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Rule of the Bone

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  8,232 ratings  ·  735 reviews
In the tradition Huckleberry Finn and The Catcher in the Rye, Russell Banks’s quintessential novel of a disaffected homeless youth living on the edge of society “redefines the young modern anti-hero. . . . Rule of the Bone has its own culture and language, and Bone is sure to become a beloved character for generations” (San Francisco Chronicle). With a compelling, off-beat ...more
Paperback, 390 pages
Published March 26th 1996 by Harper Perennial (first published 1995)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,232 ratings  ·  735 reviews

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Apr 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those that think holden caulfield is a little, priviledged bitch
Shelves: morethanonce
Rule of the Bone is a book about a fourteen year old kid who fails out of school, is already hooked on drugs, and is being secretly abused my his stepfather. I know this sounds dark, but Bone, the main character, is, perhaps, one of the most "together" narrators. He knows his flaws and the world's flaws, but this does not stop him from living the existence he chooses--to be homeless and kind of a mallrat. Have you ever met a complete druggie loser and have realized that he is smarter and more in ...more
Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
this book has a lower average rating than skinny bitch? what is wrong with you guys? chappie is one of my favorite narrators of all time.
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: yafiction
eh... the main character is compelling but... but... I don't know. There is something surface about the whole thing. I kind of hate that the healing balm for the kid's smothered soul comes in the guise of a jamaican rasta dude -- a gimmick to give the story a little exotic flavoring??? and if the whole point is for the kid to know himself, i don't think the book teaches anything. He never stops looking outside himself for his sense of self.
Dec 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
A cross between Holden Caulfield, Christopher McCandless, and Henry Fielding for the 90's..., a picaresque Bildungsroman..., Chappie (the Bone) is a young abused mall rat/homeless fuck'd-up kid who comes of age by traveling between sin and the stars. Banks is a masterful writer -- and this book's strength is that it is written entirely (in first person) in Chappie's voice -- and never waivers or has a false note...
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is a novel that has sat on my shelf for years. What drew me to it in the beginning was the synopsis that mentions good old Huckleberry Finn and The Catcher in the Rye themes.

With that said, I have no clue what I just read.

Bone is a 14 year old who leaves home and basically becomes a unique kind of homeless kid. Involved in drugs, stealing and a whole assortment of different scenarios that lead him to Jamaica. Bone endures sexual abuse from his alcoholic stepfather which seems to be the ca
Julia Hiltebeitel
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: summer-reads
The novel Rule of the Bone by Russel Banks was probably the best book I've read all summer. It's a decent sized book, about 400 pages, and yet I read it all in two sittings. The novel is truly gripping, and keeps the reader entertained as the main character Bone goes through different adventures. It smashes the typical idea that we have to have our lives figured out from the time we're children, or at all for that matter. Instead of being driven by a plan, or by a future, Bone is driven by the p ...more
May 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
(I'm reprinting this from my review of another edition, here w/in Goodreads) The finest accomplishment of a splendid contemporary's career. RULE OF THE BONE takes on the kind of lost child most of us would far prefer to ignore -- a mall rat with a fondness for weed, medicating the pain out of his own broken and abused home. The novel keens the tragedy of America's neglected young people like no other I know, lashing brilliantly into the commercial forces that turn a seven- or eleven-year-old int ...more
Megan Ivy
Jul 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
If I could give it a zero, I would. Coming of age??? Really? This 14 year old child is heavy into weed, alcohol, and crime. Readers are supposed to understand his plight because of his horrible childhood. His choices, understandable. Should I be ok with them? NO!! And nothing changes by the end. I can handle books that make one think or that touch on hard subjects. This one crosses a line, and I don't understand how it is called a great American novel.
Aaron Bunce
Jan 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Rule of the Bone is an intriguing field study into the human coping mechanism. Chappy, also known as Bone is a damaged young man. He is the product of a broken family, sexual abuse, drugs, and parental apathy. His story is one of self discovery, maturation, and the loss of innocence. With that said, I found Rule of the Bone a fairly engaging read, not without its difficulties. It is told from the perspective of an under educated, drug using 14 year old boy, so naturally the language itself is go ...more
This came so close to being a great novel. I always sympathize with picaresque alienated loners (that sounds awfully like it could be an ethnic slur, couldn't it?), but Bone is no Huck Finn or Holden Caulfield, and I can't say I was smitten with the Jamaican setting, which just felt tacked on. Somehow if the story had just focused on desolate-ass Upstate New York, I think that it could have been tighter and more interesting – as it is, the novel sprawls more than it should, to minimal effect.
Jan 26, 2009 added it
Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks is a story about a young boy named Chappie. Chappie lives with his mom and step dad in a small town in upstate New York in the Lake Placid area. Chappie, just 13 at the time grows a fondness for marijuana and hangs out with a tough crowd that is all very much older than him. As time goes on Chappie becomes more and more addicted to weed and alcohol. This addiction eventually leads him to stealing from his mother to buy drugs and he gets kicked out of the house b ...more
George K. Ilsley
Jun 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, young-adult
The voice here, that of a struggling 14 year old boy, at first grabs and engages. However, over time the narrative lost its grip on this reader.

