I found a misused copy of this paperback on the shelf of my local swap shack (basically a large lean-to filled with “free to a good home” items) and it begged to be picked up. Like many I knew about the Lovely Bones, it was a bestseller after all, and I had seen the movie, but I had not read the book. So nearly 15 years after it had originally been published I started my secondhand copy with the dark ring shaped stain (suggesting it had functioned as a coffee mug holder way more than as a stunning piece of literature). I am happy to report that where it fails as a coaster it more than succeeds as a work of fiction.

This book opens with one of the most hit you in the chest lines I have ever read.


In my opinion books live and die in the first chapter, if I’m not hooked by the end of Chapter 1 it’s going to be a slog. This book had me by paragraph 1!

There are many things to love about this book, and just as many ways to approach this review. I won’t be sumerizing, go find another review if you are looking for a book report, or doing an in depth character analysis. I will instead give you 5 reasons why you must read this book (as I see them anyway).

  1. The tension- If you love a good who done it mystery or crime drama don’t pass this book up. You may know who did what but believe me there is tension in spades. Will the guilty party be found out? Will Susie figure out how to live in her heaven and in her family’s world? What impact will this have on everyone who was touched by Susie? Can a family torn apart by violence pull together? I could go on too. Don’t be fooled, knowing the killer’s identity does not mean that this story will disappoint in the surprise or gasp worthy moments.
  2. It is not a let’s hold hands and cry cathartically book-So I recently tried to convince someone to read the book and the response was “I don’t like books about little girls being murdered” followed by the “is something wrong with you?” look. That is not this book! Yes of course there are sad moments, Susie and her family grapple with some very serious things, but for me at least it was way more joyous than depressing. For example I felt sheer joy when Lindsey falls in love, laughed out loud at/with Grandma Lynn, and smiled from ear to ear as Ruth cajoles Ray into friendship. Don’t let the emotion behind this story scare you off, embrace it. The young feel everything as passionate extremes allow yourself to get swept up in it, it is Susie’s story after all take this opportunity to look through another’s eyes.
  3. For the lines you will want to highlight and quote (though I cannot condone book disfigurement)- This book is full of memorable lines and I am sure different ones will stand out depending on what you need. Goodreads lists over 200 and I am sure there are even more quotable lines. As I read The Lovely  Bones I was struck by how many people could be reached by Alice Sebold’s words. I found lines to share with those struggling with loss, that I would love to text to my young cousins, to help the many who never felt like they belonged in their current situation, to inspire, to encourage, and to just mull over. The words in this book are living things and each read breaths new life into them.
  4. It is better (longer) than the movie- Now I know that every time you hear this sentence it is accompanied by a look of disdain, but that’s not how I mean it. What I mean is the movie is constrained by time. There is only so much time which can pass during a normal length feature film before the audience loses focus. Whereas books can be as long as they want spanning decades of time. So while the movie keeps us focused on let’s say the next five years surrounding Susie’s murder The book reaches further into the future where we see Lindsey graduate college, Ray working towards an MD, and an aging Mr. Harvey. The reason I like the extended time line is twofold. Firstly, it suggests, with subtlety, the timelessness of Susie’s heaven. The jumps in time are not the same from chapter to chapter and we follow her friends and family for different stretches of time as well. To me this makes perfect sense and is a wonderful way to show the disconnect between Susie and everyone still living on earth. Secondly, it puts a fine point on the fact that Susie doesn’t get to grow up. A little harsh I suppose but true. This is a life and death story told by a young adult and her perspective cannot change because she cannot change (which is important to how the story ends). Mr. Harvey is a man and Susie is a girl if she becomes a woman the fear of him will lessen. So in my opinion the time in the book is critical both explaining and being explained by the story making the book better than the movie.
  5. Karma- So whether or not you believe in the religious component of karma most of us like the idea of good things happening for good people and bad things happening to bad people. Believe it or not, but I think this book adheres to this universal ideology. Yes, something horrible happens to Susie but she is not lessened by it George Harvey is. She is in a perfect world and she receives the ultimate gift in the end (not to give anything away here is tricky). While this may seem like a small consolation I still believe it counts because Susie gets joy, love, and wonder while Mr. Harvey does not. His fate is darker and well deserved.

Susie’s voice is refreshing and the story is captivating, hit the library stacks you will be glad you did.

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