Bones and All
St. Martin's Press
I received an ARC from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Releases March 10, 2015
YA / Cannibals / Coming of Age
Maren Yearly doesn’t just break hearts, she devours them.
Since she was a baby, Maren has had what you might call "an issue" with affection. Anytime someone cares for her too much, she can’t seem to stop herself from eating them. Abandoned by her mother at the age of 16, Maren goes looking for the father she has never known, but finds more than she bargained for along the way.
Faced with love, fellow eaters, and enemies for the first time in her life, Maren realizes she isn’t just looking for her father, she is looking for herself. The real question is, will she like the girl she finds?
Have you read something so unexpectedly horrifying that you found yourself laughing hysterically with tears streaming out of your eyes? Something so absurd in how far it goes that you can’t help but put the book down until you regain control of yourself? That’s the first paragraph of Bones and All for me. It was just so unexpectedly horrifying that I found myself laughing hysterically. I had to read the paragraph to Fernando, who also started laughing. In retrospect it was probably so I wouldn’t spend too much time visualizing the scene that Camille DeAngelis uses to open up her “cannibals in love” novel because I probably wouldn’t have eaten for a week. Or at least I would have started keeping my distance from babies.
Camille DeAngelis is not kidding around with her cannibals. While most of the gory moments are simply implied or explained with a simple sentence or two, the ideas are so well implied that this was a book that put me off my lunch a time or two. DeAngelis is so good at implying the dark moments that she doesn’t have to describe them to create horrifying images.
Bones and All is bout 16-year-old Maren, who wakes up one morning to find that her mother has abandoned her after years of sudden middle-of-the-night moves out of town when Maren’s predilection for eating boys who express interest in her would strike. Suddenly on her own, she goes on a cross-country trek to find her father, who she has never known, but she hopes might have answers for her odd eating habits.
If I put my English major hat on, I could analyze this book for days. It’s a highly entertaining book with unusual characters and even more unusual circumstances, but it’s clearly a metaphor for one thing or another. Maren’s habit of eating boys often happens after the boy shows some sort of sexualize feelings towards her, whether it’s the innocuous dreams of a 7-year-old planning his future with her or the more abrupt advances of a random Walmart employee who feels she “owes” him because he gave her food. It’s probably the worst sort of sexual hang up a teenager could have.
It could also be a metaphor for dysfunctional relationships and obsessions with food. Or stemming from the author’s own veganism, it could be seen as a satirical look at the ethical implications of eating meat. Seriously, if I put my English major hat on, we could be here all day.
Instead I’ll leave the hat deep in my closet and say that Bones and All is a unique piece of YA literature. Hidden beneath the metaphors, this is a bizarre literary novel about growing up and finding your place in a hostile world that seems to having traps waiting around every corner to lead you to failure. Maren coming-of-age story reflects the emotional journey of most teenagers at one point or another, feeling alone in a cruel world where everyone could turn out to be out to get you. She just happens to have a predilection to eating people.
I’m not entire sure why this is taking place in the mid-90s except to explain a lack of cell phones and internet usage. It might have been a bit harder to set this exact same story in a world with more surveillance, but it also seemed a bit odd to me that only the occasional reference to outside events made it obvious that this wasn’t taking place in modern day. DeAngelis focuses on creating an insular narrative about Maren’s emotional and physical journey, so it’s weird that placing it at a particular time was even necessary.
Bones and All is a uniquely quirky coming-of-age story that has moments that aren’t for the weak of stomach. What it lacks in gore, it makes up for in implications and innuendo that my overactive imagination probably turned into something worse than if Maren’s eating habits were described in more detail. It’s an intriguing take on growing up with a literary bent that most wouldn’t expect in a story about teenage cannibals. This is definitely worth checking out, mostly to see if that first paragraph cracks you up or if it turns out I’m just seriously demented.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. I'm part of the Bones & All street team, but the opinions are my own.