2016 Printz award winner. Bone Gap is a contemporary realistic book that takes place in a farm town where everyone knows each other’s business. There are elements of magical realism and it feels like a thriller.

Finn and Sean are brothers. Their father has died and their fragile mother has run off with another man and moved out of state, abandoning them. Instead of going to college, Sean stays back to look after Finn. Finn is the boy who is bullied and whispered about by the town. His head is always up in the clouds and he doesn’t look at you when he talks. Sidetrack. Moonface. Spaceman. That’s what they called him.

Enter Roza. She magically appeared one night, beat up and hiding in the brothers’ barn. She didn’t speak a lot of English and refused to go to the hospital. She ended up staying in the boys’ extra apartment room at their house. Instead of leaving, she started cooking real food for the boys and revived their garden. She loved farming and everything that came with it. Finn and Sean developed crushes on her and she liked Sean. She befriended the town folk and everyone became enamored with her.

But one on believed Finn when he said he saw her get kidnapped. They thought Roza disappeared just like everyone else out of their small town, on to other things with no goodbyes. They didn’t know that there was a Bone Gap in the literal and magical sense. It wasn’t just the name of a place.

The Scarecrow (as he is called) keeps Roza in different locations all the time and asks her everyday if she loves him yet. She can’t escape.

Meanwhile, Sean is hurt from the abandonment and refuses to believe Finn.

People start thinking Finn was part of the disappearance since he can’t seem to identify the kidnapper even though he was the only witness.

Finn starts a relationship with Petey, the daughter of the local beekeeper. Everyone says that Petey has a really ugly face that gets in the way of her hot body. Finn likes her for who she is, but can she believe he has good intentions or is he like the rest of the mean boys.

All of these characters twine together as we learn about their history and their relationship to Roza. The alternating voices between Roza’s current story and the different Bone Gap citizens give us history as Roza and Finn’s situation gets more and more suspenseful.

I loved this book. It was scary and not at the same time. I like how it discusses the difference between boys liking you because you’re pretty and they lust for you, and actually loving you for who you are. The multiple instances of this gets creepier and creepier and we see the problem almost anthropomorphize. I like that it also discusses disabilities and (through several different relationships) sexuality.

While it’s not exactly a read alike, I feel like if readers like this book, they would also like Room by Emma Donoghue.

The blog, Intellectual Recreation, has some read alikes too that are fun.

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It turns out Bone Gap, IL is real! And so are the Rude brothers (those brats)! And you can read about how Bone Gap got it’s name and history here.

This would be a great exercise for a writing group, pick a small town with an interesting history and make up a story to go with it.

Here are some pictures I found about the history and location of the setting of the book.