Set in Northern California in the late ’70s, this timeless coming-of-age story examines the nature of evil, the art of storytelling, and the possibility of redemption.
Fifteen-year-old RJ Armante has never known a life outside his dead-end hometown of Arcangel, CA. The Blackjacks still rule as they have for generations, luring the poorest kids into their monopoly on petty crime. For years, they’ve left RJ alone…until now.
When the Blackjacks come knocking, they want RJ to prey upon an old loner. But RJ is at his breaking point. It’s not just about the gang who rules the town. It’s about Charley, his younger brother, who is disabled. It’s about Roxanne, the girl he can’t reach. It’s about the kids in his crew who have nothing to live for. If RJ is to resist, he must fight to free Arcangel of its past.
It’s the cover that first caught my attention, then the blurb sealed the deal with its 70s setting in Northern California.
RJ hasn’t had the easiest life. His father committed suicide when RJ was just a child, his single mother works long hours leaving him to care for his five younger sibllings, and his family isn’t exactly rolling in cash. RJ also has a knack for getting in trouble with his actions and smart mouth. In some aspects he’s wise beyond his years, but still a mischievous teenager. Despite his antics, he manages to maintain a pretty strong moral compass. He’s also a storyteller. His tales reminded me of Gordie’s in the movie Stand By Me, and the overall tone of this book is similar to that movie.
Although the Blackjacks play a prominent role, don’t go into this novel expecting lots of action and gang wars – it’s not that kind of book. It’s very much a teenager’s journey to facing the realities of life and learning there’s more than one path into the future. The writing is vivid and descriptive, but also humorous – teen boys are absolutely funny and weird at times. RJ’s friendship with Manny and relationship with his family are among my favorite parts of this story. I also enjoyed the references to 70s songs and fashion (bell bottom jeans!).
It’s not exactly what I’d expected, but Bones of a Saint is an engaging read. A couple of twists pop up, but this is a leisurely paced story that’s more about the journey than the destination.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.