FICTION

The Bone Garden

Holt. Aug. 2019. 272p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250296894.
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Gr 4-7–Iréelle is stranded between real and not-real, alive and not existing. She was made from bone dust by the mysterious Miss Vesper, who threatens to imagine her away anytime Iréelle displeases her. Iréelle is too slow when gathering bone dust from the graveyard for Miss Vesper’s new creations; her crooked limbs make her awkward, and her temperament—desperate to please—only encourages her harsh creator. When Iréelle runs away into the graveyard, she meets a boy like her, who tries to help her escape. This title could have filled the gap left by Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, but it fails to capture the same haunted magic and atmosphere that one expects from a story set in a graveyard. Iréelle’s behavior is indicative of an abuse victim, which feels discordant with the rest of the story. When she finds her inner strength, the shift is abrupt, to the point where the reader feels it could have happened much sooner, or, realistically, would never have happened at all. Her friends feel like bit players despite the small cast of characters, and the villain fails to be truly evil or stir the reader’s sympathy with her backstory. Saunders’s black-and-white illustrations, reminiscent of wood carvings, are suitably spooky and provide a sense of mystery that the story lacks.
VERDICT Lovers of scary stories may enjoy the book simply for the setting and all the bones, but most readers will finish the book unsatisfied.

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