Review: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

crooked saintsI’ll admit that when I first read the description of Maggie Stiefvater’s latest book, it didn’t sound like something that would be up my alley. Then again, I thought the same thing about Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, and that one immediately become one of my top ten favorite books (review here).

Of course I purchased it. Of course I read it. It’s Maggie Stiefvater.

And it was great. But in a different way from her other books, which I’ll try to explain in a minute.

First, what’s it about? All the Crooked Saints is about three cousins in Bicho Raro, Colorado, in the 60’s: Beatriz, “the girl without feelings”; Daniel, the Saint (who performs miracles for pilgrims who travel to their ranch); and Joaquin, who DJs a pirated radio station from a truck in the desert. There is a wide cast of characters between the residents of Bicho Raro and the pilgrims who must remain there until their darkness is vanquished.

You see, Daniel performs the first miracle for the pilgrims, which makes their darkness manifest itself in some way, but the pilgrims must perform their second miracle, which makes the darkness go away. Until then, they remain at the ranch, where the resident Soria family is not able to help them.

This is magical realism, which I suppose one could argue is what all of Maggie’s books are, though I would probably be more likely to file them under “fantasy.” This book reads more like a fairy tale– and even as I write that, I’m not sure that captures it. Think Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers (review) vs. Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn (here). More The Last Unicorn (here), less Finnikin of the Rock (here). Just south of Bone Gap (here). (What? “Just south of Bone Gap” is not a clear description of a book? Pshhh!)

(And, to be clear, I love all the books I just mentioned … but for different reasons.)

The reasons I loved All the Crooked Saints:

  • the imagery
  • the magic
  • the miracles
  • the stories
  • the way everything fits into place.

As I put it on Instagram …

crooked insta

Some Newer Book Boyfriends

unsplash82Indulge me, folks.

Tim Mason from The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick | Review
“Her lips touch just against my mouth, then the cleft of my chin, back to my lips. ‘Good night, Tim.’ My lips on her forehead. ‘Good night, Alice.’ I can’t remember ever having something and not reaching for more. But I back away from her, hands in my pockets. Enough.”

Julian from Caraval by Stephanie Garber | Review
“He’d never stared at her like this before. Sometimes he gazed at her as if he wanted to be her undoing, but just then it was as if he wanted her to undo him.”

Khalid ibn al Rashid from The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh | Review (and Sequel)
“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered.
“If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance, unless you plan on being destroyed.” The weapons still in her grasp, she shoved against his chest.
“No.” His hands dropped to her waist. “Destroy me.”

Eight Beaufort from The Heirs of Watson Island series by Martina Boone | Review
“I’ve been out with enough girls to know what I want. I know. You and me together? We’re not the same plain vanilla let’s-date-while-we’re-in-high-school, let’s-go-to-prom, let’s-promise-we’ll-talk-in-college relationship. We’re more like those fireworks on the Fourth of July that keep exploding with new bursts every time they’re done. Before we know it, we’ll be in rocking chairs side by side on the porch, holding hands and watching a houseful of great grandchildren chasing blue ghost fireflies on the lawn.”

Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo | Review (and Sequel)
“I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

Noah Shaw from the Mara Dyer trilogy by Michelle Hodkin | Review
“We’re only seventeen,” I said quietly.
“Fuck seventeen.” His eyes and voice were defiant. “If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you for all of them. If we were to live a thousand lives, I would want to make you mine in each one.”





So Much Truest Around the Web Today!

Guysguysguysguysguys– my book comes out TOMORROW.

(In case you hadn’t heard.) 😉

I hope you’ll check out this Epic Reads Tumblr post, where I share my favorite romantic quotes in YA … and Epic Reads shares two from Truest.

Over on the Debut Dish, I describe my book in just five words and tell you the strangest thing on my desk. There’s also a giveaway of a hardcover copy of Truest!

There’s another giveaway at Adventures in YA Publishing; I also tell you my favorite thing about my novel, which has been true from the very beginning till now, nearly four years later.

And finally, my lovely writer-friend Kathy Ellen Davis blogs about Truest and how she’s helping me celebrate (hint: it’s the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever been given!).


Eight Themes

I wish I could remember where I read it– I’d have loved to link to the article!– but somewhere around the internet I read the suggestion to boil my novel down into 7-10 major themes and post them where I could easily see them.

As I write Mill City Heroes, these are the themes I keep on my radar in image form (my computer desktop’s background actually!):

themes mch

Clockwise from top left: poppies, winter, feline, slavery/freedom, red, Peter Pan, city (particularly Mill City, i.e. Minneapolis), ravens.

So, are you intrigued? Confused? A little of both?

I can’t wait to tell you more as this novel takes form!

