Published by Balzer + Bray on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Magical Realism, Retelling, Young Adult
Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?
Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.
As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.
“People look, they don’t see.”
Just thinking about this incredible book I finished a few days ago brings back all the emotions I felt while reading. Bone Gap is honestly a masterpiece and I don’t say that lightly. It is however, also a very difficult book to review.
What kind of book is Bone Gap? The answer is: I don’t know. It’s not really magical realism or fantasy, not contemporary, not a thriller or mystery. I have no idea how I would categorize it. It is book that is totally different from anything I’ve read; it bends genre conventions and throws tropes and clichés out the window.
The novel reads a lot like a fairy tale and yet I didn’t feel any of the detachment I usually do with these kinds of stories. The book is so compelling and poignant that I couldn’t help but be completely invested. It’s about a lot more than just the plot. Without a doubt, Bone Gap is a character and theme driven story.
The story follows two brothers, Sean and Finn O’Sullivan, who live together with a beautiful girl, Roza, in a strange little town called Bone Gap until, one day, Roza mysteriously disappears and the entire town believes it was with her consent. Only Finn knows the truth: Roza didn’t leave, she was kidnapped. Kidnapped by a man whose face Finn cannot remember. And nobody in Bone Gap believes him, not even his own brother.
Told through alternating POV’s of Finn and Roza, as well as some of the other inhabitants of Bone Gap, the story slowly unfurls in front of the reader. Occasional flashbacks give the book an unexpected depth. Laura Ruby weaves in fairy tale and mythological elements and the result is a novel that is both a mythological retelling and something else entirely. The references are very subtle; nothing in this book is overt.
The characters are phenomenal. I loved every single one; they were all well-drawn and complex, lovable in their own ways.
We have Finn, eighteen and the prettiest boy in town. Yet, people don’t know what to make of him. They find him strange. They call him names – Sidetrack, Spaceman, Moonface – because he doesn’t look people in the eye.
“What have you got against people?”
Finn hated crowds. Thousands of people bumping and churning. “Too many opinions.”
Everyone believes Finn is in love with Roza, when in reality he loves Petey. But of course, nobody in Bone Gap can believe that because Petey is considered ugly. What would such a pretty boy want with such an ugly girl? Surely he only pities her. Petey believes that too.
Roza’s character could have easily been the victim of stereotyping and maybe, in the hands of a less talented author, she would have been. Instead, she turned out to be a wonderful character. Headstrong and independent, but also scarred. She is so beautiful that every person she meets comments on it, men all want a piece of her. They say they are in love with her without actually getting to know her. Roza hates it; she has long realized being beautiful is not who she is. She wants people to see beyond the surface but that seems impossible. Her character gives us a glimpse of the negative consequences beauty can bring and the author handled it brilliantly. Roza was never annoying or arrogant and she wasn’t a damsel in distress that needed someone to come save her; she could take her of herself.
Abruptly, she let go of his wrists and allowed him to push her to her knees. She looked up, waited for his smile.
And then she punched him in the nuts.
And then we have Petey who I could personally identify with the most. She isn’t beautiful or even pretty and the people in town make that clear on every occasion they get. They say she looks like a giant bee; a bit of an inside joke seeing Petey is a beekeeper. She is so insecure that she can’t believe that Finn could actually find her beautiful. It doesn’t matter that she is smart, independent and competent; the people only see what is on the outside. Maybe worst of all is the fact that Petey used to like the way she looked when she was a little girl, but the harsh words of others have taken all her self-worth.
Bone Gap is a book about beauty, about perspective, about the way we view those around us and the way we see ourselves. The story is masterfully crafted and truly shows how our perception of things can impact others. Beauty is not depicted as the source of all evil; rather, the problem is how much value we put on beauty and how we treat people differently according to how much we believe they have. This book has so many layers that I could go on forever. But I’d rather let you discover the rest on your own.
Last but not least, this novel is also beautifully written. Some of the metaphors and similes used were perfection.
The twitch of her nerves was like the beating of a billion tiny wings, as if messages passed from his breath and his hands through her skin and back again, the way bees stroke one another’s antennae, feeding one another by touch.
If you are reader who always needs to know what is going on and doesn’t like to be confused, then this book might not be for you. It is a strange novel that will make you question reality. Otherwise though, I recommend this book to absolutely everyone. It is unique, it is touching and it is empowering.