Cover Image: Wake the Bones

Wake the Bones

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Member Reviews

ooo this one was so so good! spooky, atmospheric- it truly had all the dark academia vibes. it reminds me of a magical 'the secret history' for the YA genre. I can't wait for everyone to read this when it comes out, I think that it's a special book.
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This book was definitely interesting. It is kind of slow at some parts, (it took me foreverrrr to finish it) but I did love the writing. It was very vivid and the atmosphere that was created made everything creepier. However, there were times I got a bit lost with what was happening because some parts were overly descriptive and the magic system also confused me a little. I did like that it was multiple POV’s and my favorite character was probably Christine or Garrett if I had to pick one, but there was something lacking that caused me to not care enough about/connect with the characters. So in short, I liked this book, but didn’t love it. Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for this arc!
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Laurel Early has never had anything close to a normal life. Her mother died in a tragic accident when she was a child, and now, Laurel has just quit college after feeling completely out of place there. Returning home, she decides to focus on her bones preparation business, as the bones she finds in the woods and farming land she lives on with her Uncle are extremely popular on the internet. One day, however, a large group of the bones go missing. While out with her fellow tobacco farmer friends, they come across a great deal of blood and the bones arranged in a strange shape. Laurel knows that something terrifying is coming, and that the land has woken up. The magic of her mother is alive and well within her, and it just might get everyone she loves killed in the process.

Elizabeth Kilcoyne has created a terrifying, fascinating, and gorgeously atmospheric novel with Wake the Bones. Having lived in a small country town the characters feel like real people, albeit with stories stranger than most can imagine. Kilcoyne's characters, even when you don't want to like them, get under your skin and stay there, and the big bad energy in this book haunts the reader, even after you've put the book down and walked away. Be warned that the first part of this book is a great deal of world and character building, but when the book hits, it grabs you and won't let go. 

Wake the Bones is available from St. Martin's Press July 12, 2022. Preorder it now; trust me.
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Kilcoyne surely knows how to bring the hot sticky summers on the Ohio/Kentucky border across. I swear you can feel the humidity. The main protagonist, Laurel Early, has grown up on the family farm without her mother, raised by her uncle Jay. She grew up rough and tumble with her best friends, Isaac, Garret and Ricky (the latter are brothers).

Having failed out of college up in Cincinnati, Laurel is back on the farm resigned to growing tobacco and working as a taxidermist. At least she can imagine enjoying life on the farm, potentially with Ricky. But weird things are happening, strange frightening things. Enter into the mix Christine, the town psychic, whom honestly Laurel and her friends are mean to until they need her. Laurel and Christine share that magic girl ostracized by small town gossips thing but it does not make them friends.

The devil/elemental spirit/whatever you want to call it that haunted her mother -as Laurel is discovering - is back and it wants Laurel. If it can't have her willingly it will take her and all she loves.

The prose is beautiful. I liked Laurel and her friends but I wanted to slap most of them, especially Laurel from time to time. Laurel, Isaac and Christine have most of the point of view face time. The brothers Garret and Ricky feel a little more like props to move the story along but not necessarily in a bad way. What annoyed me about Laurel is her insistence if she failed to escape Dry Valley then what chance does Isaac have? What arrogance! It's hard to keep in mind they're all only about 18 with Garret slightly older. I get that Laurel doesn't want to lose her friend but Isaac has every reason to get out of there being raised by an abusive man who is starting to figure out Isaac is gay so it's going to just get worse. I was unimpressed with Laurel's dismissal of Isaac's fears (doesn't Garret make it work? He never wants to leave the area, content with going to Gay bars in Cincinnati on the weekends. Why can't Isaac do that?) I live on the Ohio/Kentucky border. Isaac's fears are real and Laurel isn't much of a friend in that case.

Naturally the demon comes for Laurel and her friends as does something else which is actually frankly creepier than the demon. The ending was a bit of a jumble but over all I did really liked this one.


