The Virtue of Sin is an entry into the coming-of-age in a cult/religious extremist group genre of YA fiction, a genre I find morbidly fascinating. With the steady publication of these types of stories, I’m not alone in that fascination. In this case, Miriam is a sixteen year old girl in the second generation of the Children of Daniel. In their closed community of New Jerusalem, God has instructed Daniel, the charismatic prophet who leads the community, that it is time for the second generation to engage in a Matrimony. Miriam and her friends are excited, since they will be chosen as wives by the boys of the second generation, a role that they have been preparing for their whole lives. Miriam is sure that she will be chosen by Caleb, who she has communicated with via secret messages, even though the girls are forbidden to speak to or around men until they are married. But on the night of the Matrimony, something goes wrong. Instead of Caleb, Miriam’s name is called by Aaron, a boy who recently joined the community with his family. The Matrimony kicks off a series of events that will change not only Miriam’s life but the future of the community forever.
I enjoyed The Virtue of Sin. The pacing occasionally felt a bit slow, though that might have something to do with the fact that I’m someone who flips forward to the end of a book fairly early on, so I know where things are headed. Short chapters and changing narrators keep the pace moving, and Miriam’s confusion and questioning of her beliefs felt authentic. I do appreciate that this takes a different path on the cult/religious extremist narrative in that Daniel and the other elders do not marry the teenage girls. Instead Schuren plays with the idea of love in your teens as a basis for marriage and defining what it means to love someone.
Recommended for: Readers of The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly (though this story isn’t quite as horrifying) and other cult/religious extremist novels.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via BookishFirst in exchange for an honest review.