Fantasy stories often have magic potions that are made up of the body parts of living creatures, even in Harry Potter, where bits of unicorn can be put into potions or wands - but where do those parts come from? NOT EVEN BONES explores that grim and unsavory concept in the form of Nita and her family, dealers in the magical black market, selling magical body parts to collectors, perverts, and criminals. Nita enjoys her work, with a blood-thirsty joy that's reminiscent of Kerri Maniscalo's heroine, Audrey Rose, in STALKING JACK THE RIPPER. NOT EVEN BONES is a much better book, however, with tight plotting, morally grey characters, and a grim world and setting that at times seems almost too dark to be YA.
The summary for this book is vague and a little misleading. It isn't really like Dexter, except for the whole cutting up dead bodies thing, and I haven't read anything by Schwab to completion, but - unpopular opinion time - what I did read by her seemed pretty bland and fanfictiony, in that way that all Tumblr-popular writers seem to have. NOT EVEN BONES is set in our world, which came as a surprise to me at first because the summary made me think this was going to be high fantasy. There are magical creatures and everyone knows they exist, and governments are in disagreement about how many rights they should have and what should be done about them.
The heroine is Latina and the "hero"is Burmese/Thai. Most of this book is set in South America, which will be a pleasant surprise to those of you who often find yourselves complaining about the Western bias in fantasy settings. The characters actually swear instead of saying those made-up swear words that sound so stupid in everything that isn't Firefly, including dropping a few F-bombs. The story, as I said, is DARK. Graphic torture scenes, and discussions of incredibly unsavory topics like organ and body-part harvesting, eugenics, and abuse in virtually all forms. I'm pretty hard to shock, but this book made even me think, "I'm going to need a thousand hugs when this is over."
I'm honestly shocked this book didn't make more of a splash when it came out, since it's virtually everything readers have been asking for every time they criticize YA fantasy for being what it is.
Warning: ends on a mean mother of a cliffhanger.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
4 out of 5 stars