Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “When We Were Saints” as Want to Read:
When We Were Saints
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

When We Were Saints

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  223 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Archibald Caswell could never please his domineering granddaddy Silas. Now with Granddaddy gone, Archie finds himself lost, confused, and wondering what his grandfather could have possibly meant by his dying words: "Young man, you are a saint!"

Clare Simpson knows exactly what Silas meant. She convinces Archie to dedicate his life to God, give up his possessions, steal his...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published October 1st 2003)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about When We Were Saints, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about When We Were Saints

Twilight by Stephenie MeyerThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsWith Good Behavior by Jennifer LaneExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran FoerSchindler's List by Thomas Keneally
Hand and Glove
38th out of 519 books — 94 voters
Salvaged by Stefne MillerRebels by Accident by Patricia DunnArana's Visitor by Julie RollinsVashua's Messenger by Julie RollinsBlackwell's Wrath by Julie Rollins
YA Spiritual & Religious Novels
40th out of 176 books — 99 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 457)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books)
When We Were Saints is the story of Archibald Lee Caswell, your everyday, average 14 year old boy, who goes on a pilgrimage to become a saint. Archie’s life drastically changes the day his grandfather Silas, an old prophet, dies and tells Archie he is a saint. The day of the funeral, a young girl comes up to Archie and hands him a card that basically says the same thing. Clare Simpson, the girl from the funeral is a very religious 15 year old who convinces Archie that he truly is saintly and tha...more
Drew Nevitt
I initially hated this book, and still hate the entire second third. But it really is a good book for anyone religious to read. And probably only ammo for someone non-religious. The point of the book is to say that zeal and passion is great, but some people with both can be real charmers, and ser the ground for cultism. It's a warning. At first you feel like it's a born-again work, meant to baptize you. It seems like that for most of it. There is one sober part halfway through when you feel clar...more
Kenzie Keppner
Yeah... I don't quite know what to think about this book. It was very interesting and really made me think. I believed that Clare was a really holy person, however there was a bit of crazy in there as well. I was amazed because it really did seem like she god was providing everything for her. I mean meeting Irving? That kind of blew my mind. I felt like Archie, who was following her because she really was holy and god was on her side. God did love her and I really started wondering if she was a...more
This book is amazing and will blow your mind. It makes you question your beliefs. It makes you ask if you really believe what you believe and how committed you are to what you believe. How far are you willing to go for your faith?

The two main characters, Archie and Clare push the limits of faith and devotion. But does Clare have absolute faith? Does God really speak with her? Or is she crazy? But then what is so crazy about her actions if she really is talking with God?

This book will take you on...more
Amy Bethke
This book weirded me out on so many levels. I still can't decide if Clare was crazy or not, and honestly I don't think it matters because crazy or not she was able to manipulate Archie and he believed her. Her affect on the people around her and her ability to make them feel seemed genuine, but then who knows. Internally, this book shook me around, but that is why I do like it. In the end I don't know if Clare is better or worse, yet there is that one moment where you see a glimpse of hope for t...more
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. Archie is a 14-year-old who is being raised by his grandparents since his parents' tragic deaths when he was young. His grandfather dies and Archie blames himself, but his grandfather's last words to Archie are, "You are a saint." While trying to figure out why he would have said this,and while dealing with his grandmother's declining health, Archie meets Clare, who believes herself to be called by God to be a saint, and takes Archie along with her on thi...more
I was searching really hard while reading this book for something that would really catch my interest, but I neared the last pages and never found it. The whole time I was reading it, I was getting annoyed at the fact that the same thing kept happening over and over again. Archie would follow Clare, then he would change his mind and realize that she perhaps didn't know what she was doing and he would change his mind, but then a few lines later he would be following her again. This happened so ma...more
Michelle Starrs
Oh man. Get ready to freak and and possible re-examine what it means to be a person of faith.
We follow Archibald and post trauma-inducing-death-of-grandfather. Archibald blames himself for his grandfathers death. With his last breath he calls Archibald a Saint. Not knowing what to do with this message and being a very easy to sway, Archibald grabs on to the strange ideas of Clare. Clare is a girl from town with severe dedication to her faith. She and Archibald will literally pray for hours, say...more
Jul 09, 2012 Erin rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: ya-lit
Weird. Clare reminded me of that woman who went on the vitamin D diet thinking that she could survive off of sunlight. Well, she died. Shocker. Glad that Archie got a backbone before that happened. In Clare's search for sainthood, I think she did have some good, cogent points, but she also most definitely had mental issues. It bothered me that Archie just followed her, but that's who he was, a follower. He struggle at the end, while bothersome, makes sense for a 14-year old. When I was young (wa...more
Louisa George
I liked how the book ended. Because this book brought about confusing, extreme spiritual circumstances (and because it was introducing this to a teen audience) I was glad that at the end of the novel it concluded in a non-confusing way and left the reader with little phrases of truth to hold on to and feel good about. I really think this is an excellent book for blowing teen's minds about religion and God and faith. It didn't shake my beliefs too much, maybe because I wasn't fighting with myself...more
Cami Beath
When We Were Saints
By Han Nolan

