Book Review: “Sinner” by Maggie Stiefvater

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July 1 is the release of Sinner, the highly anticipated companion novel to Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. If you haven’t read the trilogy, it’s a particularly fine specimen of supernatural romance (werewolf romance, to be specific)—and I don’t like supernatural romance. Sinner takes place in the same world as the trilogy, following two of the book’s characters, Cole and Isabel, as they try to find their way back to each other while living in LA, a far cry from Mercy Falls, Minnesota, where we saw them last.

Cole, the werewolf, has his condition under control using a serum he developed, only transforming into a wolf when he chooses to. He’s traveled to L.A. ostensibly to take part in a popular internet reality show chronicling the recording of his new album—his comeback to the music world after everyone thought he was dead when in reality he was really just…dealing with being a werewolf. But really he’s there to win Isabel back.

Isabel moved out to L.A. with her mother after her parents separated, cracks in their relationship made irreparable after Isabel’s brother, Jack, died. Her parents think he was killed by wolves, but Isabel knows that Jack was turned into a werewolf, then killed by testing out a cure for his condition. For them all, Mercy Falls holds dark memories, and there’s only one part of her time there Isabel doesn’t want to leave behind—Cole.

The background of the Mercy Falls trilogy is really only helpful if you’re dying to know how and why Isabel and Cole met in the first place—from there Sinner can stand on its own. The book is a compelling love story, and its greatest successes are in its characterization of Cole and Isabel.

We’ll tackle Cole first. What I love about him most is that even though he’s a werewolf, the book is not about him being a werewolf. Being a werewolf isn’t his main problem, it’s just another facet of his personality that he has to deal with as he tries to make good life choices. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read a supernatural YA book where the primary concern isn’t that the world is going to find out about the protagonist’s condition! (hint: it’s really refreshing!) Cole has struggled with substance abuse and self-destructive behavior in the past, and his escape into the mindlessness of being a wolf becomes an equally dangerous alternative to drugs and alcohol.

On top of all that, I loved Stiefvater’s vivid depictions of Cole’s re-entry into the world of rock music—her lively take on reality television, self-promotion in the age of social media, and, most of all, the presence of Cole’s bandmate Jeremy—are captivating all on their own. This book is a love story, but I may have enjoyed it just as much if it was just a novel about rock & roll.

Isabel, too, is a force to be reckoned with. She isn’t just “spunky” or “sassy” or any of those other generic words typically used to describe female protagonists who are anything but utterly kind and pliable. She’s mean, both to herself and to people who love her. She doesn’t know why she acts the way she does, but she still has a heart, she still falls in love, she’s still figuring out her life. It’s a fascinating character to read, and it’s an important person to be represented because those girls are out there! Maybe some of you reading this are that girl. Maybe we’re all that girl sometimes. It’s also a girl you don’t see too often in YA, and I loved reading about her.

Sinner is a love story, but it’s as much about Cole and Isabel dealing with themselves as dealing with each other. It’s got some of the most ambitious and rewarding character development in YA today, and I highly recommend picking up a copy if you’re looking for a good summer read.

You can order a signed copy of Sinner by visiting The Fountain Booksore’s website. If you order before July 1, you’ll get a custom book wrapper designed by Maggie on your autographed book!

Plus, you may want to check and see if Maggie is going to be on tour near you!


This review was written by Jessica J., MuggleNet Senior Staff. A review copy was provided by the publisher, Scholastic.