Why The Lovely Bones is a toxic representation of Youth

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Warning: Spoilers ahead, please don’t read if you haven’t read the book and have plans to read it. Thank you.

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, is about a girl who is brutally murdered by a neighbor. And instead of being able to move on, she watches her family live their lives without her.

The idea of the book pulled me in and made me root for Susie and her father.

Although, the story’s pace starts off slow. It didn’t bother me because it makes sense. Recovery isn’t something that happens overnight. Recovering from trauma is chaotic. And a lot of the time people don’t recover completely.

But that’s okay because we are all human; we all carry some baggage.

The Lovely Bones
Image by Markus Spiske from Pixabay

Grief in The Lovely Bones

That was one of the things I loved about the book. It portrayed grief the way it is. There is no right or wrong way to experience it and circumstances for each person differs.

Grief is not constrained by time and it seeps into day to day life. Grief doesn’t ever go away for some people. But life doesn’t stop when we’re down. The world continues to spin and things still need to get done.

I like that the book made me care not only about Susie Salmon but the people around her. I cheered for her father. And resented the mother for pulling away and failing to be there when her husband needed her the most.

It was like she used the excuse of her daughter dying to finally check out. And leave the family she never seemed to want.

Now that we’ve talked about what makes the book interesting. Let’s talk about the main thing that bothered me about the it.

My issue is that the author didn’t seem to know how to write a character that is in middle school.

What do middle schooler’s think about?

One of the last things a middle schooler is thinking about is sex.

When I was in middle school I was more worried about disappointing my parents than I was about sex.

So, it baffles me that the author chose this as the main theme for the story.

She made it seem like the only purpose in life is sex.

Sex is not what life is all about.

Susie had a family she loved and cared about and a family that loved and cared about her.

Why couldn’t the story revolve around that?

Why was she spending all this time thinking about Ray? They didn’t have a relationship. They both had a crush on each other and shared a brief kiss. But there were barely any other foundations to build their love upon.

It wasn’t enough.

So what was the significance of her having sex with him?

What the book should have focused on.

Susie was raped. And she had something taken from her that she can never get back. There is no denying that. But she was also murdered.

She didn’t get to live her life and see her little brother grow or make her parents proud or do so many other things.

It would have made more sense to the story if Susie wanted the murder to be caught. So he wouldn’t be able to do to another girl what he did to her.

So why didn’t she use Ruth’s body to tell everyone she knew who did it?

It felt lacking and weak to make her fall into Ruth’s body for something so trivial. 

Sex is not the end all be all. We should not be teaching younger people this.

The lovely bones
Image by Mia Ganzenberg from Pixabay

That’s what you wanted to do when you came down to earth?

Also, how on earth was Ray comfortable with having sex with Susie in Ruth’s body. It felt so invasive and I was just I reading about it.

You’re telling me she didn’t want to go see her father. She didn’t want to tell him, “Hey, I’m okay, please take care of yourself and be there for the living. They need you now.”

Nope, she wanted to break into Hal’s dirty repair shop and get down with her childhood crush who wanted the same.

Why did everyone like this book back when I was in middle school?

We need to stop acting like our self worth is measured by when we have sex, how, and with who. You’re worth as much as you believe you’re worth.

Also, George Harvey’s death was written like it’s meant to be poetic or symbolize something. And it was foreshadowed earlier in the book. But it came off as rushed. 

Overall, the book had an interesting idea but it was a huge disappointment towards the last chapters. I’m sad because it was a neat concept that was not executed as well as it could have been.

What book(s) did you read when you were younger disappoint you after rereading it as an adult?

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