Recent Reads

I sort of binge-read Maggie Stiefvater last month. Long ago, I had read the first book of her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Shiver, but this was during the years of the Twilight fury, and I was sort of annoyed by the general idea of werewolves mixed with romance, so I didn’t finish the series. Since then, Maggie wrote a companion novel to the series as well, so I read that too.

Reviews below without spoilers.

lingerLinger by Maggie Stiefvater
Lots of lovey-dovey, ultra-sweet romance from Sam and Grace, the main characters, that almost seems out of character for the Maggie Stiefvater I have come to know through The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys series, not to mention her Tumblr. The awesome thing about this book is that we are introduced to Cole St. Clair, a suicidal rock star asshole whom I love.

foreverForever by Maggie Stiefvater
The original series conclusion– and, actually, even though there’s a companion novel, this really still stands as the conclusion. High stakes, and more lovey-dovey from Sam and Grace. More sass and awesomeness from Cole and Isabel, who interest me far more than Sam and Grace.

sinnerSinner by Maggie Stiefvater
YES. A companion novel all about Cole and Isabel!! And though it was interesting that the other books took place in Minnesota (also, so interesting to hear Stiefvater’s characters say things like, “We’re going to St. Paul,” when I feel like everyone just says, “the Cities” … and they went to Duluth while I was reading the novels in Duluth), I loved that this one was set in L.A. And here Stiefvater SHINES. This book is all the funny, clever, lyrical writing that I expect from Maggie. To me, it was clear that this book came later, after she’d grown tremendously as a writer. Not to say the other books weren’t very well done (they were), but this one just excelled. SO. GOOD.

please remain calmPlease Remain Calm by Courtney Summers
This is a companion novella to her novel This is Not a Test, which I first read (and loved) back in 2012. Courtney is such a talented writer and such a lovely person. I’m such a huge fan of who she is. The novella? Loved it too. I don’t want to reveal too much because

please remain calm2

please remain calm3

Bookish Superlatives!

Jamie at the Perpetual Page-Turner is at it again!  I love her fun bookish surveys.  You should do one too.



Most Likely To Change The World

Aslan from Narnia
(Is that cheating? :-))

Cutest Couple

Will Trombal and Francesca Spinelli from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son

“Come here,” she says.
“No, you come here.”
“I said it first.”
“Rock paper scissors.”
“No. Because you’ll do nerdy calculations and work out what I chose the last six times and then you’ll win.”
Will pushes away from the table and his hand snakes out and he pulls her toward him and Tom figures that Will was always going to go to her first.

However, Eleanor and Park sure applied the pressure.

Class Clown

Jace from The Mortal Instruments series

Most Likely To Become Famous For Their Athletic/Musical/Artistic Abilities

Athlete: Rudy Steiner from The Book Thief
(Go, Jesse Owens!)

Musician: Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere
(“This is what happens when Joe Fontaine has his debut trumpet solo in band practice: I’m the first to go, swooning into Rachel, who topples into Cassidy Rosenthal, who tumbles into Zachary Quittner, who collapse into Sarah, who reels into Luke…”)

All Around Good Person

Webb from Jellicoe Road

Biggest Flirt

Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere

Most Likely To Be Fought Over

Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere

Mostly Likely To Be Friends Forever

Chaz and Raffy from Jellicoe Road
Frankie and Justine from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son

Most Likely To Have Their Own Reality Show

Conner and Risa from Unwind.  It would be called “Inside the Graveyard.”

Most Unique

Stargirl Carraway from Stargirl and Love, Stargirl

Most Likely To Survive An Apocalypse

Katsa and Po from Graceling

Most Likely To Be A Villain

Tom Riddle from Harry Potter
(or Dolores Umbridge!)

Biggest Wallflower

Conrad from Ordinary People

Most Likely To Break Your Heart

Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars

Most Changed

Froi from The Lumatere Chronicles

Most Likely To Get Arrested

Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road

Self Proclaimed God/Goddess

Jace from the Mortal Instruments series

Best Person To Bring Home To Mom & Dad

Will Trombal from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son


Most Likely To Make You Cry

Duh.  The Fault in Our Stars.

Dares To Be Different (in world, plot, storytelling, etc.)

Everyday by David Levithan (fascinating, gender-bending premise!)

Best Dressed (pretty cover!)


Most Likely To Make You Swoon

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Loveliest Prose

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
tied with
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
tied with
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
tied with
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Most Likely To Be A Favorite Of 2013

(Very much anticipating the following:)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Aimless Love by Billy Collins

Most Likely To Change The World (or change your life)

The Fault in Our Stars really *did* change my life because it showed me that I wanted to write YA fiction!

Book You Are Most Likely To Keep Putting Off


Most Likely To End Up As Christmas Gifts For Everyone You Know

Jellicoe Road for everyone!

