I hate to say I found this book kind of boring, but that’s personal taste, of course. I think I find it so because there wasn’t much mystery going on. We already know who the murderer is, so that mystery’s off the table. I have to admit that as I read, I was hoping the main tension of the book was going to be how the murderer, Mr. Harvey, is discovered. That would’ve worked fine by me (and would’ve been unique as far as I’m concerned). I thought that author Alice Sebold would have him almost be caught many times, have us on the edge of our seats as Suzie’s family barely misses discovering an essential clue and what not – and then I imagined finally being satisfied when they nab that damn bastard in the end. But, sadly, most of the book chronicled the disintegration of Suzie’s grieving family. BOR-ING. I wanted some more action and close-calls, but people who enjoy more of a quieter, emotional ride will find this book enjoyable.
I want to draw an interesting parallel between this book and the movie The Others. Like The Others, the protagonist of this book, Susie, is a ghost. The protags from both the movie and the book also share another similarity: they need to make a realization in order to be get peace and be set free. In The Others, Grace Stewart and her kids needed to realize that they’re dead and that the “intruders” in their house are living people who have moved in. Even though they eventually decide to fight for their house, the ghosts at least come to terms with the fact that they’re dead. Susie, on the other hand, will be set free with a different realization, as Franny in heaven tells her on page 120: she needs to stop wondering why she was killed instead of somebody else, stop wondering what’s going on with her loved ones and how they’re feeling on earth, etc. Once she lets that emotional baggage go, she can finally be set free. I thought that was an interesting twist, but it makes sense when it comes to ghost stories, as a common “trope” of ghost stories are that ghosts have some kind of “unfinished business” or “emotional turmoil” they weren’t able to solve in life.
I thought the villain of The Lovely Bones, Mr. Harvey, was interesting, too. He’s somewhat sympathetic, which I think is important for all villains in stories these days, so all us writers need to remember that! Don’t get me wrong. As readers we hate Mr. Harvey for the whole book, but he becomes more three-dimensional and human (perhaps making him even scarier) when we see how he hates killing people (even though he does it) and that he’d rather kill animals than people because they’re at least “lesser beings.” Either way, he’s still killing, so obviously readers are going to hate him, but we can at least empathize on a small level with the fact that he hates doing it and would like to “minimize” his killings if at all possible.