The plot depends heavily on some incredible coincidences, and this novel also provides almost a textbook example of the stereotypical “magical negro”. Banks doubles down on this character, which departs from the stereotype, but we still only see this person through the eyes of the white boy (the whole novel is from his POV, with mixed results).

Gritty, s
Nov 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
After reading The Sweet Hereafter I expected to be on a Russell Banks kick. I LOVED The Sweet Hereafter - it is such an amazing book. I loved the form of interviews that Banks used to tell the story. And then I read this. Rule of the Bone was a real let down for me. I'd even call it a disappointment. It felt so false, so contrived.

Prior to reading this book, I saw the film adaptation of The Sweet Hereafter and listened to Banks speak after. He said he felt Rule of the Bone and T.S.H., if he had
Mr. Brad
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent coming of age novel for modern readers. The Bone is Huck Finn in the 20th Century under different pressures but with same clear voice, lizard-brained logic, and internal desire to achieve moral correctness, however stilted.
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to me by a bookstagrammer I follow on my Instagram with not much but an insistence that it would be up my street to go on.
I have to admit, he was right 😊
Rule of the Bone was written right in the grunge phase of my youth and I wish so much I'd known about it then as I think I probably would've read it a hundred times by now.
The protagonist of the story is a 14 year old named Chappie, who tells his tale at speed in its speach but slowly in its detail, almost as if the maj
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book even though it wasn't what I was hoping for. I searched my local library's Overdrive for books with the highest "Lexile score." This book had the highest Lexile score in the library. I thought that meant it would be a linguistic masterpiece with challenging vocabulary and intricate wordplay. Not so. Any ten year old with an average IQ could understand and follow this book. But it was still very good.
Theresa Braun
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Um… holy cow! Where to begin? A friend recommended this book to me, warning that it’s a bit edgy and there are some cringe-y moments—however, this gritty subject matter only made the character more lifelike. So. Damn. Good.

Once I got hooked on the narrator’s voice, I couldn’t stop reading. I literally cancelled all my plans, stayed off social media, and didn’t watch any Netflix—don’t judge me. I had to know what happened to this kid. Russell captures the teenager personality, to an enviable deg
Max Klein
Oct 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Max Klein
English 10
31 August 2011
Book Review C

Banks, Russel. Rule of the Bone; “A Novel”. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1995.

Rule of the Bone by Russel Banks is a fantastic read because of the experiences, and memories of the main character, Chappie (or Bone later in the book). Russel Banks does a great job of incorporating the crazy experiences of a rebel teen into a book that sounds believable. The description that Banks puts into certain scenes really makes the book fun, and
Nov 15, 2007 added it
Rule of the bone Russel Banks Harper Perennial,1996,400pp.,$13.95 ISBN 0060927240

“Life isn’t perfect”. As cliché as this may sound, it proves to be true in circumstances that involve individuals who are surrounded by negative influences. In Rule of The Bone, by Russell Banks, the protagonist Chappie is an example of an imperfect life due to others. The message in the novel is what raises its level of reality in the novel. The realism of the novel adds to its popularity and is what creates its
Tiffany Hickox
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
This book was a serendipitous find. Having picked the book up off the counter of my parents house about 12 years ago (I believe my father was reading it) and reading a page or two, I made a mental note to read the book one day. All I could remember about it was a yellow cover and the word "bone" in the title, so I have been passively looking for the book for over a decade. Then one day while at work (I'm a librarian), it was returned by a patron. And so began my journey with Bone.

