This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Finn has just finished his junior year in high school. He lives with his older brother, Sean, in a small town called Bone Gap. A few years earlier, their mother left and went to Oregon to be with someone she’d met online. Sean, who had been studying medicine, had to put his dreams aside to support himself and Finn. The townspeople like the boys. Sean is the kindest, most selfless person around. Finn, attractive but distracted, is often called nicknames such as Spaceman, Sidetrack or Moonface.
The boys’ world was upended when they found a beautiful, injured young woman in their barn. Roza, from Poland, had been studying in Chicago when one of her professors kidnapped her. She had eventually escaped.
Though she never told Sean and Finn anything about the kidnapping, they nursed her back to health, and she thrived in the apartment off of their house. She cooked and gardened, and she and Sean began to fall for one another. Then one day, while Finn watched, the same kidnapper took her away in his black SUV. Although Rosa told Finn she was going with the man by choice, Finn saw her fighting to escape as the car drove away.
The narrative begins two months after Roza’s re-abduction. Finn is still irritated with himself because he can’t provide a useful description that will help law enforcement find Roza. He doesn’t remember the kidnapper’s facial features. He can only remember the ghostly way the man moved. Sean thinks Roza has simply left him, and he’s angry that Finn keeps insisting she was kidnapped.
As the story of the boys unfolds, intermittent chapters describe Roza being trapped in various locations by her captor. He thinks she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, but he promises he won’t touch her until she is able to love him back. One of her prisons is a home in a suburban neighborhood. Another is a castle with servants and sprawling meadows outside. Another location reminds her of her grandmother’s home in Poland. She keeps trying to escape but without success. Feeling like she’s in a dream most of the time, she’s convinced her kidnapper is drugging the water she drinks.
Since Sean works long hours and barely speaks, Finn spends a lot of time thinking about college entrance essays. He also works with his friend Miguel to build fences for a neighbor. Miguel points to a girl looking Finn’s way, but Finn is interested in a girl named Pricilla (Petey). She and her mother are beekeepers who sell honey. Most people consider Petey strange looking, but Finn is attracted to her.
After a beautiful horse mysteriously shows up in Finn’s barn, he begins taking nightly rides to visit Petey. Sometimes, they sit outside by a fire and eat s’mores and talk. Sometimes they ride for hours, seeing strange and mystical things they’re not sure are real. Once, when Finn has another encounter with the man who took Roza, he tells Petey. He begs her to believe him, and she says she does.
Petey wonders why Finn can’t describe the man. She does some research and determines Finn has a disability that keeps him from recognizing faces. After their first sexual encounter, she shows him a number of photos and asks him to identify the people in them. Finn isn’t even able to identify himself in a photo. Petey’s diagnosis is confirmed. She grows angry, believing the only reason Finn wants to be with her is that he can’t see her and the physical ugliness everyone else sees. She sends him away. Finn is devastated.
Finn thinks a neighbor may know something about Roza’s kidnapper, and he asks the man to explain what’s happened to Roza. The old man won’t say much, but he urges Finn to look in the gaps all around them. Finn has no idea what this means. He starts wandering through Bone Gap and follows the sound of the corn. He winds through the cornfields to a strange stream. On the other side of the stream, Finn finds himself at a carnival full of people. The kidnapper is there. He traps Finn in a house of mirrors and causes the carnival goers (who may be dead, or may not even be real) to do his bidding.
Finn makes a bet with the kidnapper: If he can find Rosa in this crowd, the kidnapper must let her go. There are numerous people, so the task seems impossible. But Finn recalls a time Petey taught him how to identify a queen bee from all of the other bees. She’d told him to let his eyes go slack and watch the movement of the bees. The queen’s movements were just different enough that, when he stopped looking at details, he was quickly able to identify her. Finn uses the same technique and is able to spot Roza in the crowd. The angry kidnapper refuses to let her go. Roza uses a piece of broken glass from a funhouse mirror to slice a huge gash across her face, much to the kidnapper’s horror. She is no longer beautiful, so he allows her and Finn to leave.
Roza’s return brings the town together. Roza forgives Sean for not looking for her. She makes plans to return to Poland to see her grandmother, but readers get the impression things are not over for her and Sean. Finn and Petey make up. Finn and Roza never attempt to explain where she was or how they escaped. Roza also tells Finn the horse that appeared in the barn is her grandmother’s. This story leaves readers with a happy but enigmatic ending that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy.
There are a few off-handed mentions of Roza praying as she tries to escape her kidnapper, but no mention of praying to God.
Other Belief Systems
Strange, inexplicable things happen and characters wonder if magic is at work in their surroundings.
The Lord’s name is used in vain several times. Words including h---, s---, crap, a--, p---, b--ch, balls, whore, butt, suck, d--n and the f-word appear often. Finn is bloodied when the Rude brothers beat on him. He is also trampled by his horse and hospitalized. Roza slices a piece of glass across her face to disfigure herself.
Finn likes girls in cutoffs and has dreams about getting naked with them. Petey mesmerizes him in her cutoff shorts. They begin with kissing, then move on to make-out sessions involving full body contact while they are clothed. Finn says he can imagine himself inside of her. Eventually, the descriptions include clothes being removed. A sexual experience follows shortly after. Finn is a little embarrassed to be sneaking around Petey’s house like a dumb, horny teenager, which he admits he is.
Petey has the erroneous reputation for being willing to have oral sex with any boy who will tell her she isn’t ugly. The rumor began when she was kissing a boy at a party, and he pushed her onto her knees in front of him. Rather than giving him what he wanted, she punched him in the genitals. The boy started the rumors about her at school the next day. Petey is disgusted when her mom tells stories about her own physical encounters with boys. Her mom gives Petey a book with information about sexual relationships, including homosexuality. The book also covers STD prevention and birth control. Boys noticed Petey’s physical development and make crass comments about what they’d like to do to her.
Polish boys Roza knew ogled her and expected physical favors. When she would refuse, they would rebuff her for thinking she was too good for them. One boy, when rejected by Roza, sleeps with her roommate. Although he is clearly abusive, the roommate keeps inviting him back. Roza’s kidnapper touches her skin in seductive ways, much to her disgust.
One of Finn’s classmates reveals his homosexuality to his family and brings a male date to a town function. Petey finds sketches Sean has made of nudes. They are not pornographic but worshipful and beautiful, she says. Sean and Roza kiss, but their physical relationship doesn’t progress far before she is re-abducted.
Drugs: Before she left, Sean and Finn’s mother had started finding things to smoke besides cigarettes. Because of this, Sean had to be Finn’s caregiver and make sure he was getting what he needed.
Gambling: The boys sometimes play poker with Roza and a neighbor. They bet pennies or cookies.
Physical beauty: Roza, who is beautiful, and Petey, who is not, both spend their lives grappling with the belief that their physical appearances define them. Roza is bothered, and even hunted, by men who want to own her beauty. Petey is pitied for her unattractiveness, and people assume Finn only likes her because he’s getting physical gratification.
You can request a review of a title you can't find at email@example.com.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.
Readability Age Range
14 to 18
Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Michael L. Printz Award, 2016; National Book Award Finalist, 2015