Bone Gap: Beautiful, mythic YA

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsBone Gap by Laura Ruby YA fantasy book reviewsBone Gap by Laura Ruby

In order to explain why Bone Gap impressed me so much, I may have to spoil it a little. I may have to tell you that it’s partly based on one of my favorite classical myths: the story of Persephone. With the recent popularity of bad-boy love stories in YA fantasy, this myth’s been revisited more than once, but mostly these retellings have disappointed me. Spineless Persephones, boring Hadeses, little to write home about. With Bone Gap, Laura Ruby gave me a version I’m profoundly happy to have read.

Beautiful Roza was the new girl in Bone Gap; she showed up one day in the O’Sullivan brothers’ barn, and they took her in. Now, she’s missing, and the town just isn’t the same without her. Sean, the elder brother, was in love with her, and he’s certain she just up and left him behind. Finn, the younger, is just as sure she didn’t: he saw her being kidnapped by a man, but no one believes him, because he can’t describe the man. And no one believes him when he says he’s not in love with Roza. How could he not be, as beautiful as she is? (When the word that correctly describes his affection for her finally drops, late in the story, it hit me like a ton of bricks and brought tears to my eyes — because even though I believed him, I still hadn’t quite gotten it right.) But if he can’t get anyone to believe him, then he’ll just have to find her himself. Meanwhile, he’s falling in love too, with Petey Willis, the beekeeper’s daughter — but she doesn’t really believe that, because she’s always been called homely.

Bone Gap is so full of things I want to praise. Little nuggets of insight about small towns—

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.

— and about how beauty can be a no-win proposition for young girls, with both Roza and Petey dealing with all sorts of mistreatment and assumptions because they’re considered pretty and ugly, respectively. There’s also a phantasmagorical underworld (hellhound included), which everybody knows I love, and weird little cracks in an ordinary place that just might get you there.

Most of all, though, Bone Gap left me with an impression of warmth and sweetness, like one of Petey’s honey-dipped s’mores. For all the creepiness of the villain and of his realm (and they are creepy), human kindness is all over this story, and love of all kinds: romantic, friendly, familial. (And the creepy guy is a villain, and not the love interest we’re supposed to root for, and that’s obnoxiously rare.) I’d love Bone Gap even if it weren’t based on one of my favorite myths, but I’m really happy that it was. Laura Ruby has written a beautiful novel. I think you’ll like it.

Published March 3, 2015. Bone Gap is the story of Roza, a beautiful girl who is taken from a quiet midwestern town and imprisoned by a mysterious man, and Finn, the only witness, who cannot forgive himself for being unable to identify her kidnapper. As we follow them through 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.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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  1. When I first heard about this title, I had no idea that the Persephone myth was involved. You’ve piqued my interest enough to want to track a copy down! Thanks, Kelly! :)

  2. I wasn’t sure about this one. The cover didn’t interest me much but your review has me ready to pick up a copy for my TBR pile. Thanks!!

  3. Kelly, thank you! I’ve walked past this book at least five times because I had it confused with another book I’d browsed and didn’t care for. I will fix this right away!

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