All the Crooked Saints

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
All the Crooked Saints Book Poster Image
Lovely, lyrical family story explores miracles and music.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about the early history of rock 'n' roll, how powerful DJs were, and various songs that were popular and evocative from the late '50s and early '60s. Readers will also learn a bit about radio engineering, economic conditions in Texas in the 1950s and '60s, and the way magical realism works.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about forgiveness, faith, family, and redemption. Be true to yourself. Don't let shame, guilt, or anger weigh you down.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most of the main characters are role models in some way or other: Beatriz is brilliant, quiet, observant, and strong-willed, but she's also willing to recognize that she has more feelings/emotions than she imagined. Joaquin is ambitious and generous. Daniel is selfless, kind, and loving. Pete is hard-working, sweet, and understanding. Each character has flaws (and darkness), but with time and self-reflection, most of the characters can reach an altered and enlightened state where they can move on and be their true selves without the shame, guilt, anger, lust, etc. that weighs them down.

Violence

Descriptions of how characters (pilgrims and saints) have died in the past, including being turned to wood. A character is struck by lightning but survives. A character goes blind and seems to have died.

Sex

A couple of kisses, longing looks, and declarations of love.

Language

Infrequent use of "s--t," "damn," "goddamn," "hell," "ass," "Jesus Christ," etc.

Consumerism

Dodge, Mercury.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few adult characters drink and smoke cigarettes. One character smokes marijuana and has extra in his possession.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that All the Crooked Saints is a stand-alone magical realism novel from best-selling author Maggie Stiefvater. Set in Colorado and following a Mexican-American family with supernatural abilities to perform miracles, the book, like all of Stiefvater's novels, mixes reality with the supernatural. A period tale about family, love, and redemption, it doesn't have much strong language (especially compared to the Raven Boys quartet), violence (references to death and the appearance of a major character's demise), or sex. Although there's a lot of romance, there are only a few actual kisses in the story. The main characters are mostly Mexican-American, and there's plenty to discuss after reading, from the history of rock 'n' roll to the redemptive power of love.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byChnelson March 12, 2018

A little folklore and Spanish language

As a foreign language educator, I look for books that will sneak in learning as my students are having fun reading. This one does a good job, but was hard to g... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMelanie.luvstoread22 January 7, 2018

This is a passionate, amazing story (read this review, even though it is long!! it's helpful i promise!!)

This story is full of love, sacrifice, and compassion. It is full of good, and evil. I LOVED this book. It is a complicated concept, so readers should be at lea... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bythePrettyDead February 6, 2018

What's the story?

In ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS, the titular saints are the Soria family, who live in the tiny San Luis Valley desert town of Bicho Raro, Colorado, and can perform miracles for a steady stream of pilgrims who visit them. Every generation of Sorias has a main saint, and in 1962 the saint is 20-year-old Daniel, whose best friends are his cousins Beatriz, 18, and Joaquin, 16. Together, the three of them broadcast a pirate radio show from a truck that brilliant Beatriz has tricked out. When pilgrims visit Bicho Raro, a saint helps them by performing one miracle, which rids them of darkness (whether its shame, greed and guilt, or something worse), which becomes manifest in some way. It's up to the pilgrims to perform the second miracle, but until that happens, the Sorias and the pilgrims can't interact without great harm to the family. Into this supernatural village enters young and earnest Pete, who hopes to barter work for a truck, and Tony, a famous DJ from back East in need of a miracle. Things get complicated when Daniel reveals he's in love with a pilgrim (strictly against the rules) and disappears into the desert.

Is it any good?

Lyrical and evocative, this period magical-realism novel follows a Mexican-American family of saints and the pilgrims they transform with miracles. Like author Maggie Stiefvater's previous settings of Mercy Falls, Thisby, and Henrietta, Bicho Raro and its surrounding desert come alive in the story. As with all of her locales, there's a deep, rich history to the Soria family's home, and through Pete, readers will feel the deep connection to the supernatural surroundings, the cousins, and the various pilgrims waiting for their second miracles. Each of the main characters in All the Crooked Saints has his or her own story arc and point of view, but it's really Pete and the trio of young Sorias -- Beatriz, Joaquin, and Daniel -- who drive the action and provide the most insight on the journey of saints and pilgrims.

There's a lot for readers to unpack as the historical fiction blends several themes with the reality of rock 'n' roll's early days, back when the radio DJ was king. The Soria cousins' illegal radio broadcasts are alternately funny and touching, with mentions of songs and artists teens may never have heard of (with the exception of Elvis Presley), but that's part of the appeal. This isn't a quick read. The language and story take time to savor and understand. For example, some of the pilgrims' darkness is easy to interpret -- a priest with a coyote head is obviously dealing with a predatory, ugly side to himself; while twins bound by a two-headed snake must learn to be truthful and work together. Other pilgrims (and the saints too) aren't as easy to figure out, and the romance is beautifully understated, like Puck and Sean's in The Scorpio Races. This is a book that demands a close reading, and it's refreshingly different from the author's previous paranormal series.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how All the Crooked Saints compares with Maggie Stiefvater's other best-sellers. Do you prefer her stand-alones like this one and The Scorpio Races, or her series?

  • This book is primarily about Mexican-American characters, but the author is not Mexican or Latino. How does the author's identity affect a book's authenticity? Does it matter?

  • Talk about the various kinds of diversity in the novel. Why are diverse representations important in children's and young adult literature?

  • Who's a role model in All the Crooked Saints? What character strengths do they display?

Book details

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