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The Sin-Eater's Confession

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  920 ratings  ·  183 reviews
People in Merit, Wisconsin, always said Jimmy was . . . you know. But people said all sorts of stupid stuff. Nobody really knew anything. Nobody really knew Jimmy.

I guess you could say I knew Jimmy as well as anyone (which was not very well). I knew what scared him. And I knew he had dreams—even if I didn't understand them. Even if he nearly ruined my life to pursue them.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2013 by Carolrhoda Lab (first published January 1st 2012)
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3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  920 ratings  ·  183 reviews

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Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was ok

i honestly don't know what to do with this review.

because i feel bad for only giving the book 2 stars, but it just didn't work for me. and that doesn't mean it's not a good book or that it's not an important book, it just means that i, karen tiffany brissette, did not enjoy reading it. which is a drag, because i have liked every other book that i have read by her. this one seemed weak,but then in the endnotes, she says that this is the first YA book she ever sold, which i guess means it is a re-
Initial reaction: Honestly I'm torn as to how to rate this because this was a very tough, raw read, and I need some time to meditate on it to explain my thoughts in full. In short sum, I thought this was a brilliantly told story of a boy who feels guilt over the murder of another - and his powerlessness of being able to do anything about it. Granted, what happens to Jimmy's character broke my heart, even made me cry, but while I could've raged at Ben's actions, inactions, and thoughts, I felt ba ...more
Nov 10, 2012 added it
Shelves: ebook, arc
Nope. No no no. Uh uh.

You can say dead body. You can even describe how bloody it is. Or mention his guts or whatever. But I can't handle lengthy (this is page 3, now) descriptions of how a blanket of flies are eating his lips and laid eggs in his eye sockets, or how his splattered brain looks like melted butter.

As much as I loved Ilsa's other book I think I may just vomit on this one for real.
Cassi aka Snow White Haggard
4.5/5 stars
The Sin-Eater's Confession is a very dark and disturbing book. Not because of ghosts or horror, but because the realism and prejudice represented. The book is mostly internal dialogue, following the story of Ben who witnessed his friend Jimmy's murder. Nobody knows he was a witness and he can't bring himself to tell anyone. So he struggles with what he saw alone.

According to everybody in town Jimmy was murdered because he was gay. Not that anyone really knew, but everyone suspected. T
Elise (TheBookishActress)
I'm sorry, but this is just torture porn masquerading as symbolic, deep writing.

Bick uses the small town environment to create a horrible, terrifying atmosphere. Everybody in this town is a homophobic idiot. Including our protagonist. Bick does get credit for making a very claustrophobic environment, but after a while the town and environment was SO terrible, with no happiness in sight, that I couldn’t bring myself to care anymore.

That’s the main issue here; the book is so fucking depressing a
Mónica BQ
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The blurb of the books says it all. You don't need more than that. Told in a sort of epistolary novel, Ben recounts a story of a tragedy viewed from the very narrowed mind of a teen that simply doesn't know any better.

An extremely well written account of a teenagers guilty conscience. It was very very painful to read, not just because of the gay undertones of the situation described, but for its very real portrayal of small- minded thinking.
How fear so big is instilled in people for daring to be
I received an ARC of this from NetGalley. I tried reading Ashes by the same author and didn't really like it, but I figured a more contemporary, non-dystopian-bandwagon novel might be better.

I feel really awful, but I really, really didn't like this. At all. It felt extremely drawn-out and tortured. It could have been a very, very good short story or even novella, but I feel like a lot of authors don't consider that--or maybe publishers don't want to publish it. Beats me.

I was also interested b
Jenni Frencham
Ben is in the army, and he thinks he's going to die on his next mission, so he's taking time to confess everything before he heads out. When Ben was in high school, Jimmy was beaten to death because some people suspected he might be gay. Ben saw what happened and never told; since then he has felt responsible for Jimmy's death.

I didn't really like this book. Ben's mother has been running his life, which is not an atypical storyline for a young adult novel, but Ben doesn't have that epiphany whe
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
How did we end up here?

Carolrhoda Lab + Ilsa Bick = GIMME NOW

Really, it’s not rocket science. Hey, you want some Carolrhoda Lab books one of which is written by Ilsa Bick? Hey, do my lungs want oxygen?

Okay, book. You've got 50 pages. Go!

I’ve been reading Ilsa’s work since she published DRAW THE DARK and I’ve watched her craft develop over those years and I have to say she’s getting more and more succinct. The voice in SIN-EATER’S was immediately engaging (although the military aspect ended up
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I must start out by saying that I am a huge Ilsa J Bick fan! I discovered her with Ashes (which I almost didn't read but am SO glad I did!) and have clamored to get my hands on everything else since.

With that said, when I heard this one was available, I had to get a copy as soon as possible! I was able to do that and immediately began the book. It didn't take long to realize that unlike all the others I read, where I would start and not stop until the last page, then re-read multiple times, I n
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Bick has done it again with The Sin-Eater's Confession. The book had me riveted throughout the entire story.

I enjoyed the way The Sin-Eater's Confession was written. We learn that our main character (I don't know his name, and I'm not sure it was ever used) is in Afghanistan. He's ready to volunteer for a mission from which it is quite likely he won't survive. But first, he has to get something off his chest. He's been hiding a secret that is eating him up, and he's going to write a letter and t
A Book Vacation
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
To see my full review:

This is one of those books that punches you in the gut, mainly because you cringe for the main character, his bad decisions, and the fact that this really could happen. We learn the sad and often gruesome details of this story through the penitent letters of Ben, an extremely sad character who, a victim of circumstance, was at the wrong place at the wrong time, both literally and figuratively. We often ask ourselves, “what if?” when
Apr 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-2013
This book was graphic; it was intense and it was uncomfortable at times. That said, when I finished I felt like I was left reeling because it sticks with you.