I was lucky enough to have an entire afternoon to devote to this book. I HATED having to put it down! i wanted to just go and go and go. I kept trying to figure out what was really going on, I was sure there would be a killer twist. In fact, in most of my theories Clare really was a killer. Even though I was WAY off, this book definitely filled my mystery need. I loved trying to read into all the little “clues” and try to create a reason for everything in my head....more
Well, this book started out wonderfully... not! Boys attempting to make alcohol and a grandfather dying right after he catches them... I wondered what else this book had in store. I was disappointed with the rest of this book. I guess I really didn't see any point in reading it; it wasn't a great novel and there wasn't any thought provoking idea held within its pages. It was just a book about two teens who believe they are saints. That's how I see it. I would not really recommend this book to an...more
Cory Hernandez
Wow. This pretty sums up what this book is. I wouldn't say that I loved it, but I would say that I liked it. It's a book that really made me think about my life and what I believe in. It posed questions to me such as "Am I crazy for what I believe? Can I be crazy and still be respected for what I believe? How far is too far with religion?" These three questions are just a few to the many that came up when I read the book. Even though I didn't particularly like the characters very much and I thou...more
I don't know where to even begin. The author pushed the story farther than I thought possible. The plot kept taking unexpected turns and of the worst kind. Throughout the entire book I wanted to knock sense into Archie. Scream at him to think for himself for once, that he was a follower, and needed to wake up and meet reality! Worst, by the time he realizes what is happening, it seems too late....

When We Were Saints is a brilliant piece of writing. I'd put this novel as a psychological thriller...more
This book frustrated me. Claire was slightly annoying because she never worried about actually DOING anything about her faith. True, her faith must have been pretty strong, but her works were few. Alright, maybe that isn't completely accurate because she DID do a lot of good for others by simply lightening them up a bit and encouraging them to do the things they wished they did or wished that they could return to. I guess the part that frustrated me most was that Archie would simply follow her w...more
This book really didn’t rock my world like I thought it was going to. I thought it was an interesting read for me, but what really got me was that this was a young adult book. I completely respect young adult readers but I just know that if I had read these religiously fanatic ideas when I was a teenager it probably would have rocked my world a little bit. I just don’t think I’d want my new-testimony adolescent to be reading about religiously fanatic teenagers and get an idea that that is righte...more
Bethany Eliason
Ever since I have read this book, I have really tried to love it, but I cannot get passed the character of Claire. She messes with my brain because I don't know if she is some deceived, crazy person or this person who is divinely inspired or a little bit of both. And I don't like not knowing that. I hate it actually. I hate her, but I also feel sorry for her because she does not see all the love that she has surrounding her everyday.

I loved Archie though. His growth throughout the book was amaz...more
Mar 10, 2009 Preeti rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: ya
Being a YA book, it's a fairly easy read; I finished in a few hours. I picked up the book because it was religiously themed. I didn't see the cover illustration of stigmata until I actually sat down to read it. I remember watching the movie Stigmata and having been intrigued by the concept ever since.

The book makes you think about a lot of different things. For me, it made me question beliefs, perceptions, and the power of being able to "read" people simply through body language and their action...more
I was very frustrated throughout reading this entire book. I wasn't grabbed and sucked in immediately like I expected to be and then when I was sucked in I was frustrated with Clare. I wanted her to listen to Archie. At times I was a little creeped out by what was happening, especially when Clare acquired the marks of Christ (I can't remember what they were called).

I felt the ending made up for all those frustrations. I was a fantastic ending and I was left with a stunned look on my face. It ac...more
I honestly don't know where to begin. First of all, (without going into detail) I am very glad that my faith was greatly tested and that I figured some things out about myself and my beliefs before I read this book. This book is fascinating and addicting but very emotional at the same time. It will make you question a lot of your beliefs and feelings and take you out of your comfort zone and reconsider your decisions. There were many times when I felt like I completely understood Clare and Archi...more
Aubrey Smith
ohhhh this book. SO interesting and strange. Being religious, it definitely made me think about how I am portrayed or things I might do that seem "weird". This book was about a boy named Archie and a girl named Clare who were on their way to becoming saints. They believed that they were going to be like the Saint Clare and Saint Francis. The author does such a good job of keeping Clare right on the line of being nuts. The whole time you wonder if she has gone bonkers, or if she really is being l...more
Jana Merrill, this book was crazy. I can't decided if Clare was bonkers or if she really was seeing Christ. I really wanted Clare to be possessed by the Devil instead of Christ because there were so many things that I could see was the Devil leading her astray, but I'm not to sure I could just be reaching. But, this book did bring up a lot of cool ideas that I am really excited to discuss with other people.


