Beneath the piles of flesh and blood, Camille DeAngelis’ “Bones and All” is a coming-of-age story about a young girl, Maren, learning to navigate life as a teenage cannibal.
From infancy, Maren has been an “eater” and struggles with coming to terms with her inability to control her hunger around boys. Scared of what her daughter is capable of doing, her mother leaves Maren after her 16th birthday and for the first time in her life, Maren is alone. With only $600 in cash, a rucksack and great determination, Maren begins her cross-country journey to find her father.
While on her mission, Maren meets another “eater” Lee; and together they yearn to fit in while attempting to suppress their cannibalistic urges.
Maren’s character is not easy to love, after being emotionally neglected her entire life by her mother and abandoned by her father before birth, her decision-making skills are not her strongest suit, making it very frustrating to support her.
After readers learn about Maren’s many sexual encounters with boys at too young of an age, it becomes obvious this story is a commentary on reframing the man-eater trope, in a much more innocent and childlike way. Even after sixteen years of unhealthy eating habits, Maren chooses to literally devour her complex feelings toward men instead of finding a way to healthily cope with her gruesome past.
Impulse control is not something Maren is familiar with, nor does she begin to attempt to control such urges. “Bones and All” portrays Maren as a volatile predator who eats her prepubescent prey alive, but beneath her hardened facade is a hurting child that only yearns for the comfort of a parent and a normal life.
I devoured this book, pages and all. This story wasn’t exactly the make-sure-your-feet-aren’t-hanging-off-of-the-bed scary story I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised with the depth of the plot.
The book itself is very ambitious, but expecting readers to believe an infant is capable of devouring an entire person was a bit of a stretch, even for a fantasy novel. Its strengths are in character development, not believability. Oftentimes, readers are left wondering what just happened. I wouldn’t be aware that Maren actually did consume someone until many chapters later due to how vaguely the scene was written.
DeAngelis makes up for her lack of detail with an amazing job of expressing the grief Maren struggles with immediately after dining on her somewhat innocent victims. Readers really do feel like they’re blacking out alongside Maren and waking up with blood on their hands as well.
I picked up this book thinking I would need a nightlight to sleep, but I ended up wiping away more tears than expected. Maybe too many years of unsupervised access to the internet as a child has rotten my perception of horror, but the scariest thing about this book was the constant eating of beans straight out of the can.
Despite my grievances, I have to conclude this book was very enjoyable to read and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an excuse to cry uncontrollably and loudly in front of their roommates. This book has it all: mommy and daddy issues, half-eaten corpses, intrusive men and lots of unmanaged hormones.
As a devout fan of Timothee Chalamet, I read this book because of the upcoming movie adaptation starring Chalamet as Lee and Taylor Russell as Maren. The film has already been nominated for awards at the Venice Film Festival and Taylor Russell has been awarded Best Young Actress, so I have high hopes for its success.
Will witnessing Chalamet eat someone alive change my opinions of him? Probably not. But if I have to see him eat another can of beans, I might have to rethink a few things.