Thursday, September 28, 2017

Shelf Awareness--All The Crooked Saints

YA Review: All The Crooked Saints

All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic Press, $18.99 hardcover, 320p., ages 12-up, 9780545930802, October 10, 2017)

In 1962, in the "dark, true-dark" of the desert, 18-year-old Beatriz Soria and her cousins transmit their "pirate" radio show from the back of a box truck. Even though the voice of the DJ belongs to the talented Diablo Diablo (otherwise known as Joaquin), it is Beatriz's logical mind that powers this enterprise. Daniel, "the Saint of Bicho Raro," comes along even though he's more concerned with miracles than the clandestine radio station.

The entire Soria family are capable performers of miracles but Daniel is the "best saint that Bicho Raro had experienced for generations." Pilgrims flock to the ranch, where miracles come in twos. The first, performed by the Saint, will make the darkness inside a person visible. It will "draw it out and give it form." But the second, "getting rid of the darkness for good," is up to the pilgrim. One of the most important rules the Sorias have is that the family must not interfere in the second miracle or "a darkness would fall on the Soria as well, and a Saint's darkness" is a "terrible and powerful thing." Yet, unable to forgive themselves, Bicho Raro's current pilgrims have not been able to perform their second miracle and move on. The pilgrims are stuck in drawn-out darkness and the Sorias are stuck with the pilgrims. Until now.

When Tony and Pete drive in, every bed is full. Tony seeks a miracle but Pete just wants to work--he was promised a box truck (the very same one that Beatriz and Joaquin use for their radio station) and a place to stay as payment for a summer job. Tony gets his miracle and Pete gets his job, falling hard for both the desert and Beatriz as he settles in. Meanwhile, Daniel decides to "help someone he was not allowed to help." The Saint of Bicho Raro has fallen in love with Marisita, a girl whose first miracle left her in the center of her own personal rainstorm with a dress covered in butterflies. Despite the taboo, Daniel interferes, and his darkness has already started coming. To protect his family, he takes off for the desert, demanding that no one follow as he faces his demons alone. He brings only a small pack with water and food and the kitchen radio, so he can listen to Diablo Diablo in the evenings.

Skimming back and forth through time, Stiefvater's (The Scorpio Races, The Raven Cycle) tale is gorgeously told, unfurling like the black roses Francisco Soria obsessively cultivates in his greenhouse. Beatriz, who even as a 10-year-old child realized that the darkness is more about shame than being "terrible," has never wanted to be the Soria's Saint. But she must push through her own fear and darkness and, using her magic, her intellect and her "complicated and wiry heart," save her beloved cousin. A miraculous work. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI. 

Shelf Talker: A saint, a scientist and a DJ perform miracles (and science) in the Colorado desert.

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