Today’s post is part of the blog tour for the recently released young adult novel The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren. Huge thanks to Penguin Teen for giving me the opportunity to participate and to help promote this fantastic book. This is the story of two teenagers who have spent their entire lives in a cult and how they deal with their newfound clarity about their situation as thrown into adulthood in the community. It is a novel that portrays the importance of not always taking what people in power say at face value, fighting for equality, and learning to accept others—and oneself—for who they are.
There are so many aspects of this story that appealed to both the book nerd and psychology nerd in me and I was completely absorbed from the start. So, while thinking about a topic for this post, I decided I would like to share what I found to be the strongest aspects (the virtues) of The Virtue of Sin!
The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren
Date Published: June 25th, 2019
Publisher: Philomel Books
Pages: 432 pages
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
A compelling novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free – perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Tara Westover’s Educated.
Miriam lives in New Jerusalem, a haven in the desert far away from the sins and depravity of the outside world. Within the gates of New Jerusalem, and under the eye of its founder and leader, Daniel, Miriam knows she is safe. Cared for. Even if she’s forced, as a girl, to quiet her tongue when she has thoughts she wants to share, Miriam knows that New Jerusalem is a far better life than any alternative. So when God calls for a Matrimony, she’s thrilled; she knows that Caleb, the boy she loves, will choose her to be his wife and they can finally start their life together.
But when the ceremony goes wrong and Miriam winds up with someone else, she can no longer keep quiet. For the first time, Miriam begins to question not only the rules that Daniel has set in place, but also what it is she believes in, and where she truly belongs.
Alongside unexpected allies, Miriam fights to learn–and challenge–the truth behind the only way of life she’s ever known, even if it means straying from the path of Righteousness.
A compelling debut novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free.
Strong female lead
Miriam is an incredibly strong female lead right from the very beginning of the novel. She does not want to put up with the suppression and ill treatment of women that the men of the cult have turned into an accepted way of life. She gradually finds her voice and stands up for not just herself and the other women, but for everyone who is under the control of the Prophet. Headstrong and intelligent, Miriam makes a wonderful protagonist.
Distinct dual perspectives
This story is not just told from Miriam’s perspective but also from Caleb’s, the boy she’s sure she is meant to marry. Alternating between these characters and seeing every situation through two different sets of eyes made this an even more intriguing plot. Schuren writes these narrators well, making their voices distinct from the other, which can be a challenge when working with more than one point of view.
Schuren’s writing style is definitely one of the strongest aspects of this novel. I found it very easy to get into and it had a very captivating quality to it. It was not just the story but the way she told it and worded it that held me in the narrative. The writing and the message it sends are both beautiful.
Detailed and realistic worldbuilding
I found Schuren’s worldbuilding to be absolutely fantastic. She creates this extremely detailed and frighteningly realistic picture of what living in a cult is like. She forms both the physical world and the psychological world of these characters through her words. It feels like you are there in the desert—in the supposed safety of the community. You experience the raw emotions and the sinister atmosphere. She really brings this story to life.
Vivid and multi-dimensional characters
Both main characters and side characters alike are multi-dimensional in this story. They are clearly carefully crafted and they evolve and respond realistically to their environment and the events of the novel. They don’t feel flat—they are the driving force of the plot. I felt that I got to know many of the characters well, no matter what size part they play in the grand scheme of things. Just like the worldbuilding, the characters are equally as detailed and fully fleshed out.
Accurate portrayal of psychological aspects
I absolutely love anything to do with psychology—I am actually a forensic psychology major—and the psychology of cults is particularly interesting to study. Seeing the mindsets of both the members and the leaders is both fascinating and chilling. This novel primarily demonstrates how the beliefs and laws a leader comes up with are drilled into members. We see how this warps a person’s thoughts and view of the world and how incredibly challenging it is to break free of these beliefs. Schuren’s depictions of these elements of a cult are very accurate, enraging, and heartbreaking.
Plenty of diversity and a huge focus on equality
The primary subject dealt with in this novel is the unequal and extremely poor treatment of women within the cult. We see how the men silence them and do not allow them to make their own decisions. There are also other elements of unfair treatment of minorities in the plot. The importance of standing up for these types of injustices, whether you are part of that minority or not, and of treating others with respect are shown through this story.
Keeps you on your toes
I was surprised at how many twists there were in this novel that I did not see coming. And I liked every single one. Schuren takes the narrative in a number of unexpected directions. There are so many secrets spilled and revelations that propelled me through every chapter. This is a true page-turner.
Good character development
Tying in with what I said before about the characters being multi-dimensional, Schuren does a good job of clearly indicating how they develop over the course of the story. They learn and grow and evolve. The events that take place and the upheaval they experience consistently affect each character, their actions, and their views of life and the world around them.
An overall captivating story
This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it absolutely did not disappoint. It was so easy to become engrossed in this novel and I found it extremely hard to put down. Schuren brings so many interesting elements together to create a story that will quickly draw in readers and open their eyes to topics that are very important and timely. I highly recommend picking this up.
Shannon Schuren (shannon.schuren.org) works as a children’s librarian at a public library and writes from a cozy she-shed in her backyard. Her short stories have appeared in various journals such as Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, Big Pulp, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Shannon lives in Sheboygan Falls, WI, with her husband and three children. Follow her on Twitter @shannonschuren.
Blog Tour Schedule
Week One: The Virtue of Sin
June 24 – Cozybooknook – Review + Creative Instagram Picture
June 25 – The Book Shire – Playlist
June 26 – JeanBookNerd – Author Guest Post: What fiction most influenced your childhood, and what effect did those stories have on THE VIRTUE OF SIN?
June 27 – The Quirky Booknerd – Listicle: The Top 10 Virtues of The Virtues of Sin
June 28 – YA Books Central – Author Guest Post: Ten Random Facts about The Virtue of Sins (or yourself)
Week Two: The Downstairs Girl
July 1 – Nerdy By Nature – Review
July 2 – YA Wednesdays – Creative Instagram Picture
July 3 – Awkwordly Emma – Author Guest Post: Her Research Process
July 4 – It Starts at Midnight – Moodboard
July 5 – The Reading Corner for All – Book Aesthetic