Review of “Sinner” by Maggie Stiefvater

I am one of those people who totally loved the “Shiver” series by Maggie Stiefvater and was sad that she repeatedly claimed to be done with the characters. She creates characters you love, and you don’t want them to be out of your life. So imagine my joy when I discovered she backpedaled, and took a break from writing the “Raven Boys” series to sneak in a book on Cole and Isabel.


Cole St. Clair is a rock star, lead singer of the band Narkotika. Two years earlier he had passed out during a concert and went missing. In truth, he would have died, had he not been made a werewolf. And it was because he was a werewolf that he met Isabel, whose brother became a werewolf and died trying to stop being one.

Isabel went back from Minnesota to the L.A. area, and now Cole has just signed a deal to go to L.A. as well, to make a comeback via starring on a reality show. He misses music, and wants to play again, but what he really wants is to be with Isabel:

“Isabel was the real thing. She was the song.”

Isabel and Cole both realize they are the only ones that really know each other. For every one else, they each put up a facade. Even Jeremy, Cole’s close friend and the former bass player for Narkotika, doesn’t know all Cole’s secrets like Isabel does. But Isabel is afraid. Her parents have taught her that love is quixotic and “happy ever after” is chimerical. She asks Cole:

“‘What do you want from me?’

‘I told you,’ he said. ‘Dinner. Dessert. Sex. Life.’”

But what Isabel thinks is:

“And here is what I was most afraid of: that Cole St. Clair would fall in love with me, and I’d fall in love with him, both of us human weapons, and we’d both end up with broken hearts.”

In spite of Cole’s persistence with Isabel, he is afraid too. His parents just seem tired, and weary of life. He doesn’t want to end up like that. But in running from that specter, he has gone too far, too fast, and lost touch with himself along the way.

Yet Isabel (and only she) knows what is inside of him:

“How ridiculous to reduce Cole to his mess and his loudness, to be so furious with him that I erased the other true parts.”

At one point, Cole presses his forehead against Isabel’s and she holds his face and they stay like that for a while. She thinks:

“It was so much us and so little him and me. Us, us, us. The opposite of lonely was this.”

So what, if anything, can convince them to overcome their fears and take a chance on each other? Isabel asks her uncle why his marriage didn’t work out, and he inadvertently provides her with the epiphany she needs, to decide one way or the other.

Discussion: Stiefvater’s writing is so richly evocative. Listen to her clever description of Cole’s first view of L.A. from the airport:

“…craning my head to look out the deeply tinted window. View out the left: blinding-white cars. View out the right: fossil-fuel-black cars. Mostly Mercedes with a chance of Audis.”

And her knack for penning romantic dialogue is one of the best in the YA world, in my opinion. She doesn’t need to add explicit sex scenes – she manages to make her romance powerful and poetic all at once.

Even the epigraph she chose for this book is perfect:

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell. Edna St. Vincent Millay, Letters.”

Evaluation: If you are one of those people who did not get into the “Shiver” books because you saw they were about werewolves, you may want to try this one, because there is very little werewolf involvement here. Besides, Maggie Stiefvater is so enormously talented at story telling, it’s worth taking a chance you might encounter the presence of an occasional dog (as Cole calls himself) . . . .

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: This book can be read as a standalone.

Published by Scholastic Press, 2014

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4 Responses to Review of “Sinner” by Maggie Stiefvater

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I so appreciate Stiefvater’s talent but I’ve always been afraid her books are too supernatural for me. I’ve been wanting to try one, though, and it sounds like this one might be a good fit for me.

  2. April Wood says:

    People either love this Author, or can’t stand her! I’m somewhere in between. 🙂
    Great review!

  3. sandynawrot says:

    Well, everything I’ve read of hers I’ve loved. I’ve had this series loaded on my iPod forever, but have put the whole thing off because of werewolves. Ugh. But I guess I ‘ve got to trust her talent to pull me through…

  4. Yay to this book! I’m not a fan of the Shiver books, but I liked Sinner a lot and reread it thrice. I’ve been going back and forth a lot about whether I want to buy it now, in hardback, or wait to see whether the paperback will have a prettier cover. (I’m not wild about this cover.)

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