THE VIRTUE OF SIN by Shannon Schuren


Age Range: 14 - 18
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Teens living in a desert cult botch a marriage ceremony, with drastic results.

Miriam, at 16 one of the oldest of the Second Generation of New Jerusalem, expects Caleb to choose her as his wife. Though boys and girls are kept separated, Miriam has kept her eye on Caleb, and he leaves her symbols drawn in the sand. But the boys choose wives out of order, and when Aaron’s planned wife gets chosen by Jacob, Aaron picks Miriam, and Caleb is left unwed. Devastated, Caleb attempts to reason with the cult’s leader, Daniel, only to be shamed and rebuffed. Miriam can’t fathom being intimate with Aaron, who, along with his parents, is the only convert to join New Jerusalem in Miriam’s memory, but he doesn’t seem to mind and eventually reveals a deep secret. Despite knowing little about life outside the compound, Miriam is intrigued, not horrified, when Aaron begins to speak against Daniel. Debut author Schuren’s choice to alternate the point of view between Miriam and Caleb gives her more control over the plotline but weakens the book, as the two sound virtually indistinguishable. Caleb’s storyline is also less compelling and its ending, unsatisfying. At no point is it clear how the cult manages to survive with limited resources in a hostile environment. Race is unclear for most characters, although Aaron is implied half-Japanese through his mother’s surname.

Not a bad first effort, but there are better choices. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 25th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-525-51654-5
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Philomel
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2019


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