Daina Harrow’s last few weeks were filled with hunger, bullying, and confusion while she tried to deal with her alcoholic mother, adjusting to another new school, and got swept into a world she didn’t want or ask for. Her bones were found ten years later under a house, and as her short life was pieced together in a coroner’s court she starts to wonder what was fact and what was fiction.
Skeletal is set in New Zealand and as such there are places and slang that were completely unfamiliar to me. Most of the slang I could parse from context and my own limited knowledge of NZ/British English but there were a couple I had to look up. It didn’t detract from my reading of the book, though, and in fact it actually made it more enjoyable and immersive to me. I’ve read books before that were “localized” for an American English audience and while they are also enjoyable there’s a little something missing.
Also interesting to note is the way the book switches back and forth between past and present multiple times in the chapter. There’s always a notation telling us whose point of view we are seeing and what year, but to switch that way multiple times can be a bit jarring. I’m not used to reading books with quite so much “head-hopping.” I did enjoy seeing the events from other peoples’ perspectives but wish they would have been different chapters.
The first half of the book is incredibly hard to read. The bullying that Daina has to deal with is nothing short of horrific to me, and I was constantly filled with anger that no one was helping this girl as it escalated further and further. She truly had no one to turn to for help and I kept wishing I could swoop in and at least give her a sandwich and a kind ear.
The second half got kind of weird quickly. A “secret agent” sort of guy was introduced seemingly out of nowhere and I had to work really hard not to set the book aside. It was hard enough to read about this poor girl, now I had to deal with some sort of conspiracy too? It became easier as I read but the question kept coming up in my head – is she having some sort of a breakdown, or is this all real?
I enjoyed this book quite a bit, though I’m still not entirely certain I trust the ending. I know that seems strange to say, but if you read it you’ll understand. I think the ending can mean different things to different people, and in one way it is incredibly sad. In another it is too pat. I can only recommend that you read it for yourself and decide.