Released: March 3, 2015
Pages: 368 (hardcover)
Theme(s): Identity, belonging, stereotypes
Genre(s): YA, contemporary, magical realism
Age Group: 12+
Source: UTD Library
Buy it: Book Depository | Amazon
Summary: 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.
My Goodreads Rating: ★★★
Bone Gap takes place in the summer before the protagonist Finn O’ Sullivan’s senior year. While he is preparing for college applications and entrance exams he finds himself falling in love with the angry bee keeper Petey. But he’s also plagued by the guilt of having witness his friend and brother’s girlfriend Roza be abducted. The biggest problem is no one believes she was abducted.
Half the book is from the perspective of Finn trying to get on with his life and navigate relationships with his older brother, who he feels resents and blames him, and fall in love with Petey, a girl who’s different from every other in town. The other half of the book, we follow Roza and her life imprisoned by a man who’s waiting for her to fall in love with him. In these chapters we see her life leading up to how she arrives in Bone Gap.
Overall, this felt like a read unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. It’s hard to place the time in which the story is set, so it almost feels timeless. This ambiguity really aids the ethereal atmosphere of the story, along with the limited perspective we receive in the majority of the story being told by two partially unreliable narrators as Finn is kind of an oddball who sees the world differently and Roza is undergoing psychological trauma.
Since I don’t really know how to talk about the story without spoiling anything, I thought I would just talk about some of the characters in this review!
Finn is, frankly, an adorable protagonist. He almost doesn’t even seem like he could be real. There are no real character faults with him. That being said, he’s not even a Gary Stu! He’s clueless about the world and those around him, but there’s a reason for it that I’d love to talk about but it might be considered a spoiler! So I won’t.
Roza and Petey
At first, I was startled and uncomfortable by the level of focus on appearance in this novel, particularly the stereotypical negativity and bad luck associated with Roza’s apparent beauty. But then I realize it was emphasized not only on purpose but also for a specific reason. The two main female characters of Bone Gap are very much foils in terms of looks and personality. We find out mid-book that they were actually even friends before Roza was abducted. It’s a surprise not least because they have both lived two very different lives shaped by their looks.
Roza, who is supposed to be very beautiful, has been plagued with trouble all her life because of her beauty. All her experiences with boys are tainted with aggression and possessiveness. It’s like she’s a magnet for misogynistic jerks, in her home country of Poland and in the U.S. where she studies abroad. These horrible experiences all cumulate in Roza’s misfortune of falling prey to the attraction of her abductor, who makes it very clear throughout the book that he wants her because she is beautiful.
Petey, on the other hand, is never explicitly described directly or indirectly, but it’s hinted at throughout the book that while she might have a nice body, her face leaves something to be desired. When her relationship with the beautiful Finn becomes public, the whole town is suspicious. They think Finn must only be after one thing. So it’s ironic that while Petey is not “blessed” with a beauty, she would so easily find a nice guy who sees her as she truly is and not just her outward appearance.
It’s a not a new idea in literature that beauty is only skin deep and that what should matter is on the inside. But in Bone Gap we see a more nuanced critique of how beauty is still something that is valued and commodified in society today. This book just takes it to the extreme to show how the person benefitted by the commodification is not necessarily the beholder of the beauty. In this book we see there is a lot we may not see if we are not looking beneath the face. And that’s a sad reality. Everyone (but silly Finn) saw Roza’s outer beauty, but just like with Petey, no one saw the inner beauty.
Bone Gap is a carefully crafted, stunning read that left me feeling strangely off-balance after reading it. The mystery and characters were excellent, but I’m not sure I would not say I was immediately blown away by this book. It took me a while to think about the story and why I appreciated it. It’s not one I would was I’d reread for fun, but it is one that I’m glad to have read and know will stick with me.
My main critique of this novel is that I found the climax utterly anti-climatic. I usually like magical realism, but in this novel rather than serving to enhance my emotions or the prose, I feel like it cloaked very important parts of the story in ambiguity that was a bit frustrating when I wanted to know what was really happening! I was satisfied with the ending, however, so that was something.
Let me know if you’ve read Bone Gap and what you thought in the comments! I’d love to hear what you thought!