It is raining all week and I could not be more happy. Well, I could if I were able to enjoy the rain by staying home all week reading and drinking coffee. (How cliché, right?) Anyway, I recently read Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater. If you’ve ever heard of the “Wolves of Mercy Falls” Young Adult series, Sinner is the fourth book and focuses mainly on Isabel Culpeper and Cole St. Clair.
Setting: Los Angeles, California. Extremely different atmosphere compared to the quiet, mysterious, and languid town of Mercy Falls, Minnesota.
Time: Sinner picks up a few months after everything that happened in Forever. Cole is back in the music scene, sort of, while Isabel is living with her mom, Aunt, and cousin. Cole is continuing his music career by agreeing to make a reality show with a host named Baby North. Isabel’s mom and dad separated and now she is studying for a CNA degree and working at a boutique called Blush.
Throughout the entire novel, there is this underlying tension between Isabel and Cole. Isabel is not sure of Cole’s motives (whether he really wants to be with her or use her as a distraction, as well as if he is serious about staying clean from drugs) and Cole is not sure of who he is after everything that happened in Mercy Falls. He has kept clean except for the mix of chemicals that he discovered can turn him back into a wolf temporarily. Cole uses this as his new “high”. As a wolf, he doesn’t feel anything- no emotions, no regrets, not even good feelings- he is focused solely on wolf needs and it clears his head much better than anything else ever did. Cole is trying so hard to fill the void that developed first while he was lost in drugs and meaningless sex, then later with the death of his best friend Victor.
On the opposite end, Isabel is drowning in the void that developed from the death of her brother, her parent’s separation, and the uncertainty of how things will be in life with Cole coming back into the picture. Isabel keeps all of this hurt inside and uses it as fuel for her sarcasm and (fake) apathy which builds a thicker wall around her against everyone else. She wants to stay isolated from everyone and just dwell in the pain alone. Meanwhile, Cole runs away from his pain.
Stiefvater does an outstanding job with character development in Sinner. In the first three novels of the series, the focus is mainly on Grace and Sam (as far as couples go). Sinner truly captures more of Cole and Isabel and it is refreshing to see that they are just as relatable. Cole is a charismatic person but always has his public mask on. He cannot seem to escape the “Cole St. Clair” that he is known for, in order to start over. Only Isabel can see the real Cole, and that attracts him to her more than anything else. Isabel, however, doesn’t care to keep a public mask on but rather wriggles in the shells of her personality that keep people at a distance. Again, Cole can see the real Isabel but even then it’s glimpses. BOTH know that the other can be that void filler but are unsure if it is the right thing to do by being together. Cole and Isabel feel real and complete when together and it scares them both because they are afraid to lose that feeling. Cole chases after that feeling, Isabel shrinks away from it. Something else they both have in common, and plays a big role in what created a void in each of them, is survivor guilt. Isabel feels alone with her brother dead and Cole feels lost and guilty from the death of Victor.
- The chemistry between them is hot! Unlike Grace and Sam, Isabel and Cole are like magnets- sometimes attracted, sometimes pulled apart, but regardless it is there.
- Cole and Isabel’s story has more aspects of life that are relatable like drug abuse, divorce, death, anxiety over the future, changing yourself, etc. I liked the heavy fantasy element in Shiver, Linger, and Forever, but I thought the more realistic approach in Sinner added to the difference between the two couples.
- I didn’t like how Isabel treated her cousin, Sofia. That may be a dumb dislike, but none-the-less I found it to be exhausting. Sofia was Isabel’s soundboard and she had to deal with the consequences of Isabel’s anger and bitterness. However, Sofia had no backbone hardly at all which made this relationship even more exhausting to read about.
- Despite the difference between the first three novels and Sinner, as far as fantasy element goes, I still am drawn more to Grace and Sam rather than Isabel and Cole. For this novel, reality suited it more though so I’m not complaining.
- Cole and Isabel are complicated. Again, their relationship suited the novel really well, but they were such an emotional roller coaster to read about. It made me appreciate the ease of Sam and Grace!
I’d give this novel 4 out of 5 stars!
I’ll be writing again soon. 🙂