I borrowed Sunshine by Robin McKinley from the Logan County Library on 11/6/2009 and I started reading it on 11/13/2009. I finished it on 12/6/2009. Now, let me tell you, I am a fast reader. Normally I finish 250 pages in a few hours max. Sunshine is 389 pages and it took me nearly three weeks to force my way through it. Needless to say, I was disappointed by my first experience with McKinley.
2 1/2 stars out of 5
Robin McKinley’s name came up during my hunt for fairy tale retellings. I actually wanted to read Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of the Beauty and the Beast, but the day I went to the library, there wasn’t a copy available at the library. So I went with Sunshine because it was available, the cover boasted a review from Neil Gaiman that it was “pretty much perfect,” and the story sounded interesting.
Below is the blurb from the inside jacket on the hardcover edition:
From acclaimed author Robin McKinley–a mesmerizing novel of supernatural desire…
“Her feet are already bleeding–if you like feet…”
There are places in the world where darkness rules, where it’s unwise to walk. Sunshine knew that. But there hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake for years, and she needed a place to be alone for a while.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t alone. She never heard them coming. Of course you don’t, when they’re vampires.
They took her clothes and sneakers. They dressed her in a long red gown. And they shackled her to the wall of an abandoned mansion–within easy reach of a figure stirring in the moonlight.
She knows that he is a vampire. She knows that she’s to be his dinner, and that when he is finished with her, she will be dead. Yet, as dawn breaks, she finds that he has not attempted to harm her. And now it is he who needs her to help him survive the day…
Sounds good, right? I love supernatural. I dig vampires. And I adore a strong female character who rescues a male. Unfortunately, the story did not deliver on what the blurb promised.
In my opinion, the biggest downfall of the story is the first person narrative from only one character the entire novel. The inner monologue, mostly about Sunshine’s life, was extremely boring and gave me little reward for reading it. I can’t even tell you how many times I had to read about cinnamon rolls and other baked goods because that is what Sunshine does for a living–she is a baker in her parent’s shop. There are pages and pages of Sunshine just rambling on, i.e. thinking, about absolutely nothing that I needed to know. Again, see the above reference to “cinnamon rolls.” For this reason, the story moved at slower than a snail’s pace. Strike one.
I’m all about a character starting out weak and whiny, not really seeing their own true potential, but only if eventually that character accepts or rejects their abilities. Sunshine seems to be pulled against her will the entire story, never making a conscious decision on her own to either embrace her new life or fight to get her old one back. She comes across as a “victim” type with little to no self-esteem and I can’t connect with weak. When the entire story is written in the “I” voice, the reader has to be able to connect with that character. Even on the last two pages Sunshine is still not taking any responsibility for her life and she is not being an active participant in making choices for herself, e.g. “I didn’t make up my mind” (page 388) and “This was now my life” and “Get used to it, Sunshine” (page 389). Strike two.
There is an excessive amount of “info dump.” The plot of this book is a strong one but it is lost in pages and pages of exposition that could’ve been delivered in a much more effective manner. The action is buried in all of the narration and there is barely any dialogue at all. The dialogue succeeds in the scenes between Sunshine and Constantine, Sunshine and Yolande, and Sunshine and her grandmother. But other than that, it’s questionable to say the least. The main vampire in the story, Constantine, is in only a handful of scenes, and for all the narration and exposition, I hardly get to know him at all. How am I supposed to fear for Constantine’s safety when I don’t know him well enough to care whether he survives? Strike three.
Overall, I think this book would’ve been great had there been some serious editing. However, in its current published form, it only reached “fair” status. The strong elements, especially the worldbuilding, just weren’t strong enough to overcome the problems I listed above, at least for me anyway. I would welcome a sequel because I’d like to see Sunshine become the strong woman I know she can be and I’d like to see where she and Constantine go off to at the end of this book.
Again, I could really see a great story, if I squinted hard enough, but it was buried in a bunch of stuff that kept me from being able to enjoy it.
Have you read a book by Robin McKinley?
Based on what I thought of Sunshine, do you think I should read Beauty?
Purchase Sunshine from: Amazon.
[According to McKinley’s blog, there will not be a sequel to Sunshine.]