Review: All the Crooked Saints

4.5 out of 5 stars

Wacky, wry, and wonderful, All the Crooked Saints is more Tom Robbins-lite than young adult, and satisfies on every level. All the Crooked Saints, by Maggie Stiefvater

IMG-6043I say this with love: Maggie Stievater’s books are weird. They’re supernatural and secular, personal and deep, with sharp edges and bubbling colors. Trying to explain what happens would be nearly impossible, and also a shame: the magic of her stories is untranslatable.

Here’s an unworthy synopsis. All the Crooked Saints is the story of Soria family, Mexican immigrants who fled to the US for one reason: they have magic. Everyone in Mexico knew it. They were bombarded with people seeking the assistance of a miracle, and so retreated to a place they’d be less well known: Bicho Raro, Colorado. Still, the pilgrims come, beseeching the Soria’s resident saint to release the darkness within them. But that darkness isn’t eradicated. In true Stiefvater fashion: there’s a catch than ensures each person is ultimately responsible for him- or herself. The theme is always self-awareness. Only when a pilgrim achieves it will the darkness release them.

IMG-6042The story is more clever than scary. The “darkness” is your wacky subconscious at work – a little like a boggart from Harry Potter, though no one sees anything so terrifying as a Dementor.

The characters in Saints are magnificently sketched: no-nonsense Beatriz, reformed Daniel, and wannabe cool kid Joaquin, who together run a fly-by-night pirate radio station that approximately zero people can hear. Add a boy scout so true he has no darkness, a local celebrity, a self-conscious bride; toss in one macho horse and a shit-ton of owls, and voila!

All the Crooked Saints could be the work of a less-perverted Tom Robbins, or a less political Carl Hiassen. Each a master of his milieu, Stiefvater steps outside her previous novels here and swings for the fences.

This review may sound weird, but it captures none of what Steifvater’s writing does: a bizarre, beautiful story that only she could write. Do yourself a favor and get the outstanding audiobook, richly narrated by Thom Rivera. It’ll make your heart grow three sizes.

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