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Sunshine - Robin McKinley I just love this book to pieces (which makes reviewing it incredibly hard). But not everybody will love it as much as I did; try a sample, and you’ll know.

Sunshine is an urban fantasy tale set in an alternate U.S. and narrated by a 25-year-old baker named Rae Seddon (nicknamed Sunshine). One night she gets kidnapped by vampires. And.... the blurb doesn’t give away any more than that, so I won’t, either.

What I love about this book:

I love Sunshine, as a character. She feels like a real, three-dimensional person with an actual life. I love that we get a full picture of her life, even the not-strictly-plot-relevant parts like her job in her family’s coffeeshop and reading vampire novels and her relationship with her landlady, and that it all manages to be interesting anyway. I love that she responds to events in a realistic, human way, which makes the urban-fantasy world feel more real than most. I love her ramblings and sense of humor.

I love Sunshine’s voice. McKinley is a fantastic writer, and her lovely, fluid prose just pulls me right in every time. You might think an author known for her young adult fairy-tale retellings might have a hard time writing writing an adult, modern voice, complete with slang and frank discussions of sex, but it totally works. I love the conversational tone and the way she tells the story as if to someone from her world and who already knows the basic facts about it.

I love the weird, evolving relationship between Sunshine and the vampire, Con. McKinley’s vampires are fairly awful creatures and she doesn’t let you lose sight of that--even at their best, they look disgusting, they smell bad, they don’t understand human emotional needs--but in spite of (or because of?) that, the two main characters have a complex, emotionally charged relationship that’s tons of fun to read about.

Why 4.5 stars, rather than 5:

Sometimes Sunshine’s ramblings go on a little too long, making the plot sag a bit in the middle. Fortunately, though, things pick up again toward the end--I’ve read 5 or 6 McKinley books and this is by far the best climax (and aftermath) that I’ve seen in any of them. (It seems like she has trouble with climaxes--often they’re rushed, or giant deus ex machinas, or just rather boring, but this one has none of those problems.)

All the unanswered questions. Some you wouldn’t always expect to be answered, because life goes on and isn’t always tied up in a neat little bow; some will leave you thinking you must have missed something. You didn’t. What did Bo say in his email to Aimil? Sunshine opened it like 3 times and never read it?? What kind of nonsense is that?! Oh.... that wasn't what you were wondering? Oh right....

Common misinformation about this book (because there’s a lot of it!):

“It’s YA”: No, it’s not. McKinley mostly writes young adult books, but this is not among them.

“It’s horror”: It’s urban fantasy. “Horror,” to me, is stuff you read to scare yourself. I avoid horror because I don’t need to add fear to my life, and I almost avoided this book for that reason. And okay, there are a couple viscerally horrifying scenes, but you’re not likely to get an adrenaline rush beyond what you get from reading a good book.

“It’s not a vampire romance”: It is and it isn’t. Not exactly romance novel material, and yet....

In the end, I know this is far from a perfect book, but I absolutely loved it. For days after finishing, I couldn’t read anything else and kept going back to re-read bits of this one instead. So it gets rounded up to 5 stars for being one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in months.