December 17, 2021

#BookReview: Bones of a Saint by Grant Farley

Synopsis: Set in Northern California in the late ’70s, this timeless coming-of-age story examines the nature of evil, the art of storytelling, and the possibility of redemption.

Fifteen-year-old RJ Armante has never known a life outside his dead-end hometown of Arcangel, CA. The Blackjacks still rule as they have for generations, luring the poorest kids into their monopoly on petty crime. For years, they’ve left RJ alone…until now.

When the Blackjacks come knocking, they want RJ to prey upon an old loner. But RJ is at his breaking point. It’s not just about the gang who rules the town. It’s about Charley, his younger brother, who is disabled. It’s about Roxanne, the girl he can’t reach. It’s about the kids in his crew who have nothing to live for. If RJ is to resist, he must fight to free Arcangel of its past.


Rating: 4 Stars
My Review: This is a weird book that I loved. It had the feel of a thriller but without a lot of the suspense that you normally get. It's a blend of story telling and coming of age.  I enjoyed the twists and turns and the time period.  Gangs and more are rife in this story and I could not put it down.  It is an interesting story about one moment in the life of a teenager. 

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up-RJ lives with his mother and five siblings in a trailer in Arcangel Valley, a dying central California town, part of which is controlled by the Blackjacks gang. When elderly John Leguin moves into an abandoned house the gang believes is rightfully theirs, they plot to intimidate him and drive him out. Under threat to his family, the Blackjacks' leader forces RJ to vandalize the house and steal valuables from the old man. The teen ends up spending time with Leguin and develops a relationship with him. Just as RJ figures out a way to get out from under the Blackjacks, he discovers his connection to Leguin is deeper than he imagined and that it comes with a responsibility. The narrative places more emphasis on imagery, particularly of religious rites, and less on story. As a result, character development is slight and the plot is missing drama. Situations that should be tense are not; the story feels likes it's being told from a distance. This literary writing style does set it apart from other young adult novels and will no doubt appeal to some readers. RJ's best friend Manny is Latino; RJ and most other characters are white. VERDICT Hand this to readers who prefer literary writing styles to character- or plot-driven narratives.-Carla Riemer, Berkeley, CAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Top 10 Historical Fiction Youth Book of 2021

Praise for Bones of a Saint

“Grant Farley’s Bones of a Saint is an atmospheric read—a niche world of small gains with tragic consequences. The story reads fast and tight and colorful and your eyes always feel low to the ground. The dusty landscape and every object and every person, and even hope itself, pulls you forward toward an ending that is like the sting of a scorpion.” 
—Newbery winner Jack Gantos

Bones of a Saint reads like a dream—I found myself muttering the word 'wow' over and over as I read. My favorite stories are coming-of-age ones that find a new way into the teenage struggle, a new lens through which to view the fight for one's innocence against the adult world's corruption and chaos. Bones of a Saint is exactly that, but there's something else—a grittiness and an honesty that earns the reader's trust from page one. It's like nothing I've read in years.”
—John Corey Whaley, National Book Award finalist for Noggin and winner of the Printz Medal for Where Things Come Back 

“Surreal but at the same time so real, and intensely meaningful. This is the kind of book no one writes anymore, but that everyone wants—and needs—to read.”
—Maggie Thrash, Los Angeles Times Book Prize nominated author of Honor Girl

Bones of a Saint is one of the best novels in any genre that I've read in years. It frightened me, thrilled me, and delighted me. An indelible setting with unforgettable characters.”
—Timothy Hallinan, author of the Poke Rafferty thrillers and Junior Bender mysteries

“[A] unique and fabulous voice.”
The News-Gazette (Champaign–Urbana)

“[T]his deftly crafted coming-of-age story set in Northern California in the '70s is an inherently absorbing and fully entertaining novel.”
Midwest Book Review

“A celebration of the power of story . . . This ambitious debut invites serious contemplation as it examines the role of religion, a connection to The Canterbury Tales, and more . . . A compelling, unforgettable reading experience that is brilliantly executed.”
Booklist, Starred Review

“[RJ's] evocative, unflinching narration keeps the pages turning . . . this suspenseful coming-of-age tale packs a punch.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“RJ’s candid voice will engage contemporary readers in this atmospheric coming-of-age tale that effectively knits together storytelling, religion, morality, redemption, and heredity.”
Publishers Weekly

“[Bones of a Saint's] literary writing style [sets] it apart from other young adult novels.”
School Library Journal

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