Saturday, October 23, 2021

Review: Bone Tree by Jenna Lehne

I'm throwing a trick in with today's review. I actually had this one scheduled for tomorrow but needed to shove it in a day ahead.  Not that I minded reading this one a day early. 

As soon as I saw this cover and read the blurb, I was excited to get my hands on it...and I wasn't disappointed. It's perfect for the spookier season and promises more than a few surprises and scares.

What Lies Beneath May Be More Than Friendship
by Jenna Lehne
Illustrated by Uliana Babenko
The Little Press
Middle Grade Thriller
182 pages
ages 9 to 12

Elsie battles a terrifying ghost to keep her best friend around forever. But does forever have too much of a cost? Elsie's best friend, Roman, is dying. But Roman has a plan to escape death. He wants to be resurrected through the powers of the Bone Tree and the curse of the Woman in White, Mary Simon, whose body lies beneath the tree. Terrified, yet determined not to lose him. Elsie promises Roman to summon Mary's ghost and the powers of the Bone Tree to bring him back when he dies. When the Bone Tree's magic works and Roman resurrects, Elsie vows to do anything to keep him around, even if that means battling an angry, screeching banshee, with talons for fingers. But what Elsie doesn't realize is that the cost of keeping Roman around may be too high. When the Woman in White kidnaps Roman's brother, Jake, and threatens to take his life as revenge, Elsie must choose between saving the lives of many from the deadly grasp of Mary Simon, the Woman in White, or keeping her best friend.



This one holds ghosts, curses, graveyards, friendship, emotion, heart-break, determination, adventure...need I say more?

Elsie and Roman have been best friends for most of their lives. When Roman is diagnosed with cancer, he asks her to help him learn more about a town myth surrounding the old tree in the graveyard, one that has the magic to bring someone back to life. Research and tons of digging has them deciding there might be some truth to the myth, but there's a puzzle piece missing. When Roman dies, Elsie follows his wish, and it works. Roman is visible even if he isn't alive. But by bringing him back, they uncover the secret surrounding the original magic, the tree, and a ghost, who will protect her ability to 'live' no matter what the cost.

I'm not sure where even to begin with this book. It packs a punch, pulls at the heartstrings, throws in chills, and leaves the reader on the edge of their seat the whole way through. So, I guess I'll start at the beginning and an amazing friendship. Elsie and Roman are there for each other no matter what. Even when Roman gets sick, Elsie stays herself and stands at his side until the end. Even the family life of both is true blue, comes across naturally, and offer a wonderful base of warmth, which withstands even the troubling times and a hiccup or two. Elsie has a great base and that sets a wonderful foundation for the tale.

The more serious tones of this story head toward the death of a friend, how to deal with it, and how to carry on. This is very well done and weaves naturally along the thrilling adventure and tense plot, staying almost in the background most of the time. The author handles this theme with care, while allowing the emotions to sit exactly where they need to...and that without ever growing over-bearing or becoming too much for the age group. Elsie does mourn, but it's handled in careful way, making sure it fits the situation and allows her to grow and move on.

But despite all of this, the main part of this read is all about the ghosts and curses, and horrible danger, which threatens to spill into the town and steal lives. The ghost, Mary, is evil and the stakes are very high. Elsie does witness dark moments and gets into very dangerous situations. I'd recommend this one more for the upper end of the middle grade age group because it does deal with death, and not just Roman's. There is a little gore, too. Sensitive readers might find some moments a bit much, but, in general, it's still appropriate for thrill seekers of this age group.

I enjoyed the tale quite a bit, was surprised by several twists and turns, and can recommend it for a Halloween read (and for the rest of the year, too).

1 comment:

Valinora Troy said...

Sounds good, thanks for the review!