Violence: 3- There are some violent things that happen, like the protagonist fights to...more
Dec 12, 2011 Jenalyn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who is interested in religion and questions of faith
Recommended to Jenalyn by: Pksoper
Shelves: young-adult, religion
Wow. This book was kind of creepy, but in a good way. It really made me think about my faith and what I really believe. And I'm still not entirely sure whether Clare was inspired or crazy or both. I'm kind of leaning towards both. Talk about your complex characters. I have to say, though, that while I was reading it, I couldn't help thinking that Clare reminded me of Brian David Mitchell (the guy who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart because he thought he was a prophet and needed more wives. He called h...more
David Schultz
This was a weird book that consisted of a young girl who believes she is a saint. And, after the death of his grandfather, Archie is also convinced by this girl, Clare, that he is a saint as well. It is so strange because her religious fervor could be extreme enough for her to be considered crazy by her peers and she is considered crazy by her mother, who puts her in a hospital.

The book is an endearing story about what it means to be young and how dealing with tragedy affects people.

violence- 2
This book was a first for me. I'm not really sure what that first was but I felt strange while reading it. I may have even been somewhat disturbed? But disturbed in a good way, reading this book was like someone dragging me outside of my comfort zone. So I give it my average rating of three stars. I don't know if I would recommend this to my little sister because I fear that she might become some religious zealot and that thought kind of scares me.

Rating (1=low 5=high)

Religion 5+

The only other...more
Quinton Cole
wow. i didn't think that this book would be so intense. i really thought that this book was strange at first, well throughout, but it hits religion and faith right on the head and tries to wake us up to the reality that we really do push away the supernatural and spiritual because it seems weird and uncommon like its superstitious or impossible. and cast out any example of something we don't understand as fictional or mental problems, but who is to say this except those who experienced it. what...more
David  Despain
This was a novel that raised some interesting questions about religion. I found it a bit, and I had to push my way through it. The ideas are interesting to consider and discuss, but I did not enjoy this book as much as others. That said, it did have a lot going for it. The character Clare definitely made me consider my own faith. I related to her in some very personal ways, and yet I also related to Archie. Both characters spoke to different aspects of my personality.

Violence: Teenager beats up...more
I have heard from many people how this book really changed their lives and perspective on religion in general, but, if I am completely honest, I did not feel that at all. The story is about two teens who convince themselves that God has called them to become saints and so they begin living in voluntary poverty, practically starve themselves to death, and run away on a "pilgrimage" to New York City. Were there nuggets of wisdom to be found in this book? Absolutely, but it was not life-changing fo...more
Vera Chen
This book was very thought provoking. It definitely made me think about my own religion and how I view it and what I am willing to do for it compared to Claire and what she has done and was willing to do for her beliefs, because it seemed as if she truly believed what she was saying. In class we talked about whether or not Claire was crazy because of what she believed and her actions regarding them. However I can see in my religion people believing with the same intensity that Claire has, so the...more
Brittney Osterhout
I don't know what it was about this book but I did not like it and I had a really hard time finishing it. Maybe I didn't really understand what was going but these kids were a bit strange for my liking. I loved that one of the characters was able to discover who they are and make peaces with things that happened in their life but it was still a very weird book. I was also very disappointed in the end of the book. I expected a totally different ending. I just want to forget about this book.

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 15 16 next »
  • Crossing Stones
  • The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn
  • Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don't
  • Dark Dude
  • Zigzag
  • Vlad the Impaler: The Real Count Dracula
  • Boost
  • Ghosty Men: The Strange but True Story of the Collyer Brothers, New York's Greatest Hoarders: An Urban Historical
  • The Adventures of Blue Avenger (Blue Avenger, #1)
  • Smith
  • The Dutch Shoe Mystery
  • Bird
  • Sexy
  • The Alpine Christmas (Emma Lord Mystery, #3)
  • Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case
  • Not the End of the World
  • Well-Offed in Vermont (Pret’ Near Perfect Mystery #1)
  • Hothouse
Han Nolan is widely acclaimed for her evocative language, her gritty subject matter, and her ability to plumb the psyche of her characters. Her books include Dancing on the Edge, which won the National Book Award, Send Me own a Miracle, a finalist for the National Book Award, Born Blue, A Summer of Kings, and several other acclaimed novels. She and her husband live on the East Coast.
More about Han Nolan...
If I Should Die Before I Wake Crazy Born Blue Pregnant Pause Dancing on the Edge

Share This Book