Monday, June 02, 2014

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

It's easiest to describe Maggie Stiefvater's SINNER as a story about sharp-edged love. A story about the wolves who live in our heads and hearts let loose in the fantasy that is Los Angeles. It’s a song of summer and being in love and running from the fall; it sounds like Overdose by LittleDaylight, Prime by Allie X, and Pompeii by Bastille.

Well, actually, it sounds most like this.

I fell in love with SINNER when I read its opening line of “I am a werewolf in L.A.” Ok, that’s not entirely true. I have loved SINNER through the playlist that is its pulse from before I even knew what this book was.

Now that I’m finished reading and can talk about it? SINNER is everything I wanted. It is funny, and smart, and sexy, and in places devastatingly honest. It knows how to put on a show, and it doesn’t feel it has to play nice with your expectations. It has music and cars and kissing and LA sunsets.

Maybe you know Cole St. Clair and Isabel Culpeper from Stiefvater’s previous trilogy of Shiver, Linger, and Forever. Cole and Isabel are two complicated people with an equally complicated relationship. But you don't need to know them to read SINNER. You'll meet them again, and watch their struggle to maintain that relationship when neither of them believe themselves easy people to love.

But SINNER is more than just the love story of Cole and Isabel. It's about the love the people in their lives have for them, whether they see/understand/appreciate it or not. It is the ever-present devotion of Sofia to Isabel. The steady quiet Leon offers to Cole. The way Jeremy knows when to make peace and when to stand aside. How the connections people make result in them being better than they would've been alone.

It's also about loving a place even if it's not always easy to live there. SINNER captured Los Angeles—not only in tactile details—it has the intangible sense of being these people in that city. The hopeful and the hopeless; all their maniac highs and their desperate lows.

At the frantic, racing heart of this magnificent book is a story about addiction to people and places and things. Walking that razor edge between love and obsession. But it is also a story about being more than just the wanting. And I adored every page of it, even the ones that cut as I held them.

I wish I could’ve given this book to a younger me, oscillating between anger and joy and sadness and hope in that city of sinners while most of the people she knew were building their lives somewhere else. I wish she could've read what Isabel says about making connections in LA and felt understood. Maybe she would've made more of an effort to make connections sooner. Maybe.

I know you will not read the same book I read when you read SINNER, because you are not me. But if you are also someone who needs this book, I hope it finds you. I hope it helps you feel understood, too.

While I do not want to spoil anything for you, SINNER is one of the few books that is honest about how the biggest epiphanies we have are often over simple things. Those realizations irrevocably change us, but they don't radically alter the world around us.

There are so many in SINNER. I want to mention this one: We are not always who we think we are; we are not who everyone else thinks we are, and we are not only that constantly shifting space between the two where we keep the parts of ourselves we don't want to acknowledge or are afraid to share.

Knowing this doesn't stop love from being difficult for some of us—but it makes it so you understand the struggle is worth it. Even sharp-edged things have a way to hold them; you just have to want to learn how.

1 comment:

Rachel V. Olivier said...

That sounds like a good book.