I received this ARC from Netgalley which did not in any way influence my review. The story has gore, abusive parents, mental/physical abuse.
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I was drawn in by the amazing cover and was not disappointed. A creepy, imaginative tale that sticks with you long after your done reading it.
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I really enjoyed my time with this book! It's weird, a little creepy, and atmospheric. I was able to connect personally to the setting and our MC Laurel. She's strange and doesn't always know the right things to say/do and I like that about her. The other characters were good as well and I think my favorite was Laurel's best friend Isaac. I felt like he was a bit of a lost soul looking for a way out and I just wanted to protect him at all costs. The "magic" in this book is kind of vague and not really explained, but somehow is still interesting and beautiful to me. The end was actually a bit of a surprise and I liked it. Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for providing me with an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Wake the Bones eschews the typical cityscape or town setting of YA novels to deliver us to the places that America forgot: the backwoods, rural towns where gossip runs high and farmers are king. This creeping gothic's strengths lay in this setting, the way Kilcoyne embodies it and the effect it has on her characters, but crumbles when delivering any kind of payoff to the creeping buildup and developing her cast of male side characters.
Laurel Early has tried and failed to get out of Dry Valley. She's failed out of college and is back to farming her uncle's tobacco, drinking with her best friends, and avoiding the town gossip about the way her mother, local witch, killed herself. The only thing she's got going for her is the love of her closest friend, Isaac, and her affinity for taxidermy, a hobby made even more interesting by the way the bones speak to her. But with Isaac planning on getting out of their homophobic town and her own taxidermy bones ending up in grotesque amalgamations in the woods, Laurel knows that for once, Dry Valley is changing, and not for the better.
I think what this book captures best is the unsettling feel of a small town and the unique connections it has to nature. Kilcoyne nails the effect that farming has on the local ecosystem and people who live in it, from someone who grew up in a hotspot like this. Part of the horror I loved was the sense that nature and rot were two things that farmers love, are required to love, and things that were so close to Laurel originally and are now turning on her. It's more than just her love for taxidermy, it's her love for the farm itself and how its kept her family alive, how nature has allowed this entire town to keep going. This resonated with me a lot more than ~city girls finding nature~ or otherwise regular towns that live near creepy woods, or something. You could really feel Laurel's connection to the environment and her town both.
But this was about where my connection to the characters stop. There's three side characters, all Dry Valley boys. Ricky, Garrett, and her best friend Isaac. Each feels like they were assigned a specific set of traits that Kilcoyne tells you repeatedly that they have, yet their dialogue all sounds absolutely interchangeable and their actions did, too. I kept track of them not by connecting to the characters, or by recognizing their personalities, but by the only original traits they had, their love interests: Isaac and Garrett are both gay and in love with each other, while Ricky loves Laurel. The only other marked difference I could see in their characters was that Isaac wants to leave the homophobic Dry Valley and his abusive father, while Garrett wants to stay. Even Garrett's reasons for staying are unclear, while Isaac never demonstrably seems affected by either the homophobia or his father's abuse. Laurel repeatedly tells the reader that he will flinch when touched or is easy to spook, but you never actually see him doing any of this. I thought Laurel was this very cool gothic heroine with a strong arc of coping with grief and loss, but the boys just didn't have the same effort put into them. 
The gothic buildup was effective, although it maybe didn't stick the ending as well as I would've liked. Overall, this was definitely more a story with an emphasis on the beautiful (really gorgeous) writing, atmosphere, and setting, over characterization and plot. That's not necessarily a bad thing in moderation, but it was a bit too unbalanced for me.
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Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

This book has promise and to be fair it is beautifully written. It’s atmospheric in the way it takes us to the rural south in a sweltering summer heat. The descriptions of the woods, nature, ghostly encounters and city folk are well done (albeit stereotypical). 

But the story itself and plot just falls short. The book is SLOW! Laurel has ditched college to move back home to the tobacco farm and falls quickly back into old friendships and patterns with her three boy childhood friends. But she starts dreaming of her mom, supernatural things start to occur, something evil is after Laurel. Meanwhile her friend Isaac is gay and suffering in this rural town with his abusive father and a sister woman named Christine has the power to see things and knows the devil is on that farm and after Laurel. 

Gross, violent things start to happen thanks to this monster. Isaac almost dies. Ricky, her friend and quickly turned crush, actually dies and Laurel has to use her magic (which is somehow connected to the dirt and earth) to save him but he’s not the same. She managed to kill the monster with this same magic after learning her mother tried to kill Isaac in an effort to save Laurel and Laurel must confront her own grief by letting her mother go. 

