Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Book Review: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Some books require a reader that will truly listen to the words on the page, instead of a reader that breezes through because they want to good story. Some require a closer reader, willing to look between the lines and pages for clues and revelations. This is one of those books.

Bone Gap is a multifaceted tale of love, survival, and identity. Told from several different perspectives, the story follows Finn O'Sullivan and his quest to discover what happened to the beautiful, mysterious Roza, who was kidnapped right before his eyes. The problem is that he cannot recall the kidnapper's face. However, he distinctly remembers how the attacker moved, the tone of his voice, and how he seemed to emanate a controlling power that paralyzed everything around them.

Finn looks to the people of Bone Gap for clues. Someone has to know the identity of the man who took Roza. Maybe they had information about Roza that he didn't understand. But as Finn looks to Bone Gap for evidence, he realizes that he is not the only one who can't see people clearly. Everyone has a theory; everyone takes things for face value, even though they are way off. The closer that Finn gets to discovering they mystery surrounding him, the town begins to change and show its gaps- people who don't quite make sense, hazy memories left unexplained, and corn that supposedly speaks to you. He realizes that these gaps hold the key to finding Roza and restoring the joy that she brought to their lives.

One of the reasons why Bone Gap was so striking to me was the way that the mythical and the contemporary are pieced together so seamlessly. The novel reads like realistic fiction until a few chapters in, when you begin to see allusions to mythology and the Underworld. Magical-realism can be a distraction, but I found that it enhanced the mystery and suspense of the overall plot. Additionally, Bone Gap is told from multiple perspectives and reveals how each character has a completely different view of the world around them.

Even though Finn is determined to find Roza, he has his own personal issues to confront; his brother has barely said a word to him since Roza's disappearance, and worse yet, the boys' mother left them when they were younger to pursue a life outside of family duty. Sean and Finn have plenty of experience with abandonment. Finn grows closer to Priscilla "Petey" Willis, the daughter of a beekeeper who prefers to keep company with bees instead of her peers. Petey and Finn develop an unlikely relationship due to their common "weirdness" and soon start meeting at night around a campfire while they eat s'mores and talk about their mutual oddities. I found their relationship to be the most compelling in the novel. Both Finn and Petey have their own demons to confront, but oddly enough, they help the other find their way through and resolve their conflicts.

The most compelling aspect of Laura Ruby's novel was how she portrayed her female characters. Unfortunately, so many YA authors get this wrong (unfortunate because so many YA authors are also female). I am failing to recall an instance where female characters were portrayed so genuinely before I read Bone Gap. These women struggle, face insecurities, and encounter trials, yet they understand their value are not going to be controlled. They discover themselves throughout the novel and remain determined to reinforce their worth to those around them. Ruby's theme centers around identity and how the "face" that we show the world is not the sum of who we are. Roza seemed to be utterly defined by her beauty by the man who kidnapped her and even by the people of Bone Gap; Roza's freedom is ripped from her hands because of a man wanting to possess her and her beauty. She refused to be seen as nothing more than an alluring "creature" and was determined to fight to rectify their views (literally!). She is desperate for someone to really see who she is, and not what her outward features imply. As we glimpse her past, we see her encounter abusive men who restrict her freedom and silence her voice. Her babcia (Grandma) admonishes her to search for those who will listen to her and truly see her. This, to me, reinforced the importance of women encouraging other women to tap into their strength and power as human beings. Roza understands her worth because her grandma consistently reinforced her equality. Despite the fact that she sometimes finds herself in situations where she is being controlled by a man, Roza never settles and finds an ally in Finn. He helps pull her out of this controlling landscape.

Bone Gap is a character-driven story that centers around the mystery of life and love; by turning things inside-out, we can sometimes see them more clearly. Through Finn's perspective, we see that identity is not derived from how people perceive us, but rather from something much deeper- our influence on the world around us and our capacity for self-understanding.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby is published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins. Review copy provided by the publisher. Release date: March 3rd, 2015. 

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