Title: Behold the Bones
Author: Natalie C. Parker
Release Date: February 23, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen (HarperCollins imprint)
Candace "Candy" Pickens has been obsessed with the swamp lore of her tiny Louisiana town for... forever. Name any ghostly swamp figure and Candy will recite the entire tale in a way that will curl your toes and send chills up your spine. That doesn't mean Candy's a believer, however. Even though she and her friends entered the swamp at the start of summer and left it changed, Candy's the only one who can't see or feel the magical swamp Shine. She's also the only one who can't see the ghosts that have been showing up and spooking everyone in town ever since. So Candy concentrates on other things—real things. Like fighting with her mother and plotting her escape from her crazy town. But ghosts aren't the only newcomers in Sticks, Louisiana. The King family arrives like a hurricane: in a blur and unwanted—at least by Candy. Mr. King is intent on filming the rumored ghostly activity for his hit TV show, Local Haunts. And while Candy can't ignore how attracted she is to eighteen-year-old Gage King and how much his sister, Nova, wants to be friends, she's still suspicious of the King family. As Candy tries to figure out why the Kings are really in town and why the swamp that had previously cast her aside now seems to be invading every crack in her logical, cynical mind, she stumbles across the one piece of swamp lore she didn't know. It's a tale that's more truth than myth, and may have all the answers... and its roots are in Candy's own family tree.
Behold the Bones is a haunting tale. The smell of the swamp is thick in the nose, the swamp mist creeps up and over between the words on the page, and the mysteries are rich and begging to be uncovered.
Candy is brash and sharp with a quick tongue and quicker one-liners. She doesn't see what the fuss is about the Shine or any of the rare and random ghosts that happen to pop up in Sticks because she can't. Because the Shine doesn't affect her. Which is fine, even if it makes her feel left out when Sterling and Abigail do see something. It's when her mother tries to sit her down to talk about her lack of a period and infertility that she gets angry over someone wanting to make decisions about her body. It's when Sterling and Abigail lean on her and she leans on them that you see that this book is also about friendship. It's when the King family comes to town that she gets suspicious. Suspicious of their ghost hunting TV show plans. Suspicious of the new teens in town, Nova and Gage. Suspicious of the voice in her head, calling out to her. Singing to her.
Fixing and being fixed. Being whole and being broken. Candy doesn't see herself as a failure when it come to her never having a period, but she can see something in her mother's eyes. In her expression. When the talks of doctors and therapists come up over and over, Candy sees disappointment and fear coating the love and support of her parents. She doesn't see herself as broken, as someone who needs fixing. As a young woman who won't feel complete until she has children. It's not something that's as important to her as it is to her mother. What is important to Candy? Discovering the truth behind the Kings. Behind the sing-song voice.
The swampy southern setting drips from the page. The heaviness in the air pushing down, compressing, magnifying the summer's heat. The sounds and sights of the swamp, the mud and the grass. The eternally flowering cherry tree.
This book brings up at a number of things that don't often appear in YA. It discusses teen girls menstruating without shame and not behind closed doors. It pushes at friendships and relationships. It highlights a small town full of guns and moonshine without derision. Many of the people of Sticks are conservative, wary, old-fashioned, but they're not stereotypical clichés. Enjoy the previously released companion Beware the Wild? Looking for a different kind of ghost story? Then by all means, give this a read.
(I downloaded an e-galley of this title from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.)