Title: Bone Gap
Author: Laura Ruby
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: 2015
Genre: young adult/magical realism/fantasy
Rating: 3/5 stars
Plot Plot Plot
Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?
Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.
As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.
The love story between Finn and the bee-keeping Petey was really quite sweet, and Ruby does a good job of capturing that scary/exciting young love feeling. Petey was by far my favorite character: strong and vulnerable and feisty and prickly and sometimes fabulously stupid. It’s a novel choice to have the female romantic lead be unattractive, as opposed to just insecure (though I don’t know exactly what it means to look “like a bee”). It allows Ruby to do some interesting things with the theme of beauty and being truly “seen.”
Every plot point having to do with Roza. I understand that Ruby is trying to use Roza’s beauty as a counterpoint to Petey, but “being beautiful” seems to be the extent of her personality. Ruby chose to make Roza Polish which just feels like a cheap way to make it look like there’s some depth to the character (and to allow Ruby to skimp on writing actual dialogue). I guess she’s brave and determined and blah blah blah, but every time the perspective shifted to her, I wanted to take a big old nap.
Similarly, the elements of magical realism just really was not for me. I’m not a huge fan of magical realism in general, but when it works, it’s because it’s heightening the narrative in same way, adding emotional depth and texture, allowing the author to explore topics in a way straight realism doesn’t allow. Here…it felt showy and…not exactly unsubtle, but forced.
This book wasn’t for me. I’ve been increasingly less than impressed by YA in the past several years (unless it’s written by Rainbow Rowell), and this book does nothing to change my mind.