The thing is—this book makes no sense! Magic is just thrown in there and not fully explained. The monster and it’s violence feels like it does little to move the plot forward and is only there for shock value. Most of the characters are two dimensional. For example, Laurel is like I won’t like Ricky he hasn’t grown up, is childish, doesn’t share his feelings and she doesn’t want to be a stereotype of small town girl takes like the only available small town boy. And then in the last 1/4 of the book she’s like never mind I guess I’ll be with him. 

A lot of this book really revolves around stereotypes. Stereotypes of small towns and what small town people are like (especially in the South). Stereotypes about gay men, etc. and while some stereotypes may be based in some version of reality, it doesn’t do anything for the book to just keep all the stereotypes without offering something different and more complex. 

I don’t know that I would recommend this book to anyone unless it was someone who just wanted an easy read and liked a lot of gruesome details.
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This book was absolutely fantastic. I've already added it to our list for order this year and will recommend it to students.
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Honestly, this book had me at "The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away."  I have always been a fan of horror stories and spooky tales, and this book 100% filled that want for something spooky. I loved the characters and each one seemed ready to simply step off the page and come to life. Coming from a small town, I know the kind of judgement a small town can have, especially toward anyone who's different and this book took that accurately and incorporated it right into the story. I definitely recommend this book
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Laurel's mother was thought to be a witch and that assumption was only made worse when she was found dead in the family well when Laurel was only a few months old.

Laurel thought she wanted to escape her tiny hometown, but has found herself right back there trying to figure out her future.  She and her three best friend, Isaac, Garrett and Ricky are caught somewhere between childhood and adulthood as they spend the summer struggling to realize who each other really are.

Strange, unnatural things begin appearing or happening around Laurel and she discovers a deep, dark magic that may have led her mother to her death.  Can she stop the evil and save her friends, her farm, herself?

The tone of both loving and feeling like your small town is a trap is spot on (from town of 300 myself).  The creepy bits somehow are intriguing and pretty in an odd way.  Well done.
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Oh WOW this book! It's hard for me to express just how wonderful Wake the Bones is. It's one of those books where you can't point to one specific thing that makes it great, because it's everything in combination. Stunning prose, sharp descriptions, characters so real they could walk off the page, incredibly creepy horror with a folk horror vibe, vivid atmosphere, a haunting that'll make you shudder, and a story rich with many raw and powerful themes.

I do want to say a few things, because I see it classified (on Netgalley, at least) as YA fantasy. To me, this is 100% horror. I don't know if it's classified as fantasy because of the stigma that has been (and is still somewhat) attached to horror or what? But if readers pick this book up looking for fantasy...I think they may not get what they expect. The descriptions are often stomach-churning and everything about this story follows horror tropes. As for the category, I can see how some of the themes keep it YA, but the characters are barely at the upper range of YA age and in feel, it very, very much hovers the line between YA and adult. I suppose it's probably considered crossover. If I had been handed this book and told it was adult horror, I wouldn't have batted an eyelash.

Anyway, I just want to put that out there to set readers' expectations since I would absolutely hate for this book's ratings to be docked in any way because of that. It's a beautiful book that deserves all the stars. I'm preordering a copy and can't wait to have it in my hands when it's out!

Thank you Wednesday Books for providing an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Wake the Bones is a solid example of rural horror, drawing on the constant living with life and death in the woods and fields. Protagonist Laurel and the three men who assist her on her quest to rid her land of evil are well-drawn, complex, and human characters. The horror elements offer original twists on classic tropes, and are excellently thought-out and described. There's a lot about herb lore that doesn't really come to fruition in the story--the gun introduced in the first act doesn't go off, here--but even so, the story is clearly one of land and growth and the soil and the people who work it. Some readers might complain that it's yet another example of horror focusing on white people, and that's true, but it also puts the spotlight on the rural poor and on being queer in rural America, areas that often get short shrift in horror.
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In brief, this was gorgeously written but inelegantly crafted. The best thing about this novel is the atmosphere: Kilcoyne has perfectly captured the heat, stickiness, and broiling tension of a southern summer infested with horrors beyond imaging. However, this equates to a meticulous and intricate painting done over crumbling drywall: the plot and characters don't do nearly enough to match the care taken with the language and atmosphere, leaving behind a story that is pleasing to the eyes but shaky to the imagination. 

