Bones of a Saint

Soho Teen. Mar. 2021. 288p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781641291170.
Gr 9 Up–RJ lives with his mother and five siblings in a trailer in Arcangel Valley, a dying central California town, part of which is controlled by the Blackjacks gang. When elderly John Leguin moves into an abandoned house the gang believes is rightfully theirs, they plot to intimidate him and drive him out. Under threat to his family, the Blackjacks’ leader forces RJ to vandalize the house and steal valuables from the old man. The teen ends up spending time with Leguin and develops a relationship with him. Just as RJ figures out a way to get out from under the Blackjacks, he discovers his connection to Leguin is deeper than he imagined and that it comes with a responsibility. The narrative places more emphasis on imagery, particularly of religious rites, and less on story. As a result, character development is slight and the plot is missing drama. Situations that should be tense are not; the story feels likes it’s being told from a distance. This literary writing style does set it apart from other young adult novels and will no doubt appeal to some readers. RJ’s best friend Manny is Latino; RJ and most other characters are white.
VERDICT Hand this to readers who prefer literary writing styles to character- or plot-driven narratives.

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