Bone Gap, Illinois is a real town. Bone Gap, the book, is a really awesome and totally strange YA novel by Laura Ruby. The events that happen within Bone Gap, the book, would almost certainly never occur in Bone Gap, Illinois, but they do lead your imagination on a wild ride filled with kidnapping, a Night mare, talking corn, and magic.
It starts out realistically enough: brothers Finn and Sean O’Sullivan, abandoned by their mother a few years prior the events in the novel, struggle with their strained relationship when Roza, a Polish girl who showed up in their barn one day, is taken by a mysterious man. Finn sees this kidnapping happen, but doesn’t do anything to stop it until it’s too late.
But then things start getting weird. A random horse shows up in their barn, just like Roza did, and the horse takes Finn and Petey, a girl whose face is the only one he can recognize, on a surreal ride through forests and over a cliff each night. In sections told through Roza’s point-of-view, we see that she’s been kidnapped by someone obsessed with her beauty, and is taken to a variety of places, like a suburban house, a magical castle, and an endless field.
This special mix of realism and fantasy is amazingly addictive—the magic builds and builds and suddenly you’re not reading a book about just a typical kidnapping anymore (if kidnappings can be typical). Now, it’s a trip to and escape from a faraway fantasy world through one of Bone Gap’s many gaps in reality. I couldn’t read this story fast enough.
One of the major details of this work is that Finn can’t recognize faces. He knows that Sean is Sean because of his height and broad shoulders. He knows that his friend, Miguel, is Miguel because his skin is brown and he has giant arms. He knows that Roza is Roza because of her dark hair and her unique hands. He mixes up the Rude brothers and he doesn’t recognize Darla, a waitress at the Chat ‘n’ Chew, when she dyes her hair red. This trait bleeds into the narrative when it comes to describing characters, as their faces are rarely described in detail, if at all. And if they are described, it’s when the point-of-view is focused on a character other than Finn. It’s a great method to fully envelop the reader in the world of Bone Gap.
This malady, however, is quite ironic as one of the most apparent themes throughout the novel is how we perceive beauty. Many of the characters in the novel are at one point described as beautiful—Finn is beautiful and moony, Sean is beautiful and rugged, Petey is beautiful in her own bee-like way, Roza is beautiful to pretty much everyone—but all for different qualities. This book shows that there’s not one single thing that makes someone or something beautiful. Beauty is defined in a myriad of ways.
Bone Gap is an amazingly whimsical, uniquely beautiful, addictively magical book. With layers upon layers upon layers of storytelling, this book was an exhilarating read. I highly recommend it.