The Sin-eater's Confession

The Sin-eater's Confession

Book - 2013
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While serving in Afghanistan, Ben writes about incidents from his senior year in a small-town Wisconsin high school, when a neighbor he was trying to help out becomes the victim of an apparent hate crime and Ben falls under suspicion.
Publisher: Minneapolis : Carolrhoda Lab, ©2013
ISBN: 9780761356875
Branch Call Number: Y Fiction
Characteristics: 290 p. ; 20 cm
Alternative Title: Sin eater's confession


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Feb 14, 2018

I tried to read this but the main characters decisions were so aggravating that I couldn't read it anymore without being really frustrated. A character that is smart enough to get into Yale University should be smarter than he is portrayed to be by his decisions in this book. I don't know anyone in their right, or wrong, mind that would act the way he does. I'll save you the trouble of reading this terrible book with this comment. You're welcome.

Levi_Hayes Oct 27, 2015

This book was going to be a 5-star. It was going to be mind blowingly awesome just like Lockdown (Alexander Gordon Smith), until the very end. The entire concept of the novel was amazing to me, to say nothing of the dust jacket blurb that is responsible for initially drawing me in (as well as the title). I was curious how everything was going to happen because it says right in the summary 'Jimmy's dead now'. But I thought he was going to die a lot later in the book. A fair bit of the middle I would have liked taken out, but in terms of holding off on vital information and creating suspense it worked fine--it just worked towards, what feels to me is, a very let-down ending.
It's a small town where rumors spread quickly, and a potentially closet gay boy with a potential crush on the main character--likely something I will always pick up. The actual death itself is quite gruesome, do be warned--it had me questioning why the book is filed under teen--but that only adds to the effect. Who killed Jimmy? Why? What rumors were true and which ones weren't? And what is Pastor John's problem??
It's a good ending in the sense that it could literally be anyone for any reason. But it's a bad ending for that very same reason--just as Ben does, you could pick any person and any reason out of a hat and you'd have as much chance at being right as the next person. It's realistic in that Ben never finds out; I'm aware this story is about Ben's journey to find himself and come to terms with the consequences of his actions, but it felt akin to a team of heroes facing off against a bad guy and the bad guy drawing a gun and killing them all before they could even react. It just feels really incomplete. Obviously the book was really good since I'm so upset about not knowing what happened, but that said: what happened?

JCLChrisK Aug 14, 2013

The list of positives is long:

- Great title.

- Great cover.

- Great dedication: "For those who think this can't happen: this book's for you."

- Great first paragraph: "Call me Ben. Okay, it's not Ishmael or anything, but the idea's the same. Wicked and repentant, that's me."

- Great second paragraph: But here's the truth: "I could be anyone from my town, or any soldier. People make assumptions on the basis of what they see all the time. In the airport, total strangers wander up and thank me for my service. Old guys want to shake my hand. Little kids want to know if I've killed anyone. And girls give me that . . . look. Come on, you know the one I'm talking about. And honestly? It's a little creepy. It's like I'm Batman. What everyone sees and imagines . . . it's not about me. It's the uniform."

- Great entire introduction and frame for telling the story in flashback (which I won't continue to quote, but you get the idea; needless to say, I was quite hooked from the start).

- Really excellent, accurate depiction of small town life in the Midwest. It captured much of the experience of my youth and teen years.

- Great pacing, building of tension and suspense, gradual reveal of information, and confessional narration.

- Honest, accurate ambiguity and uncertainty. As Ben tells us on the back cover: "I have no answers."

- Important, weighty subject.
The list of negatives is much shorter:

- Though I list the ambiguous, open ending as a positive for it's true depiction of life, I was left wanting. After nearly three hundred pages of build-up, I needed a stronger sense of resolution. The pay-off didn't quite measure up to the excellent journey; it didn't need to be absolute and final--it didn't need to be a conclusion--but it needed to be bigger. So I wasn't unhappy with the end, just vaguely unsatisfied and undernourished by it.
It's not quite a masterpiece, but it strives to be and comes close. It's an important book, a gripping one, and an entertaining one. It's one that deserves many readers.


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JCLChrisK Aug 14, 2013

For those who think this can't happen: this book's for you.


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