on my week without internet because…well, I didn’t have the internet (I should go figure my life out…). I did not expect this type of style, and Dessen might have wrote this due to circumstances in media now. This story sort of reminded me of the phrase “security.” How we all want it, no matter how brave we pretend to be. So movies like “Gone Girl” and books like “Paper Towns” are becoming extremely popular, appealing to a modern audience.
Before I delve straight into my usual book review, here’s a quick update on what I’m working on – I am still working on that book. You know the one I said I would finish LAST summer (sorry…). Well, I’ve had plenty of time to finish it and since I don’t leave for France until later this summer, I promise you I’ll release the preface by the end of the summer, meaning that my book’s rough draft should be done by then. I will hopefully do it right this time. I just realized how much work I have to do in addition to what I want to do, so we shall see.
1. Parenting involves equal and undivided attention. The first couple of chapters revolve around a hefty background story. Dessen’s strategy when doing this really emphasizes the main character, Sydney’s, point of view where she feels invisible. By spending the first few chapters talking about her brother, Peyton, from the first person perspective of Sydney, then you get a good sense as to how the main character not only perceives the world, but also herself. I can’t say their family is like any other family, because I don’t know what a “normal” family is. But I think it is safe to say that the reactions and interactions between characters and family roles are not what I expected.
When you first Google the word “family,” you will find a picture with a mother, a father, a son, and a daughter. I have an argument for another time as to why that this is the first thing that pops up, but nevertheless, this is the Stanford family. Yet, looks can be deceiving. Sydney’s older brother, Peyton, is a delinquent, spending time in jail during her high school career for drunk driving and paralyzing a young boy. Questions of morality arise as Sydney feels remorse and empathy for the young boy…more than she does for her own brother. Like her, her father feels the same way, thinking that Peyton deserves to serve his time in jail, yet he is quiet and refuses to argue with the alpha dog of the household – the mother. Despite the crime that her son has committed, the mother spends the entirety of the novel trying to justify his actions, blaming the system for putting him in jail rather than taking responsibility for the problems.
With this, her father is rarely home and her mother spends all her time talking to Peyton or the jail cell he is contained in. While all this is happening, Sydney is going through high school without a family, basically. Not only that, but she is emotionally and physically harassed by someone her mother trusts, which strips Sydney of a voice since she isn’t as outspoken as she’d like to be.
This questions parental roles nowadays. The reason why we try to justify the actions of those closest to us is…well, because they’re close to us. We want that sense of security. And nobody wants to take responsibility for anything willingly. Responsibility is a taught and learned trait; you cannot be born with it. To do the “right” thing is hard. So when parents are focusing all their attention on trying to justify the actions of their children, they may be trying to comfort themselves, trying to relieve the responsibility of raising a criminal off their shoulders when that actually does absolutely nothing. If you have multiple kids, you need to pay attention to ALL of them or they’re going to end up depressed, alone, and feeling unloved. That’s why middle child syndrome is a thing.
2. It is easy to be overshadowed. Peyton has the biggest role in the family because he’s done the most things (not necessarily good). So with that Sydney is overshadowed by her own brother. But that doesn’t mean you should feel invisible. The entirety of the book is her making it seem like she’s invisible, when in fact, she’s not to some people (which is why she starts dating a guy). Actually, a lot of people notice you. Maybe the most important people to you don’t, like your own mother, but the minute you feel invisible is the minute you stop noticing yourself. When you become too The line between what is selfish and what is selfless becomes a little blurry. We have to make certain choices for the betterment of ourselves, or we’ll be living a sad life. Should you sacrifice your well-being for somebody else’s? Maybe, but what’s the extent to that? Then, comes the questions of morals: where do they lie in this equation? How much are you willing to give up to be visible, to be seen?
3. We all need a security blanket. In my bucket list, I stated that you should “lose the security blanket” this summer. Or at least try to. However, even though we should lose the security blanket, we should all have some feeling of safety; it’s a matter of how thick that blanket is. We try to use confidence to overcome this (like overcoming fears), but there is so much more to that. I’m only figuring that out now.
