The Lovely Bones

By Alice Sebold

{Warnings for The Lovely Bones: sexual and physical violence}

The Lovely Bones is about moving on, both after death and for those who are still living and have experienced a death or trauma. Its message is sound and practical, and leads with a semi-omniscient narrator, Susie. The point of the book isn’t actually the murder; it’s the after. The family. The friends. How each person deals with the trauma and how much time it takes to be “okay” again.

I liked that aspect of the book most. Sebold does create relatable and imperfect characters who clash and grieve over long periods of time. As a reader, you get to see the little effects the death of the narrator had on the people around her.

Truthfully though, this book wasn’t my cup of tea, and I kind of had to make myself read it at certain points. It’s the type of slower drama that also tries to be a mystery, but you have all the answers already, so there’s no real stakes.

My biggest beef is with the ending, and it’s something I can’t make completely spoiler-free to talk about, so spoilers beyond the cut.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

I want to speak for a second about unfairness: Sebold does it well. The murderer is never caught; instead, he dies by complete accident. There is no justice here. The Lovely Bones has false accusations, ostracism, unfair beatings, affairs, and abandonment. It is real, it is gritty, and it is everything Susie wants now that she’s lost it.

But I’m not annoyed with any of that in the least. The realism of the living’s everyday is one of the only things that kept my attention while reading.

What is rather annoying is how Susie is finally able to let go and move on to actual heaven. Of course, the entire book centers around some magical realism, but Susie is never able to change what’s happening on Earth. She can’t affect anything. She has no control. Part of her life after death is being doomed to watch but never interact; some of these instances in the book actually help Susie understand and accept her circumstances.

The end suddenly gives her that control. In fact, Susie outright possesses another character and proceeds to use that girl’s body to have sex with her school girl crush before being pulled back to her heaven. For a character that was raped and brutally murdered, you’d think Susie would have some strong thoughts about consent. Not to mention the psychological trauma she would have from her experience. The whole set of pages in that section felt out-of-character and notably cheapens the entire novel.

On top of that, Susie doesn’t think to use her last few hours to check on her family? Say goodbye? Tell them she’ll be okay? Sure, Susie is forever fourteen years old, but the book indicates some level of maturation after death. To see that ripped from her the second she moves back into a physical body makes no sense in that Susie herself is the same person she’s been and grown into after she died.

In short, this book isn’t one I plan to pick up again anytime soon. Possibly ever.

~ Anna
(Entry 11)

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