Bones of a Saint
By Michael Berry,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Resourceful teen faces gang in exciting coming-of-age tale.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Bones of a Saint offers opportunities to talk about teen gangs and how they recruit new members.
Standing up to petty criminals is dangerous, but courage can overcome evil. Storytelling is an important means of passing down knowledge and building one's identity.
Positive Role Models
Fifteen-year-old RJ wants to be left alone by the Blackjacks, but the leader of the gang insists that he rob the old man who has come to town. RJ is protective of his family, especially disabled Charley. RJ takes some dangerous gambles, but only because he is backed into a corner. RJ is White, but many of his neighbors, including his best friend Marty, are Latinx.
Violence & Scariness
RJ is threatened often, and beaten up once. The final fight involves guns. A girl disappears, but no one knows what happened to her.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
RJ admires a girl's "t-ts." By the end of the novel, he and another girl acknowledge they have a crush on each other.
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"S--t," "damn," "hell," "t-ts," "f--k," upwards of a dozen times each.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
RJ drinks sherry with Mr. Leguin.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Bones of a Saint is a coming-of-age novel set in desert California in the mid-1970s. Fifteen-year-old RJ Armante wants nothing to do with the Blackjacks gang, but he finds himself tormented by the petty criminals. Author Grant Farley captures a specific time and place with excitement and sensitivity. Swearing includes "s--t," "damn," "hell," and "f--k." Sexual content is limited to a couple of kisses and some ogling of cleavage. RJ drinks sherry with Mr. Leguin.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
As BONES OF A SAINT begins, RJ Armante wants to be left alone by the Blackjacks, while the gang insists that he torment Mr. Leguin, a mysterious loner who's moved into an abandoned house. RJ wants to protect his disabled brother Charley, but he also doesn't to hurt the old man. As he searches for a way out, RJ uncovers secrets about Leguin, about his family and about himself.
Is It Any Good?
Anti-gang sagas can dip into cliche, but this mid-'70s coming-of-age novel uses familiar elements to create something new. Grant Farley sets Bones of a Saint in the dead-end town of Arcangel, and depicts the characters who live there with empathy and respect. RJ in particular is an engaging protagonist, trapped by circumstance but fighting to keep his family safe. Readers may be reminded of the novels of S. E. Hinton, but Bones of a Saint shines with its own particular light -- a funny, exciting, and knowing debut.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Parents can talk about how Bones of a Saint depicts rural teen life nearly 50 years ago. How have things changed for kids since that time?
Why do kids join gangs? How can gang kids learn about new ways of life? What resources do they need to succeed in life?
How does one find redemption? Why do people want to confess their sins?
- Author: Grant Farley
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Soho Teen
- Publication date: February 2, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: March 30, 2021
Did we miss something on diversity?
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Our Editors Recommend
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