Have you ever read a book and knew you wanted to read it again? Bone Gap by Laura Ruby was one of my favorite reads in 2017. The story introduced me to the genre, magic realism, and I was hooked. I had checked the book out from the library and knew I liked the story enough to buy a hardcover copy! The book arrived with a Printz gold medal and a National Book Award finalist seal. Perhaps I read the book too quickly the first time, maybe the story is so unique, but as I read it a second time, I appreciated the book even more. You’ll find Ruby’s writing as surprising, rich, and fascinating as her plot.
People call Finn: Spaceman, Sidetrack, Moonface, Loner. Everyone in Bone Gap knows Finn is odd. He’s different. Finn and his older brother, Sean, live alone after their mother left them to marry a man out of state. But when a stranger arrives in their barn one night, their lives change. Beautiful Roza doesn’t tell them why she’s on the run or who hurt her. They take her into their home, and their loneliness fades as Roza becomes part of their life. Sean falls in love with her.
But when a strange man kidnaps Roza at a county fair, Finn blames himself. He was the one who saw the stranger, but at the time, he thought Roza wanted to leave them, just like their mother did. Only when Roza looked back from the SUV, did Finn realize something was terribly wrong. Sean and Finn report her disappearance to the local law enforcement. But when Finn is unable to give physical details of the abductor, the townspeople wonder if Roza was truly kidnapped. Or worse, did Finn have something to do with her disappearance.
Finn not only lost Roza that day, he lost his brother. Heartbroken, Sean withdraws into his work and ignores his younger brother. Finn’s guilt and loneliness makes him miserable until he starts spending time with Petey, a girl most people in town consider homely.
That’s a brief summary of the story, but it’s the theme that makes this a great book. The theme is about people being “seen,” really seen for who they are inside.
Rosa has drawn attention from men her entire life. But they only see her outward beauty and want her for their own selfish desires. Her Polish grandmother told her, “There will be boys who tell you you’re beautiful, but only a few will see you.”
Petey knows how the people of Bone Gap talk about her. How can she be so homely when her mother is pretty? Only Finn really “sees” her.
Finn falls in love with Petey because she sees him for who he is, not the odd boy everyone else knows.
Sean falls in love with Roza but not just for her beauty. When he looks into her eyes, his gaze demands nothing, unlike the other men she’s known. It’s what’s inside her that draws him to her.
Hints of magic scatter through the beginning of the story. It emerges further as Roza describes her captivity. The reader soon learns this is no ordinary man who has kidnapped her. The stranger is otherworldly. Magic also surfaces when a black horse appears in Finn’s barn. He takes Petey for rides late at night, and they travel through forests that don’t exist in Bone Gap and fly over cliffs that are not part of the natural terrain.
You might wonder how the title of the book, Bone Gap, fits into the story. Hint: gaps in the world, places to lose yourself, slip into, retreat to. I won’t give any spoilers, but know that the ending blossoms into a powerful culmination of the theme. Ruby proves to be a fantastic writer and storyteller! A must read for young adults and adults.
School Library Journal: Grades 10 and up