Security blankets, like the one Linus holds, are not the types we need. We need confidence in life, but that’s not countered to security. It’s possible to be secure and unconfident: it’s called being dependent the rest of your life. But, it’s also possible to be secure AND confident, which allows us to go out and be…ourselves.
If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you might wonder why I’m all for this “independent woman” stuff. Well, here’s my reason: it’s the best way to achieve YOUR dream. Not the dream of being married or having kids, because that’s not the dream, but rather is more of a future that is strongly likely to happen since it’s part of human nature to reproduce. What you want to do is not the exact same as another person. And that’s what makes you unique. It’s okay to be tied down a little, but it’s not okay to be tied down to the point where you put everything else before your dream. Saying that by raising your children in place of achieving your dream is going to allow them to achieve their dreams isn’t an excuse; that’s what your parents did for you. If you keep doing that, it’s just going to be a cycle for each generation. You can accomplish both simultaneously, however. Not everything has to be in a timely order.
So, yes, lose the security blanket, but still retain security. Some sense of safety. Have that “Saint Anything” or whatever hanging around to make you feel safe. But your safety nest isn’t inside a dark cave: it’s out there in the open and you can go out there and find how you want to spend your life while still feeling secure.
4. There is someone who or something that will always be with you. Do something to make yourself feel less lonely, because you don’t have to be. This goes with having some sense of security, but focuses more on the confidence part. Go out there. If you’re an emo child, go find another emo child to cry about the world with. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE ALONE (despite what you think you want). It’s okay to have “alone time,” but that’s not a life time.
And why do I say this? Because it’s partially true. Even if you do want to be alone 99% of your life (which is totally fine, I am not telling you that you’re wrong), there is that 1% of the time when you will desperately want to rant your problems to someone who is something other than the air. Take that chance. However, you can’t just go up to some random person you feel comfortable with and rant: you have to give back in return. Balance. Tell them your stories, both happy and sad. Listen to theirs. And you can choose when you want to be around others. It’s not an insult to want to have time to think alone.
5. I need to go take a relationship abuse class. And learn some (as Ross from “Friends” says) ka-ra-tay. Unlike me, the main character in this story is shy, a little scared to tell others how she feels or what truly is going on with her life. So, of course, when she put up with getting harassed by this older guy who her mother loved and was best friends with her brother, I was thinking, “That would never happen to me.” I would be the friend who sleeps in front of the unlocked door, protecting her. Or at least stand up when he first makes a move. Tell my mother that he can’t sleep in the house because he makes me feel unsafe.
But, then I thought, “Would I really…?” I mean, you can say it’s all mental when women don’t tell others about abuse…but it’s so much more than that. Shy or not, I don’t think I would have had the courage to even slap this guy in the face. I may not even tell my boyfriend about him because I’d be scared of what’s going to happen if I do. I don’t want to hurt anyone, good or bad.
Right now, I’m still looking the answer to the question as to why women don’t tell others about abuse. The fact that I spent all of last semester studying relationship abuse helped, but only in sociological terms: I’m not even sure if my facts are accurate. They’re just things that women tell people (which may not always be true, for anyone) or psychiatric hypotheses. It’s true that women do feel harassed, and it doesn’t have to be physical. Having a guy breathe heavily on your neck is torture when you don’t even have the courage to elbow him in the gut.
So, yes, I do want to take a defense class, as soon as possible. Because that’s the only way I really know how to deal with the question, at the moment. Thanks, Sarah Dessen, for opening my eyes.
I’m not sure if that entire post was like my other book reviews, but I will definitely say that it was still a book review. I didn’t want to touch too much on the plot because that would be MAJOR SPOILER ALERTS (plus this is a book that I’d want to keep the suspense alive for you), so I highlighted the themes instead.