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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Laura Ruby's Bone Gap is about a missing girl named Roza and the aftermath of her disappearance. Finn O'Sullivan knows she was kidnapped but can't prove it and beings to doubt himself. His brother, Sean, who was in love with Roza, thinks perhaps she's left him, given that he's been left before. The book examines love, loss, abandonment, and family duty against the backdrop of a small Illinois farming town that's a gateway to a mysterious world. The sex, drinking, and drug use in the book is not explicit. Infrequent profanity includes "s--t" and "f--k" and it's variations. The characters face many violent situations, including stabbing, beatings, a face slashing, and an implied rape. Bone Gap won the 2016 Michael J. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults.
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What's the story?
On the surface, the town of Bone Gap, Illinois, doesn't seem to be all that different from other Midwestern towns, with its crops, livestock, and assortment of oddball citizens. But there are mysterious happenings and gateways in Bone Gap, some of which citizens might know about and some they can merely sense. One day, a beautiful girl with a mysterious past shows up injured and shaken in the barn of the O'Sullivan boys, Sean and Finn. They let the girl, Roza, stay in the in-law apartment in their house. Over the course of a year, she becomes a beloved member of their household and the community. One day Roza disappears, and Finn believes he saw her get kidnapped. No one in town will believe him. The town's reaction speaks volumes about their past losses and disappointments. Finn and Sean, for instance, were abandoned by their mother and left to fend for themselves. What if Roza is just another person they trusted who walked out on them? Even so, Finn refuses to believe she left on her own. His journey to solve her disappearance includes romance with a beekeeper, suffering at the hands of bullies, fights with his brother, and a gorgeous, seemingly magical horse that shows up in his barn one night.
Is it any good?
This beautifully written tale blends adventure, character study, and a touch of magical realism. All the characters in BONE GAP, including the minor ones, are well drawn and interesting. Author Laura Ruby does an excellent job of creating unusual individuals who feel like real people, and their lives and pasts strike a strong emotional chord. The book is slow to develop but not necessarily in a bad way. Ruby takes her time with the characters and the various romantic and adventurous story lines, and the narrative switches between Finn's and Roza's points of view. Because the action doesn't kick into gear until about halfway through the book, Bone Gap might not appeal to younger or less patient readers. The book's overarching themes are love and loss: What is the difference between real love and obsession or between love and possession? When someone leaves you, is there something wrong with you or with the other person? The examination of the different ways people cope with all kinds of love and abandonment -- including romance, family, and friendship -- is the best part of Bone Gap.
The story's magical realism elements draw on Greek mythology, and even though the fantasy elements are interesting, they could have been more integrated into the main story. These scenes felt too far apart from the rest of the "real" world in the book, and the story would have benefited from more information on how or why Bone Gap is an entryway to that mystical world and more explanation of the nameless bad guy's motives and who he is. He clearly is a metaphor for all the wrong ways to love a person, but more on how he came to be obsessed and how he has the powers he does would have helped the story enormously. The book examines the way we internalize our own problems and disappointments, and the biggest message is that love can take many forms.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how we react to the ending of a relationship. Do you beat yourself up over things you could have done differently? Or can you think of ways you can learn lessons from every relationship to use as you go through life?
How do you feel about the way love is portrayed in movies and books? Wanting to possess another person can be portrayed as intense love or an unhealthy obsession. Can love at first glance ever be real love? Or is it just infatuation?
How do you feel about the element of magical realism in books and movies? Does it serve a good storytelling purpose most of the time?
- Author: Laura Ruby
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: March 3, 2015
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
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