Most Likely To Be Thrown


Most Likely To Be Reread More Than Once
(I’m an avid re-reader!) (No, really.)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Most Likely To Make You Read Through An Earthquake Because It’s THAT Engrossing

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Most Likely To Be Passed On To Your Children


Most Likely To Break Your Heart Into A Million Pieces

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Most Likely To Brighten Up Your Day

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
(There has to be a reason I’ve read it six times in the last six weeks, right?)

Jackie’s Favorite YA Books

Ahhh, YA lit!  So near and dear to my heart!  There are so many books I could recommend, but let’s start with these:

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
This book is seriously one of the best-written young adult books I have ever read.  In my life.  Period.  I love so many things about this book: the language, the characters, the structure, the humor.  It gets a 10 out of 10 from me.
Must-read: anyone who loves YA or a clever, quirky romance that is not at all cliche

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Okay, I suppose I should just be upfront and say that everything Melina Marchetta writes is fantastic.  She’s definitely my favorite YA author right now.  Saving Francesca is about Frankie Spinelli the year she and a handful of other girls (none of them her friends) begin attending a previously all-boys school.  She’s trying to navigate a school of boys who don’t want the girls there, girls she doesn’t want to become friends with, and her mother’s mental breakdown.  The characters are incredible.
Must-read: anyone who loves character-driven stories, fans of nerdy-but-hot Italian boys (i.e. the Will Trombal Experience/Extravaganza)
Bonus: this book has a sequel– The Piper’s Son— set five years down the road!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
TIME’s 2012 book of the year!  This YA book will make you laugh and cry and think.  It’s a cancer book– but not one of those cancer books.
Must-read: people who love YA, philosophy, and incredible characters

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Prior to the start of this book, Lennie’s sister Bailey has died unexpectedly.  Now Lennie is trying to navigate her grief all while falling in love for the first time.  This book is full of Lennie’s short poems, and they– along with the rest of the novel– are startling beautiful.
Must-read: people who are aching for a literary-quality YA novel, anyone with a beloved sister

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A Printz honor book narrated by Death himself, this is “just a small story really, about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.”  I love books that are about the joy of words– and it’s even better when you mix in unforgettable characters and gorgeous writing full of incredible imagery.
Must-read: YA lovers, people who love words, anyone interested in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The story of Puck and Sean, both set to ride the bloodthirsty water horses in the Scorpio Races.  I’m not sure I’ve read anything quite like this before; it is laced with an incredible raw savagery, making it an instant favorite for me.
Must-read: anyone who loves horses, readers ready for wild, tribal-drum-pounding YA

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
This is the very first book that made me cry.  The classic book of a boy and his two hunting dogs.
Must-read: animal lovers, anyone who loves a tear-jerker

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
A delicious tale of first love between the two titular characters, the writing in this book has an outstanding and unique voice.  I love the characters of Eleanor and Park, and I love the way that Rowell can make your brain about explode when they hold each other’s hand.
Must-read: fans of the contemporary genre, readers who love great imagery, quirky characters, and a sweet romance

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Like so many others, the hype around this series intimidated me into not reading them for years.  I’m so glad that I finally did!  This is one of my favorite series– seven separate stories that really tell just one about a boy wizard fighting against evil.
Must-read: fans of epic fantasy, anyone who wants to have their mind blown by creativity

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
A story about a homeschooler joining public school for the first time, this book is full of quirkiness and whimsy.  A brilliant novel about being different.
Must-read: misfits, anyone who loves a misfit
Bonus: This book also has a sequel!

Also, here a couple middle grade (MG) suggestions!

Bridge to Terabithia by Kathleen Patterson
The story of two young friends who create their own make-believe world.  This book is a classic, and unless you have a heart made of cement and broken glass, you will cry.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
I can’t say too much about this story because I don’t want to give anything away, but it is brilliant, one of those books that ties up all loose ends so perfectly in such a satsifying way.  I highly recommend this book– I read it when I was 30 and loved it!  Great voice.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis|
These are classics!  I seriously cannot get enough of them– I read them over and over and over and love them every single time.  I am just finishing up the series for the first time this year, and– no joke– after book 7 is over, I will start again on book 1.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Classic tale of a pet pig and his spider friend who is trying to save him from slaughter.  Lovely.


why I love Silas Hart

Silas Hart is the 17-year-old character in the YA novel I am writing.  Here are a couple scenes to show why I love him so much.

1) He is ridiculous.

“So this is why you need a summer job,” I said to Silas as I surveyed his garage sale finds, which were laid out across his bed one afternoon like cheap museum displays: a dollar sign ice cube tray, a box of old eight-tracks, and a “D-Bag Poet”-themed Magnetic Poetry set.  I held up the magnet collection.  “Really?” I asked.

“It’s missing fo sho and dayam,” he said, trying not to crack a smile, “so I won’t be able to write a poem about you, sorry.”

