by Rebecca Schaeffer
Published on September 4, 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genres: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Dexter meets This Savage Song in this dark fantasy about a girl who sells magical body parts on the black market — until she’s betrayed.
Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet—her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” Until her mom brings home a live specimen and Nita decides she wants out; dissecting a scared teenage boy is a step too far. But when she decides to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold in his place—because Nita herself isn’t exactly “human.” She has the ability to alter her biology, a talent that is priceless on the black market. Now on the other side of the bars, if she wants to escape, Nita must ask herself if she’s willing to become the worst kind of monster.
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Disturbing, morbid, and utterly fascinating, Not Even Bones was not the book I expected but everything I could have asked for nonetheless.
There are dark YA novels, and then there’s this book. It’s not scary or creepy, not a thriller to keep you up at night, but it’s so very dark. Nita, the protagonist, dissects “people,” creatures that resemble humans a little too closely for comfort. And from there, it just gets grittier.
First off, I loved that this book isn’t set in the US but in Peru. I feel like all the books I’ve read lately set in our world are in either the US or UK so I enjoyed the change. And this world is messed up. It’s an alternate universe where many of the various supernatural creatures you’ve probably heard about (vampires, unicorns, etc) and others you haven’t exist in a sort-of peace with humans. Except for the ones Nita and her mother kill and dismantle to sell for parts.
This book seriously challenges morality and falls almost entirely into that gray area. Nita is a character that I both wanted to see a redemption arc for after all the things she’s done or been a part of, but I also didn’t because that was who she was. In short, I found her character entirely fascinating. She’s neither hero nor villain. Honestly, while there are a few characters who would definitely fall firmly in the “villain” category, I wouldn’t classify any of them as heroes.
Nita is selfish, naturally so I would say. One thing I’ve never understood in stories, especially YA, are the heroes who are purely selfless and will do whatever they can for the greater good. Not that those types of people don’t exist, but it doesn’t seem realistic to have a whole cast of them. Nita helps others, sure, but she also ensures her own safety in the process.
Also, I love Kovit. I can’t say more, but his character is very much multi-faceted and just so beautifully flawed. Much like Nita.
I just love Nita and her character development. It was so masterfully done. I just. Yeah.
And this WORLD. Okay, so I mentioned that it’s set in Peru. In the middle of the jungle. In a market. The Death Market. I never thought I’d find a fictional world I wanted to visit less than Panem from The Hunger Games but I think I found it. If you’re human, you’re fine. But if there’s even something remotely different about you, best to run FAR, far away. I had no problems envisioning the setting which, kudos to Schaeffer for the excellent writing, not so great for my psyche. It’s messed up.
This book is messed up.
And I loved it!
As for the writing, because I suppose I should mention that, I wouldn’t necessarily call Schaeffer the best of the best with this debut. But hey, it’s a debut. And, frankly, I didn’t care. I was hooked from the first word to the last (and I NEED the sequel).
If you’ve been on the hunt (hah. . . ) for a dark, gritty YA fantasy packed with so many plot twists I thought I was on a roller coaster, Not Even Bones is your book. Or if you like morally gray characters. Or something spooky for the Halloween season. Or just want to read a good book?
You get the picture. Read this book. Buy this book. Request it from your library. /End Rave