The Lovely Bones

 
(i)

 

Violent, disturbing read meant for discussion with teens.

What parents need to know

Educational value

The novel is not really designed to teach the audience anything scholarly, there are some references to poets, literature, and areas of study that may be of interest to readers.

Positive messages

The messages of the book are simply hope and love. It is hope that things will get better and love that despite the horrible events of the novel, keep the characters intertwined and growing. The main character, though deceased for the majority of the novel, experiences growth through witnessing the strength and love her family and friends have for themselves and each other.

Positive role models

There is one absolute monster in the novel and some characters who make really bad decisions, however they learn from the decisions and that is what makes them positive role models. There are characters who show the importance of academic excellence, who are wonderful examples of true friends, and who are vunerable and strong at the same time.

Violence

A violent rape and dismemberment of a child is described by the child going through it. Struggle, penetration, copious amounts of blood, and a body part being recovered by a neighborhood dog is described in detail. A series of murders and rapes are described in less detail, but the incidents are numerous, dealing with a serial killer.

 

Sex

There are sexual relationships described between teens including description of feeling, hand placement, etc. An affair between two adults is described in more detail and a sexual encounter between two adults is vividly played out in the novel.

Language

Some swear words uttered by teens and adults including  "s--t," and one F-bomb during a serious and emotional moment in the book.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink alcohol frequently during this book, often to deal with the difficult and tragic situations that arise. A couple characters are portrayed as alcoholics and there are some brief occasions where teens are drinking. The are also occasions where teens used drugs including pot or are referred to using acid -- not unusual for the time period the novel is set.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book is a heavy read. It starts off with the intense, brutal rape and dismemberment of a 14-year-old girl. Most of the novel is narrated by the dead girl and there are more murders of women and girls described, often in great detail. There is alcohol use, adultery, teen and adult sex, and some swearing.

What's the story?

Susie Salmon was 14 years old when her neighbor raped, murdered, and later dismembered her body. In a heaven-like place Susie keeps watch over those left on Earth that matter -- her family, her friends, and her murderer. Susie is unable to let go of the life she had and relentlessly spies and lives by-proxy through those left. She is consumed with trying to figure out a way to make her murderer pay for his crimes. Will the family ever find closure? Will the police ever catch the killer and recover more than just her elbow bone?

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Alice Siebold is a gifted writer and within the first three pages of the novel, readers are hooked. They are terrified for and engaged in the main character's narration and ordeal. The plot is beautifully executed, telling a horrifying story in a way that is not overwrought or self-indulgent.

The quality of the novel, the depth of character development, and lessons held within the story makes it, without question, a wonderful book. The real question is if this novel is appropriate for teens (who may have renewed interest in the story because of the 2009 movie). Given the media's insatiable appetite for crimes against children -- particularly white, middle class girls -- most teens have an awareness of the subject matter and this book may facilitate a discussion on such a tough topic. This is definitely one to read alongside your teen, no matter their age.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about trusting your instincts. What clues did Susie have that something was wrong before she was murdered? Have you ever had an eerie feeling about someone or something? When is it OK to refuse the coaxing or orders of an adult/authority figure?

  • Families can also talk about dealing with tragedy. Why was it important for Lindsey and Buck to talk to someone or to have an outlet for their grief?

  • How does this book depict the afterlife? Is it in line with your views?

Book details

Author:Alice Sebold
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:June 1, 2002
Number of pages:328
Publisher's recommended age(s):16 - 17

This review of The Lovely Bones was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bymoviemadness December 29, 2009
 

A Deeply Disturbing Spin on Real Tragedy

A child raped and then dismembered by a serial killer in her own backyard. Isn't that a story you would go at great lengths to protect your child from if it were aired on the news? I certainly hope so. The Lovely Bones is a fictional account of the former, and a mediocrely written one at that. Alice Sebold's voyeuristic tale allows us to watch, in horrifying detail, the grief and utter destruction of an American family, as their murdered daughter looks on from above, hoping for justice. Please, parents, this is not a book that anyone shoud read. The desolate nightmare within is too heavy and taxing for any audience, much less anyone in the 12-18 age bracket.
Teen, 13 years old Written byskiergirl202 November 19, 2010
 
This book is really really good. The book is very detailed in some parts(not the best detail as in concerns). But over all it is a great book.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written byvegetarianwrath May 7, 2011
 

Not for Little Kids

I am 13, and I love this book. I have it on paperback, and I read it whenever I am bored. While I say it is a very entertaining book, it may be disturbing for little kids and even adults. I love it, but you should have a certain attitude when reading this book, like being on your best behavior.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Educational value

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