Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the free early read of Wake the Bones in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.
Honestly I liked this one quite a bit but struggled with it’s age group appropriateness, so it was hard for me to rate. I would push it on the 18-25 age group and keep it off the YA imprint.
With walking bones, rising evil, death, abuse, and a terribly disillusioned drowned ghost among other eldritch things, this is definitely one to have on board for spooky season. It’s much more lyrical than a typical horror novel though and encompasses magical realism and literary fiction too.
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: Wake the Bones
- Series: N/A
- Author: Elizabeth Kilcoyne
- Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, July 12, 2022
- Length: 320 pages
- Rate & Recommend: *scratches head* I just don’t think it’s a YA, 16+ if I were really stretching it
Here’s the synopsis:
The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.
After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.
Elizabeth Kilcoyne’s Wake the Bones is a dark, atmospheric debut about the complicated feelings that arise when the place you call home becomes hostile.
Ok here are my quick thoughts on the age thing: it’s marketed as YA (13-18) but I really truly strongly feel it should target an 18-20something age group. The characters are 18+, one was in college and dropped out, and all were struggling with loyalty to home, their future, and generational bonds vs their own fate. Is their home down on the holler or where does fate lead them? Many of the conflicts and issues were not ones that 13-17 yr olds are going to face, although some will, plus the language includes at least one f*co per chapter, s*x scene at the penultimate moment AGAIN (please, YA authors, stop doing this – we assume a second couple shacked up that night too) … I just have a hard time with this on the YA imprint.
That said: let’s talk about this contemporary fantasy / horror / literary fiction
It takes place mostly on Kentucky farmland, where Laurel’s family tobacco farm has sat for generations. The atmosphere it set from the start with a hunt for bones and trip to the graveyard, where we learn that Laurel has a penchant for death. From there, things slowly start getting spookier and spookier. It never gets to the splattering stage but there are dead animals, blood trails, dreams of the dead, her mother’s drowned ghost, lots of blood, someone is hanged, and the devil is downright creepy .. among other things.
The spooky parts are interspersed with a number of important themes to the New Adult (18- ?) age group, like generational chains. Laurel’s family has been rooted on Kentucky for generations, and she tried leaving, failed, and came home to the farm and friends that needs her. Another character is abused by his father, and wants to leave, but also struggles with loyalty to his friends and the area. One doesn’t want to leave at all and is happy as is, and, the fourth has no idea what he wants.
So we see these scary parts mixed with chapters about love and mixed feelings. Two male characters (Isaac and Garrett) have feelings for each other and that is a constant storyline, plus Laurel and Ricky feel fated towards each other but recognize fear and obligation as obstacles.
All this taking place in a muggy, hot summer, in the middle of a pretty severe haunting. Each character, even a fifth that is brought in as a guide to Laurel, has different parental and generational issues that has shaped their experience growing up in this small town.
Can they all be friends like they were before, what needs to change, what will their futures hold? Will they even be alive to find out?
Coming home and self acceptance are huge themes. I loved how the magic worked, as Laurel’s mother was tied to the land and so is she. Land based magic is my favorite but I’ve never seen it in a contemporary fantasy before so that was interesting
I wish I could share quotes … I normally am not a fan of purple prose but Kilcoyne manages to write about death, life, and survival in such a way that I had SO many quote tabs on the pages.
OH, yeah, survival is a HUGE theme too. Everyone has to survive their upbringing, life situation, and all the self destruction of those around them while taking hold of their own futures.
The real question is … Does everyone survive? Heh heh I actually did like what the author did at the end, but no spoilers
For me, 🌟🌟🌟🌟, but I’m 33 and would hold this one til my kid was at least 17. I will not rate it for YA