ARC Review: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

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*I read this during Hurricane Maria: September 24. I read it as an arc. As always, this is my honest opinion.

Happy Halloween, guys!

My reviews for the books I read during Maria aren’t my best reviews, seeing as there’s been so much time between reading them and writing the review, as well as not having direct access to my books at the moment (they’re in a box, on the way here). However, All the Crooked Saints has so much controversy around it that I’m going to try to tackle some things I normally wouldn’t and hope I get my opinion across accurately.

Summary:

Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle.
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.

I am latina and hispanic. I’ve lived all my life in Puerto Rico and am fully bilingual. I just moved to Texas, and my upbringing obviously influences my feelings toward this book.

This book has been labelled as cultural appropriation, racist, and all the other “applicable” isms. Maggie Stiefvater is, of course, a white woman, writing about Mexicans. Obviously, I’m not Mexican, but I want to address a few of the complaints before going into my review.

  1. Cultural appropriation and inaccurate rep of culture:

Maggie herself taggled this claim in a twitter thread where she establishes that she had 2 sensitivity readers. TWO.

As far as hispanic representation goes, I think she does a good job. There’s a lot of cultural things that transcend hispanic cultures, and I could identify with a lot of customs and things pertaining to the Mexican culture portrayed in this novel.

2. Bicho Raro and use of Spanish words and phrases

I recently saw someone saying that a particular Spanish sentence in All the Crooked Saints was grammtically and culturally incorrect. Again, I can’t speak for Mexican culture, but 100% of the Spanish sentences I read in the ARC are grammatically correct and follow Spanish sentence structure. I made a point of reread every Spanish phrase I came across to make sure and all of them passed.

I don’t understand the need to say that the Spanish in this novel is bad, because it’s not.

The Bicho Raro meaning “weird penis” confuses me because I know for a fact that only some hispanic cultures use it as slang. Puerto Rico does, but in Dominican Republic it means bug. Maybe they use it as slang too, but I don’t see how this is a problem…considering if anyone other author would have done it, it would have been considered a witty pun.

3. Magical aspects and religious content

Hispanic culture is deeply rooted in Catholicism. This is something that transcends and is inherent and important to Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, etc.

The family in All the Crooked Saints have the power to grant miracles. It’s part of the plot. It works well with Mexicans because hispanics in general (especially older generations) are more inclined to believe in supernatural events than Americans. This is not a derogatory thing, it’s a truth.

As far as the representation in this book, I don’t understand the drama. Well, I do, since most of the people I’ve seen complain about this book already had a personal vendetta against Stiefvater and are constantly on the look out to bash on books, and also have not read past the summary. But this book does not deserve to be bashed the way it has. It’s clear that Stiefvater did her research, at least more than the people rallying against this book have.

My Actual Review

Now the fun bit…I gave this book 3.5 stars because, although there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, it’s not my kind of book.

This book is all kinds of surreal and feels more like an aerial view of the story than an upclose portrayal. Some people really enjoy that, but I don’t, so I never really contected with the story or the characters.

However, this story is unique and interesting and I loved how all the stories interconnected with one another. Everything is subtle, the romance, the family, the plot, but it’s still there. It’s entertaining enough and engaging enough to keep reading until the end.

In a really strange way, it kind of reminds me of the journey in The Canterbury Tales. You know how each person tells their story and it’s a story with a moral message? All the Crooked Saints is about people learning something about themselves, accepting it and moving on, finally becoming free. It’s definitely an interesting concept.

While this novel wasn’t for me, it was an interesting read. It’s unlike anything I had previously read, and it was a unique ride.

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