I have gone back and forth on whether or not to write this book review. If you’ve read the novel, then you will understand why.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is the story of Susie Salmon, a teenage girl who is raped and murdered in 1973. She goes to heaven and watches over her family as they cope with their loss. She also tries to give them clues so they can find her murderer—their next-door neighbor.
I think Sebold had a great plot in her mind but did not convey it very well. It’s missing a believable tone, but it does center on character development. I love to see characters grow, and Sebold did manage that well.
There is something I need to get off my chest, though. This is why I almost stopped myself from writing this review because it’s a controversial topic. But what’s life without some controversy?
I noticed that so, so many people hated this book because “it’s too gruesome.” They got to the second chapter and threw it out. Now, rape is not an easy thing to talk about, especially when it involves a child. In fact, it’s so hard to talk about, that people just plain don’t. Ever.
Sebold explains in her novel how Susie was raped and murdered. I am not one to condone unnecessary, narrated violence in books, but I just can’t seem to get over the people who say, “Don’t read this because the girl gets raped. It’s too scary.” Yes, it is scary. It’s horrifying. But guess what? It isn’t a fairy tale. It isn’t just in novels. It is a reality that happens every single day. All I can think about is that these people didn’t give the novel a chance because the first chapter explains what happened to Susie. And it ruins their fantasy world—their ignorant world where nothing bad happens, so we don’t have to talk about it.
Novels like this aren’t meant to give you a fuzzy feeling. They’re meant to open your eyes to the world around you. They’re meant to make you see that that kind next-door neighbor might not be so kind. That maybe you should pay attention to your children when that neighbor starts bringing her gifts, giving her constant attention, and even inviting her over. This kind of a novel was written to warn people of the scary world that’s right at your doorstep.
Susie Salmon thought her neighbor was a good man—a widower who loved children. But her neighbor tricked her, murdered her, and continued to murder. Her family never found him.
Now, if that doesn’t put you in a morose mood, I don’t know what will. But to disregard The Lovely Bones and not finish it because “it’s too gruesome—it’s too violent—it’s too scary” is downright ignorant. Maybe people need to read something like this so that they think twice about letting their child spend the day with a grown man, or letting their child roam the streets at night all alone. I am absolutely not blaming parents at all. I am saying that it’s okay to be overprotective. It’s okay to be extra cautious around strangers that pay too much attention to your child. It’s okay to give your child a curfew. It’s okay to check in on them. It’s okay to be a parent.
Don’t let scary topics stop you from talking to your children about life’s dangers. Don’t throw it to the wayside because it’s uncomfortable or embarrassing. Stand up, talk about it, and maybe you can make a difference in someone’s life. Maybe you can comfort a rape survivor because you aren’t afraid to talk about it.
Susie Salmon’s story is not a fictional one. It is real—in many different ways. The Lovely Bones may not be an incredible, five-star novel, but it does teach an incredible lesson.
I give this novel 3 stars.
An expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel works one-on-one with authors and business owners every day. A lifelong lover of books, she has edited over 300 books and has launched several Amazon bestsellers for her clients. Her award-winning blog teaches new and established authors how to write, publish, and market their books. She is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist, The Rotting (in Shivers in the Night), and her novel-in-progress, The Suicide Tree. She lives in Oklahoma with her two dogs, Chanel and Wednesday.