A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sinner is a stand-alone companion book to Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver trilogy, but, instead of focusing on that series' central couple, Sam and Grace, it follows former rock star (and werewolf) Cole and emotionally fragile beauty Isabel. A story of love and friendship in Los Angeles, Sinner contains mature references to recovering addict Cole's sex-drugs-and-rock-'n'-roll past, as well as his ongoing impulses to score. There are underage characters who drink and young adults (their age is unclear) who smoke pot, take ecstasy, and drink to excess. Some of the characters occasionally use strong language, and the entire story is permeated by the red-hot chemistry between the main characters. One scene features some topless groupies, and a single woman nearly has sex with a married man, but there's only one actual love scene in the book, and it's tastefully described with an emphasis on the couple's emotions, not the act itself. Readers who are fans of Stiefvater's books will love her return to the Mercy Falls universe's most compelling secondary characters.
What's the story?
SINNER takes place six months after the events of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series conclusion, Forever. Beautiful ice queen Isabel Culpepper has moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles, where she works in a trendy boutique and lives with her separated mother, divorced aunt, and shy younger cousin Sophia. Sometime werewolf and former rock star Cole St. Clair also has fled Minnesota for Los Angeles -- to appear on a reality Web show, record an album, and woo Isabel. A recovering addict, Cole is faced with temptation while trying to start a new, happier life with Isabel, who's wary of loving someone with such a sordid past, especially as she deals with the demise of her own parents' marriage.
Is it any good?
Readers familiar with Stiefvater's style will revel in her luscious prose, her lyrical sense of place, and her swoon-worthy descriptions of falling in love and sharing a mind-blowing kiss. Stiefvater has said that Sinner is the "truest novel" she's ever written, and that's because, except for the little fact that Cole is secretly a werewolf, Sinner reads more like a nuanced contemporary romance than a fantasy love story like her other books. Renowned for her passion for cars (which are lovingly described in each of her books) and driving metaphors, Stiefvater quite perfectly sets Sinner in Los Angeles, where everyone spends a good portion of his or her life behind the wheel. Cole's desire for his beloved old Mustang, Isabel's anger at her blinged-out SUV, and Cole's new good friend Leon, a limo driver, are only a few examples of the significant connection between characters and cars in the revved-up love story.
Fans of Sam and Grace should take heart: They are both mentioned in this novel, although their cameos aren't nearly as substantial as Etienne and Anna's in Stephanie Perkins' Lola and the Boy Next Door. Stiefvater clearly wants the spotlight to stay on Cole and Isabel's turbulent romance, not dwell on another couple's happily-ever-after. Cole and Isabel are far edgier than earnest Sam and Grace, so it's fitting that this story is an unputdownable ride you'll be sad to finish.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the increasing popularity of companion novels and novellas. How is a companion novel different from a sequel in a series? What are some of your favorite YA companion novels?
In a letter to readers, author Maggie Stiefvater calls Sinner her most realistic book, despite the main character being a werewolf. Why do you think she describes the story the "truest novel" she's ever written?
Discuss how the book portrays relationships and sex. Why is it significant that Isabel isn't as sexually experienced as Cole?
- Author: Maggie Stiefvater
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Book characters, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Publication date: July 1, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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