Not Even Bones
By Rebecca Schaeffer
Published September 4, 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nita sometimes worried–well, not worried precisely, because it didn’t actually bother her, but thought about in a concerned way–that she was a bit of a sociopath. She was socially inept, she hated people, and the only thing that made her feel calm and peaceful was cutting up dead bodies. There was normal, there was abnormal, and then there was Nita.
Warning: Not Even Bones is not for the faint of heart.
In a world where supernatural creatures are real and out in the open, there’s a thriving black market for supernatural body parts. Nita’s mother hunts and kills supernaturals, and Nita dissects them so the parts can be sold. She tells herself that it’s ok. She’s not doing the killing, and they’re mostly bad creatures who hurt people. Then one day, her mother brings home a live boy and orders Nita to start removing pieces. From a live boy. Nita has her limits, and this is it. She lets the boy go, and then she ends up in a cage herself. Her only chance for escape is to test the limits of how monstrous she can become.
Not Even Bones is really good and completely unexpected. It’s definitely a bit gorier than most YA books, what with all the body parts being chopped up, but if you can handle some blood, I highly recommend it.
Nita is a fascinating character. She is actually a supernatural herself, as is her mother (they’re an unnamed and unusual sort of creature who can heal themselves), but she’s ok with carving up other creatures. Her upbringing has been very odd. Her mother pulled her out of school years earlier, and although her parents are still married, she’s usually on the road with her mother and rarely sees her father. Her mother is a straight-up sociopath, and Nita both loves and fears her. (When Nita was younger and refused to cut up some fluffy harmless creatures, her mother killed them anyway and left the bodies in Nita’s bed. Not exactly Mother of the Year.)
This book delves into what what makes a monster. Are you destined to be a monster if you’re a supernatural? Does what Nita is forced to do to survive make her a monster? Nita makes an uneasy alliance with a zannie, a creature that feeds off the pain of others. The zannie Kovit has definite lines he won’t cross, but his very nature forces him to eat people’s pain. Nita starts out with lines she won’t cross, but they get blurred quickly. She’s in a cage, with people threatening to chop her up piece by piece, and self-preservation is key.
Not Even Bones has some good diversity. Nita is Latinx, and Kovit is Thai. The book takes place entirely in South America. (The author lived in Peru, where the book is initially set.) It also has no romance, which is a little unusual (and very welcome) for YA (although the stage is set for a potential romance down the line). This is the start of a trilogy, and the book ends on not quite a cliffhanger, but a definite “whaaattt?” moment. I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next book.
I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.