...consider that the bones of The Lovely Bones belong not to the victim but to an abstract and quite positive idea — namely, that bones are the structure on which living things are built ... a high-wire act for a first novelist, and Alice Sebold maintains almost perfect balance. There are a couple of faltering moments ... Susie is our guide through the maze of grief and dysfunction that follows her brutal death. Her dispassionate, observant young voice and poignant 14-year-old view of life don't change much ... [Sebold] deals with almost unthinkable subjects with humor and intelligence and a kind of mysterious grace.
The book concerns a crime that could not be more horrible, the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl; but its tone is joyful, its message comforting, and its metaphysics unimpeachable in a culture which prides itself on its piety while adhering to an incoherent gospel of personal growth ... the book is told from the point of view of the dead Susie: it is a coming of age story told by a character who isn’t of age and never will be. Susie is a bright and ironical observer, even of her own murder ... Sebold’s writing is both lyrical and grounded, and her narrative moves with impressive assurance between the spheres ... The Lovely Bones dwells in the familiar American province where wanton supernaturalism meets all-embracing sentimentality.
The dead 14-year-old heroine of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones is stranded in a much less supple, much more primitive and chronological parenthesis ... The book's "bones", above all, cease to be those of Susie's never-found body, or the animal bones her creepy killer plays with to distract himself from other young girls; instead they become "lovely", being connections between loved ones ... this is an interesting, calculated blandness, Sebold being concerned with the creation of a safe and supportive place in the face of a horror she herself has been so close to ... novel becomes a hybrid of realism and wishful thinking ... The Lovely Bones is so keen in the end to comfort us and make safe its world that, however well-meaning, it avoids its own ramifications.
As a thriller, Bones is surprisingly abstract and poetic: Susie's shudder-inducing mixture of frankness and euphemism in detailing the crime sidesteps the most exploitative aspects of the story, instead reaching for a tone that's gentle and almost sentimental, though still deeply unsettling ... Susie sees the world with an all-encompassing vision that extends into mortals' minds and experiences, which lets Sebold forge an unusual blend of first-person narration and omniscient authorship ... the author flouts expectations for a first-time novelist. Her debut is refreshingly experimental, and ambitious in the extreme ... Sebold stretches her story far past the logical ending and into more cosmic territory, drawing on coincidence and confluence to reach a balance between comforting fantasy and grim reality ... Beautifully written, consistently surprising, and utterly assured.
When you kill off your narrator in the first 10 pages of a novel and tell readers who the killer is you'd better have one compelling story up your sleeve. Alice Sebold does ... Sebold's triumph is in making Susie's voice so immediately compelling that we don't want to let her go, even after she's dead. We want to know what happens next. So does Susie ... Susie's no wispy, thinly drawn ghost; like nearly every other character in the book, she's a remarkable, complex person who has as much humor and kindness as grief ... Sebold has accomplished is to find her own inventive way of expressing the universal alienation and powerlessness we all feel, trapped in our own small worlds apart from each other.
Sebold has taken a grim, media-exploited subject and fashioned from it a story that is both tragic and full of light and grace ... description of the crime is chilling, but never vulgar, and Sebold maintains this delicate balance between homely and horrid as she depicts the progress of grief for Susie's family and friends ... Much as this novel is about "the lovely bones" growing around Susie's absence, it is also full of suspense and written in lithe, resilient prose that by itself delights. Sebold's most dazzling stroke...providing the warmth of a first-person narration and the freedom of an omniscient one.
An extraordinary, almost-successful debut ... Rapt delight in the story begins to fade, though, as the narrative moves farther away in time from Susie’s death and grows occasionally forced or superficial as Susie watches what happens over the next decade to everyone she knew on earth, including her killer ... Works beautifully for so long as Susie simply tells the truth, then falters when the author goes for bigger truths about Love and Life. Still, mostly mesmerizing and deserving of the attention it’s sure to receive.