All the Crooked Saints

In 1962, in the "dark, true-dark" of the desert, 18-year-old Beatriz Soria and her cousins transmit their "pirate" radio show from the back of a box truck. Though the DJ is Diablo Diablo (Joaquin), it is Beatriz's logical mind that powers this enterprise. Daniel, "the Saint of Bicho Raro," comes along as well, but he's more concerned with miracles.

The entire Soria family can perform miracles, but Daniel is the "best saint that Bicho Raro had experienced for generations." Pilgrims flock to the ranch, where miracles come in twos. The first, performed by the Saint, will make the darkness inside a person visible. The second, "getting rid of the darkness for good," is up to the pilgrim--the Sorias cannot interfere or "a darkness would fall on the Soria as well, and a Saint's darkness" is a "terrible and powerful thing." Unable to forgive themselves, Bicho Raro's current pilgrims have not been able to perform their second miracle and move on. The pilgrims are stuck in drawn-out darkness and the Sorias are stuck with the pilgrims. Until now.

The Saint of Bicho Raro has fallen in love with Marisita, a girl whose first miracle left her in the center of a rainstorm with a butterfly-covered dress. Despite the taboo, Daniel interferes and his darkness comes. To protect his family, he takes off for the desert, demanding that no one follow.

Skimming back and forth through time, Stiefvater's (The Scorpio Races, the Raven Cycle) tale is gorgeously told, unfurling like the black roses Francisco Soria obsessively cultivates in his greenhouse. Beatriz has never wanted to be the Soria's Saint but she must push through her own fear and darkness and use her magic, her intellect and her "complicated and wiry heart" to save her beloved cousin. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

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