Reviews > Published on March 10th, 2015

Bookshots: 'Bones & All' by Camille DeAngelis

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Title:

Bones & All

Who Wrote It?

Camille DeAngelis, author of the novels Mary Modern and Petty Magic. More info here.

Plot in a Box:

You won't want to put this book down, but when you finish it, you'll almost wish you had.

After being abandoned by her mother at age sixteen, Maren Yearly hits the road in search of her estranged father, making a few friends along the way. Also, she's an unspecified ghoul that literally consumes any person who gets close and intimate with her. It's a supernatural and grotesque coming of age tale.

Invent a new title for this book:

I Was A Teenage Cannibal

Read this if you liked:

Karen Russell in general, Lauren Beukes's Broken Monsters, and Megan Abbott's The Fever.

Meet the book's lead:

Maren, an engaging and complicated sixteen year-old girl, who displays strength and weakness in equal measures. Not overly angsty, not too saccharine-sweet either.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

Emily Perkins, somewhere between her appearance in It and that episode of The X-Files where she played triplets.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

Most of the novel takes place in the American Midwest. The locales range from rural to mid-size towns, with a few glimpses of city steel and brick.

Which basically means I'm already living there.

What was your favorite sentence?

The truth is like the waiting jaws of a monster, a more menacing monster than I'll ever be. It yawns beneath your feet, and you can't escape it, and as soon as you drop it chews you to pieces.

The Verdict:

WARNING: Some spoilers ahead.

In the acknowledgements of Bones & All, Camille DeAngelis sheds a little light on her motivations behind writing the book:

When people who know I'm vegan hear I've written a novel about cannibals...they think it's bizarre, hilarious, or both. The short version is that I believe the world would be a far safer place if we, as individuals and as a society, took a hard, honest look at our practice of flesh eating along with its environmental and spiritual consequences.

At first glance, this statement may read as damning to her protagonist, which doesn't seem fair: Maren behaves much like Louis in Interview With The Vampire throughout her narrative (although much less whiny). She struggles between feelings of disgust toward her genetic predisposition and a fundamental incapability of saying no to her hunger. Even Louis—or Angel and Spike from Buffy the Vampire, or Mitchell from Being Human, or any vampire-turned-good in pop culture—can't help feeding every now and again.

However, upon re-examining DeAngelis's novel, it is clear the author doesn't judge her protagonist's innate hunger, but rather how Maren ultimately embraces this darker side of herself. It's difficult to discuss this aspect of the narrative without diving head-on into spoiler territory, but in short there is a question of whether Maren will continue on as a Louis, or whether she'll become something worse than Lestat. Like her hunger, it seems DeAngelis asserts that Maren has little control over this fate, given the societally-influenced expectations of subservience hanging over her head, which crops up numerous times throughout the story. She displays a desire to please the boys and men around her, regardless of the dangers to their safety inherent in such acquiescence, or her own contrary desires (for instance, agreeing to drive her friend Lee's pickup truck because she doesn't want him thinking "less of her," despite having never learned to drive and harboring a fear of the truck and the highway). Given this, is it any wonder Maren's tale ends where it does?

Told in first-person, with an overall casual style adorned with occasional bursts of marvelous prose (which come across as natural given Maren's voracious reading habits), Bones & All consumes the reader as thoroughly as its protagonist gobbles up men. DeAngelis combines her nuanced voice with subtle subtext and literary allusions, fantastic characters, and a slow-mounting element of horror. You won't want to put this book down, but when you finish it, you'll almost wish you had.

About the author

Christopher Shultz writes plays and fiction. His works have appeared at The Inkwell Theatre's Playwrights' Night, and in Pseudopod, Unnerving Magazine, Apex Magazine, freeze frame flash fiction and Grievous Angel, among other places. He has also contributed columns on books and film at LitReactor, The Cinematropolis, and Tor.com. Christopher currently lives in Oklahoma City. More info at christophershultz.com

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