Mystery Psychological

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey Review

A toxic sludge of characters who would (mostly) be better off without each other.

Told from multiple viewpoints and switching between past and present, Tall Bones follows 17-year-old Emma Alvarez’s quest to discover what happened to best friend Abigail. Abigail disappeared one night from the Tall Bones, a secluded hangout where teens get drunk and high and do other things. Abigail’s absence creates a vacuum in her dysfunctional family and the close-knit community (where secrets and prejudices abound), and Emma receives the brunt of the blame for leaving her friend at the party. 

The pace is slow-burn, and the atmosphere corrosive as bit by bit, the rot at the core of Whistling Ridge is revealed.

And while Tall Bones certainly portrays a real kind of rural, small-town life, the story, at times, feels stuck in caricatures. ‘Bad big business owner,’ ‘evil preacher.’ That men who live and breathe entitlement and white supremacy abound in our society is (sadly) not in question. Still, among the pages of this book, they struggle to reach beyond their stereotypes. A feeling that isn’t mitigated by the shocking (I did not see them coming) twists that Tall Bones takes. Irredeemable people exist, but a small town of mostly black-and-white-no-gray adults feels exaggerated (if addictive to read), detracting from the main hero — the teenagers of Whistling Ridge. Imperfect, guilt-ridden screwups, desperate, hopeless, and full of fears, these teens feel altogether real and are brilliantly crafted. And it’s their leading role that makes Tall Bones an engrossing read.

Dark and unsettling, Tall Bones is meant to raise uncomfortable emotions, and it does. Whether this psychological suspense novel is for you, you’ll have to decide. Trigger warnings: sexual assault, racism, graphic violence, physical abuse, child abuse, homophobia, and off-page rape.

A toxic sludge of characters who would (mostly) be better off without each other. 


Book: Tall Bones
Published: Doubleday
Pages: 352
Publication Date: April 1st, 2021
Stars: 4/5

Penguin Random House kindly sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.

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