Book Reviews

[review] Sinner – Maggie Stiefvater

sinner maggie stiefvater coverRelease Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 357
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy.

Everybody thinks they know Cole’s story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole’s darkest secret — his ability to shift into a wolf.

One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel’s life. Can this sinner be saved?

SPOILERS BELOW: Read at your own risk!

Tell Me More: I’d almost forgotten what it was like to speed through a novel because there was no other alternative. Despite not having read past the first novel in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Sinner pulled me in so quickly that long after reading it, I’m still dazed from the experience.

Sinner is a dare, a challenge, and it doesn’t have any qualms about letting you see that. Cole St. Clair is not the kind of character that instantly inspires sympathy, and he knows it. He is just as prickly as the girl he loves, with more sardonic wit than is probably necessary. But when he feels emotion? Readers will be hard-pressed to ignore his honesty. The end of the prologue alone is a punch to the gut, and a pretty brave declaration:

If we make it through this alive, I’m going to tell you the truth of why. And this time, you had better believe me.

I came back for you, Isabel.

He might be back for her, but whether that matters or not is still up to Isabel Culpeper.

And third: he had seen me cry. I didn’t know if I could live with that.

That line was the exact moment I knew I liked Isabel, and understood her more than I’d expected to. Like Cole, she isn’t an easy character to know, but her walls are familiar ones to me, and I could see the scratches where she’s tried to scale them before.

Few references are made to the paranormal aspect of the series, and it’s a good decision for the story, which at times seems to function more as a character study than a five-act story. Cole’s real attitude is placed in direct contrast with what the world wants to believe he’s capable of in a reality show. He picks it apart in his head, seeing exactly what is expected of him, and always managing to twist it enough to push back against his handlers. Isabel is an open flame in a rusted candle holder. Even when she sees the ugliness of the world, there is something in her that can’t quite dismiss it completely, a hope that calls to that same quality in Cole.

Los Angeles is an excellent parallel for both Cole and Isabel. It’s exactly the kind of city that could bring out both the best and worst in them, and highlight how they compliment each other. Their interactions bubble over with tension and an undeniable attraction, even if they’re only communicating through text messages. It’s easy to see that their pull on each other isn’t a tenuous thread, but a tightly knotted rope. Despite that, Stiefvater’s writing doesn’t assure readers that a happy ending is imminent.

What was I with the kindness scrubbed from the record?

Eyeliner in a white dress.

We were so little, when you took away all our sins.

I could continue to quote this novel ad nauseum, but it would only serve to further drive home how well Stiefvater draws her characters. They don’t profess to solve every problem or conquer every issue. There are cigarette burns on their hearts, and maybe they’ll never heal completely, but Isabel and Cole have each other as a balm, a connection that remains more firm than most other things in their lives.  

The Final Say:  Sinner is a novel of small explosions and craters left behind, and the one person that might just be willing to sit in those craters with you through the night.


maggie stiefvaterAbout Maggie

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader.

All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, two neurotic dogs, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.

Add Sinner on Goodreads | Follow Maggie on Twitter @mstiefvater | Visit Maggie’s website

Order Sinner from Book Depository | Chapters

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