Thank you to Netgalley and Stripes Publishing for sending me a copy of Bad Bones for review…
So I’ve just finished Bad Bones by Graham Marks and at the outset, it seemed to be something that was right up my street. Bad Bones is part of a YA horror series called Red Eye, and although I’ve not read any of the other books in the series, it seems to be basically Goosebumps with maybe a slightly older target audience. At least that seems to be the intent, because Bad Bones feels incredibly simple, with a simplistic writing style, simplistic characters and a simplistic story. If it wasn’t for drugs and violence cropping up here and there, I would say this book was for pre-teens. Because they’re the only audience who would even be slightly scared by this.
Bad Bones follows Gabe, a teenager growing up in LA. One day, to get away from his annoying family and a dangerous drug dealer named Benny, he takes a trip out of town to the hills. There, he finds a shallow grave complete with plenty of solid gold trinkets. Gabe doesn’t think twice about taking them, hoping to sell them to help his family. But disturbing the grave seems to have awoken something – an ancient evil which may just bring about the end of the world. Gabe and new friend Stella are pitted against an unstoppable force, whilst dealing with the more normal sides of teenage life.
The story is entirely predictable, and has been done much better elsewhere. It hits all the beats you would expect, with little to no variation. That would have been fine, if there was at least something to Bad Bones. There really isn’t though. The characters aren’t explored at all. Even Gabe’s character seems to be barely touched upon, so there is no hope for secondary characters, such as Stella, Benny and Gabe’s friend, Anton. It was hard to fear for anyone’s life when I didn’t feel like I knew these characters at all. A lot of Bad Bones feels empty and soulless.
The writing style is very simple. I wasn’t expecting anything terribly complex, but the writing isn’t engaging at all. It just feels plain, with description and action and dialogue coasting all on the same level. There was no rhythm, no delightful up-and-down with all elements working together – nothing to make the writing come alive. A good writing style can save a bad story sometimes, but Bad Bones’ writing only serves to make it even less interesting.
I was expecting something more from Bad Bones. When I was a teenager, I was reading Stephen King. And before that, I was reading things like A Series of Unfortunate Events and Artemis Fowl – books with incredible style and character. These books have stayed with me all my life. The moment I finished Bad Bones, my brain started to forget it.
Minimal character development and a predictable story plague Bad Bones from the very beginning. The story of a teenager who awakens an ancient evil never manages to get any better and just trundles along to its disappointing conclusion. Bad Bones could have done with taking some risks because this story has been better done elsewhere.
BAD BONES by GRAHAM MARKS