Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Sin Eater's Confession: A review

Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Info: Carolrhoda Books, copyright 2013, 320 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): A heartbreaking flashback of bigotry and fear.  A heartbreaking future of making amends and moving on.

People in Merit, Wisconsin, always said Jimmy was . . . you know. But people said all sorts of stupid stuff. Nobody really knew anything. Nobody really knew Jimmy.

I guess you could say I knew Jimmy as well as anyone (which was not very well). I knew what scared him. And I knew he had dreams—even if I didn't understand them. Even if he nearly ruined my life to pursue them.

Jimmy's dead now, and I definitely know that better than anyone. I know about blood and bone and how bodies decompose. I know about shadows and stones and hatchets. I know what a last cry for help sounds like. I know what blood looks like on my own hands.

What I don't know is if I can trust my own eyes. I don't know who threw the stone. Who swung the hatchet? Who are the shadows? What do the living owe the dead?

~Goodreads Description~

The Breakdown
Ben is getting used to seeing dead bodies.  War will do that to you.  Make you numb.  But war can't take away the guilt that follows Ben around even surrounded by gunfire and chaos.  How do you forgive yourself for doing nothing?  For watching someone get hurt, over and over?  For letting rumors and prejudice keep you from doing what is right?  How do you forgive yourself for feeling?

The Awesome
Black forces the reader to take a good long look in the mirror?  What would you do if you were Ben?  What would you do if you saw a crime being committed?  A crime against a friend?  It seems so easy, but it's not.  And it wasn't for Ben.  His emotions were always right on the surface, and his internal struggle was very realistic.  As much as you would like to not like Ben; as much as you would like to condemn him for his decision making and shake him into reality, you can't.

The Not So Awesome
Merit, Wisconsin and a fundamentalist (rather cult-like) church seemed a bit of a stereotype.  I know that prejudice is alive and well across the country, but a small town and faith organization it seemed an easy out.

Overall, a well-written, thoughtful book.  It was assigned reading of sorts, and I'm not sure I would have picked it up on my own, but definitely worth the time.  For teen readers, it's a great discussion on the power of choice, the difficulty of morality, and the importance of communication.

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