Bones and All, a popular young adult novel published in 2015, has also been adapted for the big screen. Taylor Russell and Timothee Chalamet star in the 2022 film adapted from the book, and fans delight at the promise of a dark thriller fantasy flavored by teen romance. Bones and All follows a young adult feeling particularly freakish not because she’s got odd quirks or a rough home life. This particular wayward kid eats people, and can’t seem to make herself stop.
Praise for author Camille DeAngelis stems from the uniquely twisted take on the coming-of-age trope oft overplayed in teen fiction. Fans and newcomers alike are eager to see how far the film will indulge in the gory subject matter, which promises to be a refreshing take on the genre.
The (Cannibal) Kids Are Alright
Bones and All follows the story of a young girl named Maren who’s been a cannibal from a young age. Maren can’t stop herself from eating those who care about her, from teachers to friends and neighbors. Eventually, her mother has had enough of her daughter’s monstrous habit and abandons Maren to her own devices. Battling self-loathing and desperate to find some sense of meaning and salvation, the teen embarks on a journey with fellow cannibal Lee to find her father.
Maren’s inability to shirk her cannibalistic nature is an unsubtle allegory for destitute teens everywhere. The desire to find others like her is complicated by the sense that she is inherently wrong. Maren constantly struggles against the urge to consume, and her own evolving self-perception is at the core of this story.
Young Souls, Bound and Bloody
What wraps Bones and All most definitively into the genre is the subplot of Maren and Lee’s developing romance. The delightful depravity of innocent love shared by two monsters is always a win. Newcomers should know that the relationship never takes a backseat to Maren’s own journey of self-discovery, something entirely evident by the book’s climax. Critics consistently mourn the lack of a deeper exploration into a morally gray romance. It is, however, inspiring to see a female protagonist’s individuality trump any swooning puppy love.
DeAngelis writes from the perspective of a vegan, an underlying moral quandary that colors every turn of the plot. Considering the subject matter, the reader who enters this story knowing DeAngelis’ distaste for meat eating in general may be shooting themselves in the foot. To immerse oneself in the winding, shadow-laden journey of an isolated teen, it’s best to begin Bones and All completely blind. Whether or not the film stays true to the author’s original point could be hugely influential for what viewers take away from the experience.
Additionally, the book implies a hugely influential supernatural element that defines cannibalism as a genetic defect rather than a lifestyle choice. Beings like Maren seem to be able to hunt and consume humans with greater efficacy than the average human body would allow. The fantastical aspect of Maren’s biology is implicit even in her youth when she’s able to devour her babysitter as a toddler.
While DeAngelis provides little detail to this biological aspect of the cannibal class in the story, further explanation of how the cannibals in this world work would certainly serve to flesh out those characters. After all, Maren’s shame stems almost entirely from her inability to stray from her people-eating habits. Defining people like her, Lee, and the cannibals they meet as something other than human could add an interesting complexity to the film’s story.
Hold on to Your Innards
Trailers imply that the film, written by Luca Guadagnino, will focus heavily on the romance between Maren and Lee. Added to the isolated and despairing atmosphere the novel establishes so well, their literal and metaphorical journey could be a thrilling watch. Whether or not the original vegan underpinning will be utilized remains to be seen, nor do we know how these vaguely developed characters could be further fleshed out. But the potential is limitless, and for the time being, those interested in the film can still devour DeAngelis’ gutsy graphic love story.