I burst out laughing.  I loved Silas like this—strange and quirky and hilarious.  “What are you going to do with a box of eight-tracks, kid?”

He shrugged.  “Dunno, but aren’t they great?”

“You … are so …”

“Enchanting?  Delectable?  Ambrosial?”

“Weird.”  We grinned at each other.

I marveled at the fact that Silas lived in this pristine palace and yet loved to scrounge around other people’s junk, amassing a variety of worthless treasures to add to the collection in his bedroom.  Well, they weren’t worthless to him—in fact, he’d found a ridiculous t-shirt featuring a unicorn rearing before an American flag, and you’d have thought he’d discovered the pearl of greatest price.

“I saved the best for last,” he insisted, and I realized that he was hiding something

behind his back.

“Don’t tell me,” I said.  “Macaroni art of Steve Buscemi?”

“I wish!” he teased.  “But no.”  Silas pulled from behind him a carrot-colored plastic transistor radio.  It was a little larger than his hand—an awkward size, like an old Walkman on steroids.

“What do you want that for?” I asked, raising both dubious eyebrows.

“Because it’s awesome.  Durr,” he said.  “And because we’re going to use it to listen to that radio show of yours.  Yes?”

I grinned.  “Yes.”

2) He is crazy.

Silas and I spent the rest of that week together, and I quickly determined that he was absolutely crazy—but the very best kind.  One morning he showed up at my house wearing an honest-to-goodness windbreaker suit straight out of the 90’s, purple, mint green, and what is best described as neon salmon.  I could feel the goofy grin on my face while Silas gathered our supplies from my garage.  “What?” he deadpanned.  “What are you staring at?”

I played along.  “Your windbreaker is just so …”

“Fetching?” he interjected.  “Voguish?  Swanky?”

“Hot,” I said.  “Just all out sexy.  Screw trends.  The 90’s neon just exudes sex appeal.”

“Well, I thought so myself.”

And after the sun was high in the sky and the pavement was heating up, he took off the windsuit, revealing shorts and a New Moon t-shirt beneath, Edward Cullen’s pale face dramatically screenprinted on the front.  “Vader’s competition,” he said, shrugged, and started vacuuming the floors of the Corolla left in our care.

Silas talked about the strangest things.  “Can you ever really prove anything?  How?” or “I read about this composer who said his abstract music went ‘to the brink’—that beyond it lay complete chaos.  What would that look like?  Complete chaos?” or “A group of moles is called a labor; a group of toads is called a knot.  Who comes up with this stuff?  It’s a bouquet of pheasants, a murder of crows, a storytelling of ravens, a lamentation of swans.  A lamentation of swans, West!”

We sat in the backseat of a dusty Saturn one afternoon, trading off the handheld vacuum as we talked—or rather, shouted—over its noise.  I ran the hand-vac over the back of the driver’s seat, while Silas said, “I used to think I was the only one with a crush on Emily Dickinson until a couple years ago.”

“You have a crush on Emily Dickinson?”


“Did you just ‘durr’ me?  Is that like a ‘duh’?”

He nodded as I handed him the Dirt Devil.  “But then I read this Don Miller book that says it’s a rite of passage for any thinking American man.  I still wasn’t a hundred percent sure, but then I read a Collins poem called ‘Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes.’”

Just the title made me blush.

Silas, unruffled, continued, “The end of it talks about how he could hear her inhale and sigh when he undid the top fastener of her corset, ‘the way some readers sigh when they realize/that Hope has feathers,/that reason is a plank,/that life is a loaded gun/that looks right at you with a yellow eye.’”

Silas sighed unhappily.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, frowning.

“I finally made it into the backseat with a girl,” Silas cracked, looking hard at the Dirt Devil.  “This is not all I was hoping it would be.”

I slugged him in the arm while his wry smile gave way to laughter.

3) He’s brilliant.

It was a new experience to visit the library with Silas along.  Every section of the library was like its own island—one Silas had explored in the past and was now showing to me.  He started in fantasy, pointing out titles and introducing me to authors—and then we moved into young adult fiction … through the classics … memoir.  Silas indicated story after story that he had read, telling me what he loved about each one, his favorite parts, favorite lines, favorite characters.  It felt like going around a family reunion, meeting all his relatives, and sometimes discovering that we were friends with the same people.  In the poetry section, he showed me pages of Kit Kaiser and Jolie Brightman.

“Here,” he said, pulling a “Best of e.e. cummings” book off the shelf, “I’ll show you something.”  He checked the table of contents, flipped open to the right page, marked a place with his finger, and handed it to me.

I read the line aloud: “nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.”  I looked up at Silas, and his eyes were shining.

“I still think I’ve never read anything better than that.  The morning I first read it, I went into some kind of shock,” he said.  “I hadn’t known anything could be so incredible.  It’s the line that made me want to write.”