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Bonechiller by Graham McNamee
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Bonechiller

by Graham McNamee

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Harvest Cove is a tiny, out-of-the-way community trying hard to be a summer cottage location, with not much success, and in the winter the population dwindles. Perfect for Danny and his dad, who are drifting from place to place on the run from the past. His dad takes a temp job as the winter caretaker of the marina, and Danny goes to school with army brats from Base Borden. Pike, loyal but psycho and obsessed with explosives; his anxiety-ridden brother Howie; and Ash, a fierce, half-Ojibwa boxer that he has a mad crush on form his core group. It's a cold, bleak winter, the like of which the area hasn't seen in a while. Late one night on his way home, Danny is attacked by a huge white beast that blends into the ice and snow until it is nearly invisible. Still, he manages to see enough to terrify him, and the speed of its attack makes it nearly impossible for him to escape. But escape he does, after the beast stings him on the hand with its sharp tongue, and that's when the nightmare really begins. Because that's when Danny realizes he didn't get away after all. It's still hunting him night after night, toying with him, and soon his friends are in danger too.

This had a good, monster movie feeling to it and is one of those books in which the title works on several levels. Bonechiller refers to the freezing weather as well as the monster and what it does to its prey, and it also is a word used to convey fear. There's a frankness to the narrative, an immediacy, like Danny is telling the story directly to you, narrating events as they happen. Short, fragmented sentences and use of the present tense help that effect. There aren't a ton of books written in present tense, and it's interesting to see what a different reading experience that is. It's very cinematic, and it works well to convey Danny's panicky frantic scrambling during the beast attacks, less well when Danny is complaining about doing his homework. (There's a little too much of that slice-of-life stuff here.) The descriptions of this tiny town during a freezing winter is excellent -- much of the action happens at night out in the below-freezing wasteland of ice and snow, and the sense of isolation, of there being nowhere to run and no-one to help, is terrifying.

Unfortunately, the past that Danny and his dad are running from is not worth the build-up it gets; McNamee leads you to believe it's a deep, terrible secret (here I was thinking on the run from the mob or his dad being an ex-criminal or something) but they are really just running from his mom's death from a brain tumor. It's sad, yes, but it doesn't merit the dark, suspenseful hints and the reveal as such is underwhelming. McNamee does a good job conveying Danny's loneliness and lingering grief over his mother, however.

The descriptions of the monster are cool, very vivid and scary and menacing. But with a half-hearted Wendigo-ish mythology that was never really put to use, the monster wasn't nearly as effective as it could have been. There were some cool variations and extrapolations on Wendigo lore, and it's not like I expected the characters to snap their fingers and go "A-ha! Wendigo! We know this for sure because it is exactly like the Wikipedia entry!" but I was annoyed by how vague the author left it. It's clear he did his research. Did he have to leave it all out? He basically has his kids shrug their shoulders after doing some historical and scientific research and hearing one Wendigo story from Ash's father, and he doesn't really tie it together. Someone else may like the vagueness but I felt it was kind of a cop-out.

Cover comments: This cover is awesome! It perfectly captures the setting and mood of the book: the huge expanse of snow, the little dark figure highlighted under the lonely street light running pell-mell down a narrow, sloping line, the creepy eyes, and the way the monster's mouth falls where the snow is, so that it actually looks like the snow itself being blown after him, chasing him. I don't have as much to say about the typefaces, since I don't know much about that part of design, but it works for me. The title is suffieciently large and different enough from the background to catch my eye (even though it is also white).
( )
  Crowinator | Sep 23, 2013 |
Danny’s dad takes a job as caretaker at a marina on the shore of a vast, frozen lake in Harvest Cove, a tiny town tucked away in Canada’s Big Empty. Father and son are mourning the lose of Danny's mom. One night, running in the dark, Danny is attacked by a creature so strange and terrifying he tries to convince himself he was hallucinating. Then he learns about Native American legends of the Windigo a monster that’s haunted the lake for a thousand years. And that every generation, in the coldest winters, kids have disappeared into the night. People think they ran away.Danny knows better. Because now the beast is after him. What a thrilling read! Really hooks you in and reels you through the last page. ( )
  cay250 | Aug 11, 2012 |
Danny is bitten by a strange creature turning him into a monster. Something of a Wolf man type of book with much suspense.
  cfordLIS722 | May 3, 2012 |
When Danny's dad takes yet another new relocation job, this time in eternally cold Harvest Cove, Canada, Danny doesn't expect much. Yet soon he befriends a group of wild local army brats, and life begins to get interesting. Besides falling for the hardcore boxer chick Ash, Danny is bitten by a mysterious monster one night after walking home from a frozen adventure. Soon he begins to change, and after one of his friends is also bit, they decide to find, and defeat, the strange creature once and for all. Definitely filled with action, but a bit less terrifying than expected. Great for the younger set of YA. ( )
  Ellen_Norton | May 3, 2012 |
Part horror novel, part romance, part Scooby-Dooesque mystery thriller, this novel set in Canada’s Siberia-like Big Empty concerns a group of teenagers—newly transplanted city boy Danny, his tough-as-nails yet sexy crush Ash, and the brothers Pike (named after the weapon of the same name), Howie (not after Howard but after Howitzer), sons of a special forces veteran—who stand up to a mysterious beast that snatches, dismembers, and possibly steals the souls of its victims. Interesting bits of Native American folklore about the monster known as the Windigo accompany this story, but it ultimately the background information about the small town and the characters is far more interesting than the monster stuff. Still, teen readers especially in the middle school to early high school range may find this a palatable introduction to horror fiction.
  compjohn | May 3, 2012 |
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The author acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
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Don't look for it on the map.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038574658X, Hardcover)

WELCOME TO NOWHERE.

Danny’s dad takes a job as caretaker at a marina on the shore of a vast, frozen lake in Harvest Cove, a tiny town tucked away in Canada’s Big Empty. If you’re looking for somewhere to hide, this is it.

It’s the worst winter in years. One night, running in the dark, Danny is attacked by a creature so strange and terrifying he tries to convince himself he was hallucinating. Then he learns about Native American legends of a monster that’s haunted the lake for a thousand years. And that every generation, in the coldest winters, kids have disappeared into the night. People think they ran away.

Danny knows better. Because now the beast is after him.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:33 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Four high school students face off against a soul-stealing beast that has been making young people disappear their small Ontario, Canada, town for centuries.

» see all 4 descriptions

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