Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold

The book opens with he brutal rape and murder of fourteen-year-old Suzie Salmon by a serial killer. From there, she tells the story of the aftermath from her viewpoint in heaven, where she watches her family, friends and the killer himself.

My reaction to the book is mixed. While the writing was beautiful and full of imagery, it wasn't the voice of a teenage girl. The varied reactions of her different family members was interesting; her father's obsession with finding her killer, her mother cutting herself off from the people she loved, her brother living with the ghost of her memory and her sister moving on to experience all of the things Suzie missed out on. But there were people that she followed that I didn't get. Rather than watching her best-friend, she becomes absorbed in Ruth, a girl she barely knew on earth. While it makes sense that she would be interested in the boy who had almost been her first boyfriend, I didn't get why she was spending time watching his mother. And I understand why she would watch her killer--I'd want to see him slip up and get caught--Suzie was completely unemotional about him. She never seemed angry or vengeful. In fact, when she had the opportunity to communicate the whereabouts of her body and information on where he was hiding, she didn't do it.

This brings me to the part I had major trouble with...the ending. (Stop reading here if you don't want spoilers.) Lets just say I was completely under whelmed. Her father's forgiveness and acceptance of her mother was completely unbelievable. The storyline of the detective investigating her murder was never resolved. Characters who were talked about in the beginning of the book, her best-friend, Clarissa, and the few people she gets close to in heaven, fade away in the second half of the book. Her body was never found, even thought it was in a really obvious place, and the killer was never caught or punished. I also didn't buy the whole body swap thing. There is no lead up to it and no explanation of how it happened. What she does, or rather didn't do, during her brief time back on earth made no sense. Why wouldn't she go to her family? Or tell someone where her body is?

In summary, I think this had the potential to be a full and satisfying read, but the poor execution of the ending ruined it for me. Overall, I give The Lovely Bones...

Plot - 2 1/2 bookmarks

Character Development - 3 1/2 bookmarks

World Building - 2 bookmarks (So much more could have been done with heaven.)

Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - While I have not seen the movie version, I knew that Saoirse Ronan played Suzie, Mark Wahlburg played the father and Stanley Tucci played the killer, so these are the people I imagined while reading. In addition to these, I saw Evan Rachel Wood as Lindsey, Avan Jogia as Ray and Sarah Clarke as the mother.


  1. Really appreciate reading this review. When word came out that the movie was based on a book, and that certain aspects of the movie had been changed, I was very curious to see what the book was like.

    Interesting that you mention the voice not being that of a teenager. I'm almost finished editing a book I'm working on featuring 16 year olds, and when I went back and reread it, I realized that I'd thrown in references that they never would've actually known to say and had to change them. I feel like that's overlooked considerably in literature, movies, TV shows, everything. Young people need to be dumbed down, they can't all be brilliant poet laureats, ya know? :-)

    Seems like a good concept/premise for a story, but is more riding the wave of a tragic tale being inspired by something true. Which is kind of a shame for writers like me, who haven't gone through anything tragic in my life, yet I can come with great concepts for novels. :-D

  2. I'm editing my first YA novel right now, too. I actually solicited a teen beta reader to help make sure my characters are authentic. I don't feel that old, but still, things have changed since I was in high school. ;)

  3. This story was just so sad for me that I couldn't bring myself to read it. I love reading the reviews and cried watching the movie.