Two things led me to read this book: the hype and the fact that it was billed as Magical Realism. I heard multiple authors crow about how wonderful it is, and saw a stunning number of positive reviews. I’m a huge fan of Young Adult and Magical Realism, so how could I resist?
The description sounded a bit vague, and everyone seemed to be saying that they couldn’t decide how to describe what happened. Now I know why. The plot is sort of patchy, strong at some points and missing in others. I can remember pausing after the first fifty pages and asking myself what had actually happened so far. Not much. Yes, Roza disappears, as the description warned, but it actually happens before the events of this book. By the last page, I still felt a little confused as to what had occurred.
Bone Gap is primarily Finn pondering one thing or another: his relationship with his brother, Roza’s disappearance, his budding romance with beekeeper girl Petey, but not so much action. Although this isn’t entirely a criticism, I will say that the result was that I never felt fully drawn in to the story. There was rarely enough action to keep me turning pages, as I would have liked.
All of that said, the writing in this book is wonderful. Ruby has a skill for winding together the Magical Realism (although one could actually argue that it is more Fantasy at times) with this rural setting. The talking corn, for example, contributes to make really interesting and haunting environment. I thought that Bone Gap had a really unique verbal pacing that must come from Ruby’s authorial voice. It is as though, if you read the book aloud, it would be very quick and snappy. That was the first thing that really drew me to the story. However, I don’t think that lyrical writing can necessarily substitute for plot, and there are times where that is really the case in Bone Gap.
I particularly like the character of Petey. She is a beekeeper and Finn finds himself drawn to her because of this skill. She was a great YA female because she isn’t stereotypical. Petey is a bit of a tomboy, but she has no issue dressing more feminine and being girly with Finn. Their relationship was adorable and, quite surprisingly, more physical than most YAs.
Possibly the most fascinating part of Bone Gap, and what I think keeps so many people’s attention, is Roza’s narrative arc. She has been admired her whole life for her beauty, yet in a way this has been more of curse for her. It has gained her unwanted male attention, and inevitably led to her kidnapping. A man has become so obsessed with her that he thinks he has the right to sweep her away and keep her for himself, so long as he offers her whatever she might want in terms of comforts. He seems to think that providing material possessions, a house, cooks, etc. will someone substitute for Roza’s freedom. The message of feminism, and how beauty can actually be a boon, is really powerful.
I can’t say that Bone Gap will be going into my list of favorite books, but I do think it is a strong book. It reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane with how the world of reality and fantasy are close, and often blurring. The finale also reminded me of Gaiman’s book because it was so odd and magically creepy. Also, it is a refreshing break from the normal YA books being put out right now.