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 BOOK REVIEW      

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Sunshine I have no idea why I like this book so much. (Seems I start a lot of reviews that way. Must be the books that sneak up on me that I love the most. Hmmm. Anyway‐) It’s a vampire book, and if you read my review for ‘The Passage,’ which I loved, you know I am just, ha, really, really not a vampire fan. And… god, I don’t know how else to say this‐ ‘#8216;Sunshine’ has possibly the most unsatisfying ending ever… ok, I take that back, I just thought of another trilogy I loved that had the Worst Ending Ever, but seriously, the ending of ‘Sunshine,’ while not horrifically bad in any way, and actually quite good in many, is just never exactly what I want.

But I guess, in a way, it must be what I want, because I’ve read this book several times, and I always enjoy it, and despite how what I want doesn’t happen at the end, I still do find the book, in its entirety, very satisfying. I mean, it’s satisfying right from the start. Sunshine, the main character, is a baker, wrapped in a warm family, with a boyfriend she genuinely cares about. But sometimes she needs a little space. And one evening, when she’s out looking for that space, alone, she finds vampires. Or rather, they find her.

This is a world with vampires and magic and tiny rituals that don’t exist in our world, but it’s so easy to slip into, to believe in. To feel comfortable in, because there’s so much that’s familiar about it. And it’s not outrageous. But the vampires, including Con, who, uh, befriends Sunshine, after a fashion, are vampires. They aren’t warm and fuzzy. Con is not a good love interest. He’s cold, literally and figuratively, and frightening and, you know, a monster. And I enjoyed that because, I don’t know, I felt it was very real, and believable. Not that I don’t adore Edward Cullen. I just really, really enjoyed Con and how wrong it was to love him, and how much I loved him anyway. (I could be wrong about this but I believe ‘Sunshine’ came out long before Edward Cullen and his sparkles did. I know I read it before I read ‘Twilight.’)

And I liked the tension and I liked the plot, and I even liked how Sunshine loved both of the men in her life, as completely frustrating as I found it. And yeah, I wish the end was different. But at the same time, I don’t, because it works best the way it is. It too was honest and real. But what I think I really enjoyed the most was how bright and dark this story is, all at the same time. How familiar and uncomfortable. How wonderful and terrible. And how the writing is so easy and effortless and casual, how it makes you just want to sink into the book and the characters.

The author of this book is Robin McKinley. I’ve read some of her books before and since, although, admittedly, not as many as I probably should, or would like to. I enjoy her writing as a general rule, but I think ‘Sunshine’ kind of stands apart. First, because I just feel like it’s the best of hers that I’ve read. Also, I think she generally writes teen books (I could be wrong about this, like I said, I just haven’t dabbled enough yet.) And teen books are wonderful. But ‘Sunshine’ is not a teen book, and it’s not a fairytale. It’s mature and dark and strange. It just feels very different than anything else of Robin McKinley’s that I’ve read in the past. It feels, really, very different than anything I’ve read, ever. It always leaves me thinking about things, and sometimes I catch myself thinking about the book at the oddest times, even when it’s been years since I read it. I just… I love it.   -SEL


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