Warning: If you have not read “Bones & All” by Camille DeAngelis, do not read this review if you don’t want spoilers. If you have already read the book or don’t mind spoilers, go ahead and read this!
I’m back with another book review after a long while, and this time it’s “Bones & All” by Camille DeAngelis! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“Maren Yearly doesn’t just break hearts, she devours them.
Since she was a baby, Maren has had what you might call “an issue” with affection. Anytime someone cares for her too much, she can’t seem to stop herself from eating them. Abandoned by her mother at the age of 16, Maren goes looking for the father she has never known, but finds more than she bargained for along the way.
Faced with love, fellow eaters, and enemies for the first time in her life, Maren realizes she isn’t just looking for her father, she is looking for herself. The real question is, will she like the girl she finds?”
When I first picked up the book, I thought it would be interesting to see what was in store. It’s part-horror, part-trying-to-find-yourself, and I haven’t read a novel that had such morbid yet curious quirks like “Grounded” in quite some time. What I found surprising, though, was that it felt surprisingly tame for a supposed horror story. A lot of the cannibalistic people-eating scenes were either toned down to the point that it didn’t have much description, or they were like the off-screen deaths one might see on TV shows—they don’t show the actual death, but you know it happened. Given that I get queasy easily at gore, I partially liked this. However, this depiction of all the deaths being ‘off-screen’ and not explicitly written made the story a lot less scary than I think it was meant to be, and I actually would have liked more description of the gore. As a result of the many ‘off-screen’ or ‘off-page’ deaths, at best the tone of the book was only lightly disturbing rather than straight-out horror.
In terms of the actual plot, I thought it was a bit slow at times, especially in the middle part of the book. However, my favourite scene was probably the reveal that Sullivan, also known as “Sully” to the main protagonist Maren, was actually Maren’s grandfather. Given the reveal before that that Maren’s father is also a cannibal, it’s fair to say that in the world of this book that cannibalism is hereditary, and these revelations in the plot really help the worldbuilding of the book and how the cannibals all interact with each other.
I liked the character Lee in the book, and I was thoroughly disappointed that Maren ended up eating him by the end of the book. I honestly thought, like how Maren’s father and mother got together, that maybe Maren and Lee would have a chance to stay together without eating each other, especially since both of them understand what it’s like to be a cannibal unlike Maren’s mother who was not a cannibal. Because of this understanding, I was disappointed that Maren ended up literally devouring Lee. What was even worse was that Maren seemed to just think nothing much of him afterwards, despite the fact that they’d bonded closely by that point in the novel, and quickly moved on to eating all the other guys that got close to her. This just ruins the relationship development between Lee and Maren, as well as Maren’s character development in general. Throughout the whole book, she was learning more and more about herself as well as learning to cope with the fact that she can’t change that she is a cannibal and that despite that, she is capable of getting close to people and not eating them in the process, like how her father was able to do with her mother. Eating Lee ruined Maren’s possible chance of knowing that capability in herself, and so she ends up resigning herself to giving up and giving in to her cannibalistic urges once she gets close to someone at the end.
Overall, I’ll rate this book 3 out of 5 stars due to the underwhelming horror and gore, a slow plot and killing off Lee and ruining some character development of Maren in the process. If you’re queasy about gore and cannibalism, you may want to steer clear of this book, but it’s mostly non-graphically described or implied to happen off-page.