The strongest characters were Laurel and Isaac: Garret and Ricky come across as weak romantic foils at the best of times. Frankly, I think this story could have done entirely without romance and focused on the sibling relationship between Laurel and Issac and the demons, both literal and metaphorical, that they were facing. I also have some issues with Issac which as a queer woman are more endemic to my feelings about LGBT representation in YA than specific to the character himself. Mainly how exhausted I am stories that use queer identity as a stand-in for deeper personality and character development -- as a queer person it is affirming when characters have struggles and emotional experiences unrelated to their identity or trauma that are accurately represented. Not to say these stories and struggles aren't a part of who I am and aren't still experienced deeply by other LGBT individuals, but having more depth of character feels like a fuller acknowledgement of queer people as complex individuals outside of this one facet of our identity. On a different note, I didn't understand the purpose of Christine as a character - I feel like the story should have either chosen to lean more into the "don't judge a book by its cover" message and given her a larger role in the narrative and group, or otherwise make her a more minor player without the POV chapters. This felt like an uneven compromise. 

I don't have much to say about the plot other than the fact that it was kind of all over the place. The ending in particular was rushed beyond belief and provided me with minimal explanation and closure for any of the events of the story. Without giving spoilers, a crucial moment near the end is no portrayed on the page and merely discussed after the fact which is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves and did nothing to contribute to the story besides make me confused.  However, I really enjoyed the horror aspects and felt the story was at its best when the creep factor was increased (bone monsters in the woods? ghosts appearing in convenience stores? this I can get behind).
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Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author, for an ARC of this book, in exchange for an honest review.
The synopsis of this book sounded intriguing to me so I requested a copy to read.
Unfortunately, I have tried reading this book on 2 separate occasions and during this 2nd attempt, I have
decided to stop reading this book 
and state that this book just wasn't for me.
I wish the author, publisher and all those promoting the book much success and connections with the right readers.
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3.5 
This was so creepy I couldnt read it at night! The writing and descriptions were so vivid - I sometimes like i was right there with the characters. I will say that it did get scattered and confusing. I also think this could’ve been marketed as an adult book rather than a YA books with all the dark themes and issues.
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After reading and loving this book I created an entire video review it while working on some journal pages that it inspired me to make.  

You can watch that review here: https://youtu.be/3GDKkQeDuaM

If you don't want to watch the video some things that I really loved from this book are:
-southern gothic setting
-magical realism
-AMAZING found family
-horror lite
-yearning
-lgbt+ character not trying to "figure themselves out"
-weird body horror
-rot 
-THE WRITING OMG 10/10!!!
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This book truly blew me away with the way it beautifully twines small town life, and the metaphysical it's breathtaking. There's all these little moments, memories that pull at each of the main characters and pulls them together. All the little nasty things about living in a small town and being around the same people that you've known your entire life.

I was not expecting the story that sprung from the pages, yes the description of this book is spot on. But when you're in the weeds in between the pages and experiencing this book it's a whole other experience. This book caught me off guard with it's mix between ghost story, love story and a touch of paranormal but it's all balanced together easily.

Normally with something like this we're talking about the main character alone but I felt like Laurel and her boys were the most dynamic. There's Garett and Isaac and their own personal brand of mistakes and missteps and then there's Ricky and Laurel. Both groups together make you wish for more on their stories but they leave you with just enough to feel complete.

I really appreciated the way magic was introduced into this book, I'm not sure I appreciated the way the town treated Laurel and her mother but that's neither here nor there since it's based on real life experiences rather than opinions. I felt that the way she experienced the world was truly unique, not only the little bit of magic that you find out about at the beginning of the book but the way she lives and grows in the world she lives in. The way she notices her friends and their own personal relationships or trauma. The way her surrogate "father" tries so hard to do right by her without letting her fall victim to the same things her mother did.

Can't express how much I recommend this book. If you're looking for a touch of magic, a little blend of romance some LGBTQIA+ moments. This book has pretty much everything. It addresses bias in an interesting manner and doesn't let it effect the story line but adds it's own flavor to it.

Please give this book the opportunity to wow you.
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a Southern horror where the setting feels like its own character, and the characters themselves burrow into your heart. I think it's considered YA, but it reads adult to me. And I didn't love the ending, but oh, I loved so much about this story. I can't wait to see what more Elizabeth writes in the future!
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This book doesn't seem to know whether it's an adult or YA novel. It is being marketed as YA but the main character has finished college. It doesn't *feel* YA.
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