Summary from Goodreads:
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?
Camille DeAngelis’s paranormal coming-of-age tale, Bones & All, seems to promise a lot. Cannibalism, hunts for missing fathers, elements of horror. Maybe not a one of those things are exactly my favorite thing, but I was absolutely interested to see them put together, especially since certain reviewers were full of praise regarding this novel.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find that Bones & All delivered on its promise. Mostly it was just boring.
Feeling bored and/or apathetic to a text is a difficult feeling to deal. It’s not really a reaction so much as a non-reaction. I didn’t respond in any way to DeAngelis’s story, and so it bored me. And while some of this is left up to reader preference, I do feel that if in your opening chapter you describe a baby devouring her babysitter whole and that doesn’t hook me, there’s a problem. Because that should by all means be a really good hook.
So, yes. We learn in the first pages of Bones & All that our protagonist, Maren, eats people. It’s clearly something she was born to do, and over the course of the novel, she meets several people who are also “eaters”. In fact, the Midwestern United States seems to be positively brimming with supernaturally-driven cannibals! Funny that the public doesn’t seem to be aware of it, especially since these cannibals practice their habits in the middle of crowded Walmart parking lots… (Oh yeah: it was really hard to suspend my disbelief with this one.)
I feel like this novel is being pushed as horror, but there’s nothing frightening or horrific about it, really. I really found Bones & All to be pretty tame, both in comparison with horror I’ve read and in comparison with the themes and mood of many YA novels I’ve read (see Jasper Dent). And, yes, this isn’t marketed specifically as a young adult novel and is being put out by an adult imprint, but…well. It’s a lot more YA-esque than it isn’t. Which isn’t a bad thing, of course. I’m just saying that, for comparison’s sake, this book isn’t doing much with shock factor. DeAngelis could, and should, have gone a lot darker with this book.
Beyond that, the plot was too strange, without much driving behind it. Maren, vaguely, wants to find her father, but she spends a lot of time driving around the country doing things besides look for him. The antagonist is poorly developed and delivers a shabby monologue right before his predictable demise. Maren’s motivations and character themselves are hard to pin down, and as a character I felt very disengaged from her. If you’re going to write about a teenage cannibal, then do it. Get into her head, expose her to the readers, be honest. Don’t offer a ho-hum, nonspecific characterization that, honestly, could have applied to half a dozen teenage characters I’ve read over the years.
So, nope. Bones & All was sadly unremarkable. It was unengaging and unsatisfying without straying into the realm of the truly unenjoyable. I found it easy to finish the book, but once done, I found that it was easily forgotten and set aside.