50. THE LOVELY BONES, BY ALICE SEBOLD
Recommended by Trisha Cook. After I started reading it, I realized that I had actually already watched the movie. Didn’t even know it was based on a book… But that really didn’t hamper my ability to enjoy it, I usually like to watch the movie first and read the book later. If I read the book first, I almost always get disappointed by the movie; no matter how good it is, it really can’t rival my imagination. If I watch the movie first, then I get deeper insight and more information from the book, and I like to see what kind of stuff they changed. And, to be honest, I don’t really remember most of the movie, anyway.
Synopsis: A tennage girl is raped and murdered; after she dies, she goes to “heaven”, where she has the opportunity to watch her family and people on earth as they try (and succeed, after a while) to get on with their lives.
Overall enjoyment: Hmmmm…. I liked the idea, and the start. About 60% in, though, the quality dropped abysmally. The last few chapters were completely unecessary, boring, and had nothing to do with the story in itself. They didn’t add anything, and, in fact, having them there made the book worse. Still, I guess she had an idea of what she wanted to do and just didn’t execute it well; it wasn’t the worst I’ve ever read, and I did like the beginning.
Plot: The first part is kind of a detective story where we know who did it and we want to find out if he will get caught. There’s a lot of suspense, but also lots of drama and emotion around her family and friends. That part is very well structured and interesting. The second part… isn’t. I suppose the point of the story was to show people trying to recover from grief and from the trauma of having such a horrible thing happen to their family or friend, but it just didn’t work. After a roller-coaster, quasi-thriller first part, and after what I would consider the climax of the story, there are still a dozen or so chapters that drag endlessly. Maybe, for what she wanted to do, it would have been better if the book hadn’t been so exciting in the beginning. But I don’t think it would have worked anyway; there are some really bizarre things, and you get the feeling she didn’t know how to finish it and still have the book be about what she wanted.
Characters: Good enough, for the most part. In my opinion, she skims through parts that she shouldn’t, and the text could be improved by having those parts fleshed out, and she gives other details that are really unimportant and unecessary. Also, every once in a while they have very weird reactions and do things that are not just out of character, but kind of illogical, too. Still, they work pretty well in the first part.
World/setting: The heaven she envisions is kinda disappointing, heaven-wise. But then, it could be said that it’s not really heaven, it’s more like limbo or a place where souls go while they’re still not ready to go to heaven, and Susie just thinks this is heaven. Not really an issue, in my opinion.
Writing style: Good enough at first, but she started to get very repetitive after a while. Plus, she often tries too hard to be poetic and makes cringe-worthy metaphors and comparisons.
Representation: Susie has an Indian boyfriend (which, as far as I can remember, was completely erased from the movie :/) and Ruth, who is the girl who actually connects with Susie after she dies, thinks she might be a lesbian in the beginning of the book.
Political correctness: If she had ended the book in the first part, it wouldn’t have been at all bad. But then, on the second part, she starts with the bizarre and illogical stuff while trying to convey a deeper and grander meaning, and she screws up in this. Starting with Susie’s mom and dad getting back together; we were given the reasons why she left (and they were pretty good) but no insight at all as to how her character developed while she was away, so it really seems like she comes back to take care of him because he is ill and needs her. Then you have Hal proposing to Susie’s sister; she tells him she’s not done with school yet and that she’s too young, basically telling him that she doesn’t want to commit the same mistake as her mother, but then he goes “will you give up on going to college, marry me and live in this old house while I repair it?” and she goes “OMG YES!” Then the bizarre sex scene, like, seriously, WHY? I’m not against sex in books, I love reading smut, but WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT? What purpose? What reason? She goes back to earth just so she can fuck this guy who has been shown in the book to have forgotten her (after all, she was his girlfriend TEN YEARS before, when they were teenagers, and all they did was kiss, ONCE) and it doesn’t even occur to her to use this opportunity to try and protect her little sister who is currently being STALKED BY THE SAME GUY WHO KILLED HER? I honestly don’t even know what the message behind this is. It’s just wrong to die without having sex? Is that it? This scene was a train wreck, and it shouldn’t exist at all.
Up next: Memory of Water, by Emmi Itäranta