The Lovely Bones

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
The Lovely Bones Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Violent, disturbing read meant for discussion with teens.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 72 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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.


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.



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.


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

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCarma October 10, 2011

Let your child decide if they are ready to read it

This is very much one of those books that depends on the maturity level of your child. I think by the age of 12 they are old enough to know whether it is right... Continue reading
Parent of a 14, 14, 17, and 18+-year-old Written byMother of 4 Teens July 1, 2010
My 17 year old daughter Lexy, doesn't like to read. This is the first book she's read in two years, if that tells you this is good. But there are some... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bykobukgirl96 February 21, 2010

to discriptive of the murder

i only skimmed through the sample because all my friends read it it creeped me out and was to discriptive it is not about maturity to handle it but if you are c... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMarbleMilk2456 January 25, 2021

A modern classic, but only for mature readers

This novel is destined to become a classic, and it is one of my favorite books I've ever read. I would've liked to have seen the heaven explored more... Continue reading

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?

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.

Talk to your kids 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?

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