Have you ever read a book that makes you feel as if no other book will ever compare? That’s how I felt after finishing Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. I do not say this lightly – Bone Gap was the best book I have read in a long time. Definitely on par with The Fault in Our Stars, if not above it. Amazing characters. Powerful plot. Beautifully laid out setting. I enjoyed it so much, I had to ask the author about movie plans. More on that later.
Bone Gap is the captivating story of Finn and Sean O’Sullivan, Priscilla “Petey” Willis, and Roza as they live in the small town of Bone Gap, Illinois. The basic plot centers on Finn, the only witness to Roza’s strange “abduction”. Unfortunately, Finn can’t describe the person who took her, as he’s always been bad with faces and a “sidetrack”. This leads to Finn becoming even more of an outcast than he already was. After a mare mysteriously appears in his crooked barn, he begins a friendship with Priscilla Willis, a girl who is considered ugly by most people. I’ll stop there, as I’m sure you’d enjoy the book more if everything is a surprise.
Written by Laura Ruby, this book was well deserving of the Printz Award it received in 2016. With powerful descriptions, relatable characters, and an intensely interesting plot, this book is a page-turner in the highest degree. Looking for a mystery? Bone Gap is a mystery. Looking for action? Bone Gap has a lot of it. Looking for a YA philosophical read similar to John Green’s books? This book’s got it. Looking for romance? Well it’s got that too.
Bone Gap deals with the topic of seeing. Not only looking, but seeing. I went into this book thinking that it would be mainly an action/mystery, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a highly emotional and personal story. Priscilla “Petey” Willis is ugly according to everyone except Finn, and as the novel develops you’ll see how deep this hurt is. You’ll see her, you’ll see Finn, and to a lesser extent, you’ll see Sean and Roza. I say that because I believe Finn and Petey are the main characters (that’s pretty obvious), even though the novel originally makes it appear as if Finn and Roza are.
This novel had a moderate amount of swearing, which is typical of the Young Adult genre. This adds authenticity, but it also detracts from a large Christian readership. A huge plus to Bone Gap was the fact that it only used God’s name improperly once, and it wasn’t even spelled out. Rather, it was written as “omigod”. Jesus is also used as a swear word once.
F*ck(ing): 3 (all found in part two)
D*mn: 4 (I accidently deleted this number, but I’m pretty sure it’s an accurate estimate)
B*tch: 2 (plus one more in the acknowledgments that nobody reads)
Jesus: 1 (in part three)
Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol
There is a fair amount of sexual content in this book, but it is not very descriptive (with the exception of one scene in the chapter “Blindside” toward the end of part 2). I mean, it’s obvious that a certain pair had sex on multiple occasions, but it is mainly just alluded too. There is also a girl who has a bad reputation because of stuff she never did. What people think she did is never bluntly stated, but it’s really easy to figure out. In addition, a girl reminisces about her first period and about the time a boy tried to “jam his hands down your (her) jeans”. Other sexual content includes quick references to sex and a teenage romance with “slightly dishonorable intentions”.
Toward the end of the novel, it is mentioned that a character came out as gay. He is a minor character though, and he was never spoken of too highly. People also mention how tight his boyfriend’s pants are.
There are also a few references to drugs and alcohol in this book:
- “The orthodontist didn’t like kids, especially boys who would surely run around getting drunk and high, knocking off convenience stores and knocking up girls, or worse, sitting around in the house and getting in the way.”
- A girl believes she has been drugged.
- A cop asks Finn if he’s been doing meth.
- A memory of a woman includes her smoking cigarettes.
- A girl is aware that her punch is spiked with something at a party where there is a lot of drinking (not described though). This is the only “teenage party” scene in the novel, and it is a flashback.
- There are a few violent moments in this book that may disturb a few. A girl feels a knife until “she felt the bite”, a knife is stabbed up into a man’s head, a man describes how many ways he can kill someone, and a girl purposefully slashes her face.
- The magical element of this book may turn off several Christian readers, but I assure you that the mysteriousness of this book is not presented as “wizardry” or “Satanism”. On the contrary, it is extremely mysterious.
- The face blindness aspect of this novel really interested me. One of the symptoms mentioned is not being able to follow movies that have multiple actors with the same hair color and style. I’ve never been good with faces and I’ve had that problem with movies multiple times, so hearing that symptom intrigued me. I decided to take an online test, and apparently, I have mild face blindness. Figures.
- I usually avoid Plugged In, a Christian reviewing site, for two reasons. The first is, every review contains major spoilers, because the whole plots are laid out. I know it’s supposed to be a site for parents, but it has still ruined a few books for me. The second reason is because they are often wrong. Their review of Bone Gap was one such instance. They said, “The Lord’s name is used in vain several times.” No matter how you look at it, His name is used in vain only two times at most. I do not excuse those two times, but it is incorrect to say “several”.
- I really enjoyed this book, so I was curious if there was a movie in the works. After multiple failed attempts to find information about it online, I decided to ask Laura Ruby herself. She said, among other things, “No movie interest yet, though we can always hope…”
- “Funny how you notice how beautiful things are just when you’re about to leave them.”
- “He was tired of everyone believing they knew everything there was to know about him, as if a person never grew, a person never changed, a person was born a weird and dreamy little kid with too-red lips and stayed that way forever just to keep things simple for everyone else.”
- “People say the word ‘nice’ and they mean ‘boring.’ A lot of times nice is boring.”
- “I’ve never understood why people choose to do the things that are hardest for them.”
- “I wanted you to choose this. To choose me. But it isn’t always possible for two people to want the same thing. I want you, and that will have to be enough for both of us.”
- “There will be boys who will tell you you’re beautiful, but only a few will see you.”
- “But wasn’t that love? Seeing what no one else could?”
- “People look, they don’t see.”
One good thing that I found on Plugged In was this summary of the role physical beauty plays in Bone Gap: “Roza, who is beautiful, and Petey, who is not, both spend their lives grappling with the belief that their physical appearances define them. Roza is bothered, and even hunted, by men who want to own her beauty. Petey is pitied for her unattractiveness, and people assume Finn only likes her because he’s getting physical gratification.” That contrast was extremely powerful throughout the novel and tied wonderfully into the topic of seeing instead of just looking.
As Christians, we need to see people for who they are. They are not just mortal bodies, they are immortal souls. We need to care less about looks and more about the lost. We need to move away from the physical and focus on the permanent. We need to be people who see, not just people who look.