Maggie Stiefvater crafts a world of miracles in ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS!
In Bicho Raro, Colorado, residents are either a giver or receiver of miracles, but the process is much more complicated than one might think. See, each miracle has two steps. The chosen Saint of the Soria family performs step one of the miracle on pilgrims who come to Bicho Raro: The transformation into a physical manifestation of their “darkness”. Step two is a little harder: Each pilgrim must individually recognize and work through their darkness in order to truly be healed– a step some pilgrims never achieve. It’s imperative that the Soria family not be involved with the second step, lest their own darkness overtake them and quickly spread to any family members that care for them.
The Sorias live in a constant state of servitude and fear– performing the first miracle, then avoiding the pilgrims living on their lands at all cost until the second miracle occurs. If there’s one thing of which they’re certain, it’s that Soria darkness is the most dangerous of all.
Teen Soria cousins Beatriz, Joaquin, and Daniel (the latter being the family’s current Saint) are trying to live as normal a life as possible in between miracles, working on their property by day and broadcasting their own pirate radio show by night. But in just a few short hours, it all changes. First, Pete Wyatt comes to Bicho Raro, but not as a pilgrim. Then, Daniel runs away after falling for a pilgrim and bringing the darkness upon himself.
Desperate to help but unable to do so, the Soria family finds itself on a precarious precipice. Can they survive while leaving their young current Saint to die? And if not, what will they risk to save him?
All The Crooked Saints is an amazing character study told in a bursting, lyrical style that captures your sense of wonder and leaves practicality at the door. The tales of the Soria family and their pilgrims reminded me of Tim Burton’s Big Fish, where every story is larger than life yet somehow blends into the narrative with ease and purpose. Things are meant to be strange and unpredictable in this land of miracles, where pilgrims grow twenty feet tall or are constantly surrounded by a shower of rain after receiving the first miracle. The writing is not really traditional, but that’s what really drives the story and makes it stand out.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the time and setting. While everyone else seems to be either writing contemporaries or racing to the future, Stiefvater takes readers back to the 1960s without making the story feel hopelessly old-fashioned. Bicho Raro is its own fairly isolated farmland in the desert of the American Southwest, which makes everything feel a bit more ominous. It’s easy to see that a lot went into crafting a specific atmosphere for this tale.
Though there are bits of action, this novel is largely character-based and maintains its sense of adventure through the people involved. And it’s so easy to fall for these characters! We especially loved sharp, methodical Beatriz whose typical sense of detachment is challenged when she begins to fall for Pete, a teen with a hole in his heart who comes to Bicho Raro looking for work and becomes an unintentional middleman in the relationship between the Sorias and the pilgrims. Additional props to Joaquin, whose personality is bigger than his small town allows, and Marisita, a pilgrim whose troubled past keeps her darkness lingering. Everyone in the tale has their own personal story, and audiences will grow more attached with each one they read. The result is a novel that feels universal and intensely personal all at once.
The story does get a little convoluted toward the end– It was clear that some things had changed, however, the reasoning behind it made sense in some ways, but not in others. It didn’t necessarily take away from the emotion of big, important moments, but the “miracles are mysterious” approach gets a bit too loose and feels like a bit like deus ex machina. Still, the larger message about embracing the “darkness” in both yourself and others is poignant and timeless.
Beautifully written and thought-provoking, All The Crooked Saints is sure to turn heads in the YA community.
RATING: 4.25 OUT OF 5 STARS
All The Crooked Saints is out today. You can order it now via Amazon.
Here is a thing everyone wants:
Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.
Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.
At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.
They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.