It should’ve been charming. A boy called Moonface. Corn that whispers. A goat that chews everything. Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby, had so much potential to be a lovable and quirky book, but it ultimately falls flat due to its poor execution.
In the gossipy small town of Bone Gap, people always seem to disappear. So when Roza disappears, no one thinks much of it, except for a strange boy named Finn. He knows the truth: a man who moves like cornstalks kidnapped Roza. It’s a peculiar plot with many working gears that don’t quite click together in the way they should’ve. Lots of varying plotlines are introduced, but most of them are left untied, which make the ending seem sloppy and amateurish. Many elements seem that way, including, unfortunately, the promised component of magical realism.
I’ve always loved magical realism. I was expecting enchantment against the background of a fully functioning world. Bone Gap is described as magical realism, but it isn’t. It has some magical aspects, yes, but there is no realism to them. To be considered magical realism, there should be an acceptance of magic in the rational world, but there is none of that. And the magic that exists isn’t all that magical. It isn’t described with the same richness and care that Ruby uses to describe the town of Bone Gap.
Bone Gap, despite its best efforts, is not the wholly unique and genre-crossing novel Ruby aspired to write. Instead, it feels wishy-washy and unsure of itself, and ultimately purposeless. It isn’t quite a romance, and it isn’t quite a fantasy. It was is sort of desultory combination of all three. As a result, none of the themes are well-developed or layered.
The villain isn’t frightening at all. He’s a kidnapper, a psycho, and a complete creep. I should’ve hated him with every last fiber of my being. Instead of the repulsion I was meant to feel toward him, I was left with a general sense of apathy. He’s designed as a somewhat passive character, and his role should’ve been more integral than it is. He feels more like a background character, which made the final showdown with him extremely anticlimactic.
Other than the villain, Bone Gap offers some intriguing characters. They’re perhaps the most magical part of the story. There’s Charlie Valentine, the gossipy old man whose name really isn’t Charlie Valentine. Then there’s Finn, who is equal parts frustrating, clueless and awkward. Ruby knows how to craft characters who feel larger than life, but the characters aren’t quite enough to save Bone Gap from itself.
While not a bad effort, Bone Gap certainly isn’t good either. It hovers somewhere between forgettable and average.