Bone's story is
Lee Krieger
Aug 09, 2011 rated it liked it
I'd give a mixed review for this book. As many others have alluded to, it is a tale that seems split into two unequal halves. The first part floats along and you begin to understand Bone's struggle and root for his emancipation from an obvious dysfunctional, abusive family situation. Likewise, his adventures with the bikers, the Bong Brothers and Buster Brown/Sister Rose are all interesting enough to make you keep the pages turning. However, I tend to agree with the bulk of other reviewers who f ...more
Tyler Jones
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Any novel featuring a precocious and cynical young narrator is going to be compared to Catcher in the Rye, but in this case the comparison is valid. Like Holden, Bone has a strong, likeable personality, and even though you'd like to slap him upside the head, you also love him.

There is such authenticity in Bone's voice that many young readers are completely sucked into this book - to the point where the narrator and the author are confused. I met Russell Banks in 1998 when he toured to promote C
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Audio version: This is the third Russell Banks book I've listened to now. While it is my least favorite of the three, it was still an enjoyable listen. This one tells the story of a couple of years in the life of teenager Chappie, soon to rename himself as Bone. He's had a tough life and it shows in his decisions. But it also shows how he keeps trying to make things better with his mother, but she just doesn't listen. It's sad when stories like this show just how easy it might be to turn things ...more
b aaron talbot
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Ramayana Kazazic
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rule of the Bone is a book about a 14-year-old who drops out of school, is homeless, addicted to drugs, and was abused by his step-father. Although Chappie is already witty at the beginning of the story, throughout the book there is no change or "growing up". It's basically a narration of the the life of a teenage drug dealer. Also, the whole book is written with horrible grammar (most likely to show that a kid is narrating the book). Overall, it was a good book.
Ana Sanchez
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it
The book that I read is Rule of Bone by Russell Banks. When I started this book I was hooked in right away, but it became a cliche, although it did have a good theme at the end. Rule of Bone is a fiction and adventurous novel.
The most important message here is that the people who are in your life or once were in your life that influenced you in one way or another. In this book Bone, the main character dropped out of school and he is 14 years old. He lived with his mom and stepfather but his mom
Meghan Fidler
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Handed to me with the description "this is a whiteness study," Russell Bank's "Rule of Bone" presents the stream of consciousness of a young boy Chappie (later known as Bone). The flowing nature of this kind of story-telling makes the book difficult to put down, but this style can also fell unpolished and choppy. Banks overcomes this limitation at times, leaving the reader with well-crafted thought-descriptions like the following:

I remember the singer and his wife lying in their perfect bodies o
Aug 27, 2010 rated it liked it

There are some books that are just so implausible that you cannot suspend disbelief enough to derive any enjoyment from reading them. "Rule of the Bone" falls dangerously close into that category, but the earnest writing of Russell Banks redeems itself in the end.

The implausibility in this case comes from the protagonist and narrator, a 13 year old homeless juvenile delinquent/drug dealer/miscreant/ne'er-do-well in upstate New York who after finding his life turn to sh*t, finds a Rastafarian Jam

I started this book hoping that it will grab my interest, but it didn't worked out that much for me. The flatness of the voice and how the novel was written by Russell Banks -- no commas and conversationally distant sentence structure as if Chappie, the 14-year old lead character had really written it -- didn't appeal to me.

But this book is not just awfully written though. The plot was fantastic and Russell Banks really represented a strong voice for the youth. He provided a good point of view o
May 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
Not my cup of tea at all!!!!! I don't do "real-life" drug/sex abuse books. I don't like Holden Caulfield-esque books. Overall, not something I really liked. It was like watching that 1995 movie, Kids, where all I wanted to do was take a shower and scrub away all the disgust and grime that I'd just witnessed. The story is told by Bone/Chappie, a young criminal who steals, sells drugs, and causes minor acts of mayhem. His actions can be seen as justifiable when you see the life he had growing up, ...more
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Russell Banks is a member of the International Parliament of Writers and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes and awards. He has written fiction, and more recently, non-fiction, with Dreaming up America. His main works include the novels Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplit ...more

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“But when you’re a kid it’s like you’re wearing these binoculars strapped to your eyes and you can’t see anything except what’s in the dead center of the lenses” 7 likes
“They were totally alone, those kids, like each had been accidentally sent to earth from a distant planet to live among adult humans and be dependent on them for everything because compared to the adult humans they were extremely fragile creatures and didn't know the language or how anything here worked and hadn't arrived with any money. And because they were like forbidden by the humans to use their old language they'd forgotten it so they couldn't be much company or help to each other either. They couldn't even talk about the old days and so pretty soon they forgot there ever were any old days and all there was now was life on earth with adult humans who called them children and acted toward them like they owned them and like they were objects not living creatures with souls.” 5 likes
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