The Rattled Bones by S.M. Parker (review)
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Reviewed by
Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Parker, S.M. The Rattled Bones. Simon Pulse, 2017[384p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-8204-2 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-8206-6 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 8–12

Eighteen-year-old Rilla Brae is initially certain it’s a trick of grief over her father’s death when she sees a young girl on the shores of an uninhabited island while she’s out fishing, but then she hears a song calling her at night and has visions of [End Page 464] the same young girl with a crying baby. She’s not about to tell anyone in her small Maine town, especially with her mother’s history of psychiatric problems, but she’s drawn to Sam, a university student researching the area. When she finally reveals to him what she’s been seeing, he tells her the tragic history of Malaga Island, a history unknown to her and apparently hushed up by the town. Parker bases her story on the real Malaga Island, where nearly fifty mixed-race people were forced from their home in the early twentieth century by the Maine government, with many of them ending up either destitute or institutionalized (a story also addressed in Schmidt’s Newbery and Printz honor title Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, BCCB 7/04). The tension here is masterfully crafted—the phenomena move from easily explained dreams to incessant tapping at the window to a chair rocking alone to scratched pleas for help underneath Rilla’s window and eventually to a drowning confrontation in the sea. Rilla’s panic at the thought of becoming like her mother is palpable throughout, and it becomes more urgent as the ghost’s anger increases. Readers will fall into a deep internet hole if they seek out further information on Malaga, but even those less curious will find Rilla’s tale—and that of the ghost—compelling.

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