Gabe flees with his dog, Ollie, the only creature who doesn't tremble at the sight of him. So when a mysterious girl named Wynne offers to let Gabe stay at her cozy house in a misty clearing, he gratefully accepts. Yet Wynne disappears from Bone Hollow for long stretches of time, and when a suspicious Gabe follows her, he makes a mind-blowing discovery. Wynne is Death and has been for thousands of years. Even more shocking . . . she's convinced that Gabe is destined to replace her.
engaging middle grade read
BONE HOLLOW follows Gabe, a young boy who lives with Miss Cleo, a woman who cares for him exactly as much as she has to since his parents and grandfather died. Gabe is happy enough to try to make it work, and that is why he is on a roof trying to rescue one of her chickens when a tornado arrives. Gabe soon wakes up to find odd scenes, including his dog Ollie being allowed in Miss Cleo’s house with him- and that no one seems to understand him. When he shows up at his wake, neither alive nor fully dead, people immediately try to attack him assuming he is a zombie-type evil creature.
Luckily, a girl about his age who looks like one of his good friends, Niko, takes him to safety in Bone Hollow, a semi-mystical place with delicious food and lots of quilts. He soon learns more about this girl, who is named Wynne. Soon, he learns that Wynne is Death, and he has been chosen to replace her if he agrees. Gabe must understand what Death is and why Death matters before he can make a decision.
What I loved: This is a fast-paced, page-turner that will keep you guessing. Gabe is a likable and understandable character who readers will want to find purpose and happiness. There are also some interesting points about racism from Wynne’s past, as she was a black child in the late 1800s/early 1900s and died for lack of a doctor willing to treat black people. The book also transcends a particular religion, knowing only that most people must move on but not what happens after or who/what chooses who will become Death. There are also important themes about kindness and its value, even for people whom one feels may not deserve it.
What left me wanting more: Very little! As some small points, Gabe has had a really tough life with so much death and then the abuse/neglect with Miss Cleo. Adding onto that, there is some violence when he is not as dead as everyone suspected. However, these are somewhat addressed by the adults later in the book. A large portion of the book happens while discovering that he is not dead, and I would have liked more on the afterlife and the job that Death performs here, as this was really fascinating.
Final verdict: This book is an interesting story about what kindness, Death, and the choices we make. With some thought-provoking secondary themes, this book is an engaging read all around. I would recommend for middle grade readers who enjoy lightly dark fantasy and magical reads.