There's a message there, about finding who you are, knowing what you want, and the point when children begin to separate themselves from their parents and become their own people. The horrible things that happen in this book? They are made worse by the fact that similar things have actually happened before.

Not sure how I would go about reco
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
It is very unusual that I give a novel 4 out of 5 stars. But this book was special. I really can't even say that I liked it because it was so "painful" to read. The subject matter is about hate, the time when things may be fluid (as I see it) in a teenagers sexuality and the attitudes around that growing awareness in them. It is about the intolerance in others around that time period. It is a painful book about that time.

I can't say that I "liked" it but I was fully invested with the story line
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Too stressful and hurt too much. I didn't think it was worth the heartache. Gore and violence don't bother me but the constant vigilance and paranoia the main character displayed really unnerved me. Way too many unanswered questions.
Elizabeth Sanders
now that, my friends, is how you write a mystery-crime thriller. can i pitch the idea for this to be made into a movie? the letter format/story-telling would make for a much more enthralling and dark version of forrest gump. (minus jennnaaaayyyy and plus a murder)
Nov 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
The story begins with Ben in Afghanistan. He's a medic. And he's about to volunteer for a mission that could be his last. Before he goes, he decides to write a "confession" of what happened over the span of about a year way back in high school in small-town Merit, Wisconsin. (He enlisted in the Navy when he was a senior? About 3 years ago?) Anyway -- near the end of his junior year, he befriends a boy, Jimmy Lange, who is a year younger than he is. Jimmy's older brother, Del, was killed in a pre ...more
Elizabeth Drake

This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes

Cover Impressions: The cover is what first drew me to this book. I loved the image of the letter and how it was a little faded and travel worn. The scratched in lettering and the blood add an element of mystery and an interesting edge.

The Gist: When Ben befriends a young boy who had lost a brother, he never thought that this decision would change the course of his life. When Jimmy reveals just how deep his feelings are for Ben, the t
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ok, Ilsa. You win. Your books are kicking my ass. And they KEEP kicking my ass long after the last page has been turned and devoured.

And I agree with your protagonist: some people might want to know everything that happened, and say "that's it?!" But I get it. I see. And I'm OK. Well, I'm NOT OK, but I understand. And I'll have to confess: I stalled out about 100 pages into it. It was almost PHYSICALLY uncomfortable for me to continue. I was so upset. I'm glad I finished it, but to be inside so
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
When local football player Del dies, Ben volunteers to help his family around the farm and eventually takes a job there. He takes Del's little brother Jimmy under his wing, but things change when Jimmy places second in a national photography contest. One of the photos is a sexually charged image of Ben that fuels much gossip and speculation in their small town of Merit, Wisconsin.

You know where Ben ends up from the beginning. THE SIN EATER'S CONFESSION is framed by Ben in Afghanistan, serving as
Aaron Leventhal
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What an incredible book! This book takes the reader on a journey of a boy who experiences the tragedies of being a human, of running from conflict, and how SELF is shaped. It is a very exciting, relatable, and enjoyable book.
Finally! A four star read. Well, actually it's more like 3.5 stars for the lack of a proper ending. (When I read a mystery/thriller book, I expect to know "who dun it" by the end of the book. I appreciated with Bick was trying to do with the ambiguous ending, but appreciating and liking are two different things.) Minus the ending, this book had a lot of good things going for it. First, there was a strong protagonist voice. A rarity inside YA fiction. While I didn't actually like Ben as a charact ...more
Karyn Silverman
Review notes:
Repetitive. drags. Slightly incredulous but may be Northeast in me.

Good voice but character limited. Not sure I believe he joins the military.

Sort of morphs into murder mystery but then it isn't.

Overall lots of flaws.

Applaud lack of any answers. Deplore back and forth at the very end tho, which overdoes it.

Too much focus on Ben rather than what's his name. See, I forgot the name. Not a good sign.

Characters: only one really exists at all; all others are ciphers. Maybe sign of narrat
Ellen Zarate
Sometimes what we don't do is just as important as what we do. Ben is as real a character as I've ever met and this Yale-bound, destined-for-greatness 17-year-old's life is turned upside down by one bad decision that snowballs.This story, Ben's story, is about the complexity of growing up under the burden of parental expectations. It is also about the complexities of coming of age. Finally, it is about horrific injustice, hatred and the hate crimes it spurs, and the damage caused by words and we ...more
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book absolutely killed me. Its excellence completely snuck up on me and before I knew it the book was under my skin in ways a book hasn't done in a while. Though it took a while to read, because the school year has started and I'm back at work and have less time to read, when I *was* reading it I couldn't put it down, and it made me almost miss my bus stop on three occasions. It was horrifying, and beautiful, and chilling and heart-wrenching, and everything all at once and THE ENDING. THE. ...more
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The ending infuriated me ! That being said I did really enjoy this book. I haven't read any of her other books but this one was fantastic and i will have to pick up one of her other books to see of it's as good
Elizabeth Everett
Jul 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
A dark novel about murder and hidden pain...but a really great read! I also loved Ilsa Bick's dystopian novel, Ashes.
Mar 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Disturbing, suspenseful, and I can't stop thinking about it.
Apr 29, 2014 marked it as to-read
Shelves: on-hold
This book is really good and very well written. But I can't really handle the subject matter right now.
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