The Sin-Eater's Confession
By Ilsa J. Bick
Published 2013 by Carolrhoda Books
Merit, Wisconsin is a small town, and you know how small towns are. Small towns are not always the best places for people like Jimmy - rumors get started and spread and spread and then, tragedy. Because now Jimmy's dead and Ben is wondering what he saw and if he can trust himself.
This was an e-galley I requested on more of a whim - I've not read anything by Bick before (though I have a copy of Ashes waiting on my shelves at home) and I hadn't heard too much about it. The author's note at the end indicates that this was actually the first YA novel Bick sold, so I'm not sure if this one languished in edits or if this is a reprint or what the story is, since it's been released after four other YA novels by Bick. Regardless, I'm a bit disappointed that this is my first Bick experience - I didn't love it.
I wanted to enjoy this book - I figured I was getting an important GLBT story with a possibly unreliable narrator. It sounded like a really intriguing combination. Unfortunately, this book just didn't really work for me. Here's what I did like: this novel is compelling enough that I kept reading. It's not really a quick read, but I wanted to know what really happened the night Jimmy died - would Ben ever figure it out? What would he do with the information he did have? Definitely questions to which you want the answers. Similarly, Ben makes for a very interesting narrator - does he actually remember what he saw that night? Is he telling the truth, even to himself? What exactly was his relationship with Jimmy? There are A LOT of questions in this book.
Here's what I didn't like: there are not a lot of answers. I don't want to give away spoilers but, suffice to say, you will be left wondering what exactly the truth is about many of those questions you asked yourself while reading. Like I said, this is not a quick read - it's compelling, but only to an extent. I can definitely see other readers giving up along the way. Additionally, I figured this was going to be an important GLBT story, but it didn't really work that way for me. There is a lot of rumor throughout the book regarding the sexuality of the characters but not a lot of fact. A lot of the book is spent in Ben denying that he is gay, repeatedly claiming that he didn't feel that way about Jimmy. It all just seems a bit...off. This just didn't really work for me.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.