By Camille DeAngelis
Available March 10 from St. Martin's Press (Macmillan)
This is not a just one chapter book; it is a one more chapter book.
I picked it up, meaning to read a couple of chapters before I went out since I was ready early enough that the stores weren't open yet. And then I just kept reading, because I had been sucked into Maren's world.
Maren's world is just like ours - almost. But it has people like Maren in eat. People who eat people, when the right situation presents itself. Maren eats people who fall for who, who get just a bit too close. It's why she's moved from place to place with her mother, leaving a wake of missing persons. Her mom, however, has had enough, and now sixteen-year-old Maren is on her own. The only thing she can think of is to find her father. Along the way she discovers that she is not the only one, but it's not entirely a relief. Because many of them are a danger to her, and she to them.
BONES AND ALL is not quite magical realism, because Maren and the others question why they are the way they are and don't accept it as normal. But it often has that feel, instead of outright fantasy. The premise is outlandish, and Camille DeAngelis makes no attempts to explain it. (Nor do I think she should.) It isn't meant to be realistic though; it is strange and grotesque and downright fascinating, the way DeAngelis writes it. This is a very sensual sort of horror, unbelievable yet visceral. The litany of boys Maren has eaten is quite affecting.
What I particularly loved about BONES AND ALL is the way it immersed me in Maren's story, her journey to find a place for someone like her. I felt for her as she feared what might happen to her if people found out. I never stopped to think that she deserves to be incarcerated, that she knows what a danger she is to others and takes only the most flimsy of precautions. (In true fictional monster fashion, she does tend to warn her victims that if they keep going she won't be able to stop.) I don't mind at all that BONES AND ALL forced me to pay attention to the story and not get hung up on other ways it could have gone.
The ending of BONES AND ALL feels a touch unfinished, but I liked it. I'm free to imagine what happens next, which is quite good, because it is the sort of story that invites the reader to ponder what it meant, how we're supposed to interpret the shocking things that happen. (I'll ignore the author's note that says she's a vegan and it means we should think more about what we eat, because seriously? Way to bring down my good book high.) BONES AND ALL is a macabre and strangely beautiful read, one that I hope is found by the many readers out there who are inclined to that sort of thing.