Monday, October 5, 2015


SKELETAL by Katherine Hayton (2015)

Reviewed by Amanda O'Hara

Daina Harrow is fourteen-years-old. And she'll be fourteen forever because she's dead. She has been dead for ten years, but her remains have only just been found. With her missing persons case now re-opened and updated into a possible murder investigation, Daina's ghost (or is it spirit? Maybe energy?) lingers in the courtroom during the coroner's inquest, listening to the slew of witnesses recount their versions of events leading up to Daina's disappearance.

The book goes back and forth from present-day courtroom proceedings to ten years earlier when Daina was alive and enduring some seriously horrific experiences. Was she murdered? Did she commit suicide? Was it some sort of accident? As the witnesses share their knowledge of events during the final days of Daina's young life, Daina herself let's you know who's telling the truth and who's not.

First things first: this book infuriated me like I can't even describe. Not because it was bad, because it wasn't bad at all, but rather because of the actions of literally every single person in Daina's life. When I said Daina endured some seriously horrific experiences, I meant she endured some seriously horrific experiences. I wasn't exaggerating or being dramatic in the slightest. For starters, her mother is a reckless alcoholic who does nothing but host parties and forget to put food in the cupboards. She, meaning Daina, is severely bullied at school, meanwhile the teachers and principal refuse to do anything about it. When she reports a serious act of misconduct against one of her teachers, she's met with disdain and resistance. Plus a ton of other things, including undiagnosed mental illness, and I just couldn't believe how awful these people were or how on Earth Daina managed to keep her chin up through it all... even though of course it's all fictional.

I've read some other reviews that said the severity of the bullying in the book was too over-the-top and because of that it didn't ring true to life. And to an extent I agree - this was a book about bullying gone to the extreme. But with news articles in the media nearly weekly of kids committing suicide over bullying that went ignored or downplayed, or stories where incidents of bullying and assault are filmed and uploaded online for others to mock - just how unrealistic is SKELETAL really?

Anyhow. About halfway through the book, it took a major detour I would never have imagined. I won't call it a plot twist though because it really didn't play out as one - it was more just a thing that added to the progression of the story at hand, if that makes sense. I really didn't imagine that that's where the story was heading, and I'm not really sure how I feel about it, but what I can say is that it definitely added to the uniqueness of the book. And while the ending seemed quite rushed in my opinion, overall I did like SKELETAL and read it pretty quickly because I really wanted to know what happened to Daina. She was a character I immediately felt a lot of compassion for, and throughout the book I constantly wanted to hug her but also just shake her and convince her that she deserved so much better than the terrible hand she was dealt.

SKELETAL is a sad book. I would recommend it. Though, I think I have to caution a little warning in that recommendation by saying that if you're not in the headspace for, or up to reading a very depressing account of a troubled young girl's life, you might want to skip this one or wait to read it when you feel you're better able to handle the content.

Amanda O'Hara is animal-loving vegan, heavy metal fan, and lifelong booklover from Ontario, Canada. She reviewed books for the ReadDreamRelax website for two years, is an active Good Reads member, and earlier this year launched her own blog, The Darling Bookworm. You can see her website here, or follow her on Twitter: @belljars

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