Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Wake the Bones

Rate this book
The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.

After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published July 12, 2022

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Elizabeth Kilcoyne

1 book111 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
273 (15%)
4 stars
600 (33%)
3 stars
642 (35%)
2 stars
239 (13%)
1 star
43 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 692 reviews
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,611 reviews10.7k followers
May 24, 2023

When Laurel Early left for college, she was excited to be escaping her small farm town in rural Kentucky. It's what everyone from there dreams of, but few succeed at.

Unfortunately, Laurel didn't succeed either. The big city life of Cincinnati was overwhelming. She begin to fail her classes and then stopped going altogether once she realized she could just go home.

She returned home to her Uncle Jay's farm, but hadn't come clean with her best friends yet. They just think she's home for the summer.

In addition to working on the tobacco farm, Laurel is also a taxidermist of sorts. She doesn't seem like the type of taxidermists that I am aware of, but she deals in a lot of animal remains, particularly their bones.

It doesn't take long after she returns to town that the horrors begin. Blood trails on the farm, massacred animals, dreams of her dead mother.

The whole atmosphere is frightening, but in addition to all of that, there is a lot of normal, contemporary issues happening for Laurel and her friend group, made up of Isaac, Ricky and Garrett.

There are rumors that the Early farm is haunted, but a local girl, Christine, who everyone knows is a witch, is the first person to actually say it to Laurel at the time she needs to hear it.

It definitely gets her thinking. She needs to get the mystery of their property solved. She's always been haunted by her mother's suicide, but is there even more to the story than anyone knows?

Wake the Bones is a character-driven YA story with dark magical realism elements and a heavy Southern Gothic vibe.

I finished this extremely quickly once I started listening to the audiobook. I couldn't stop listening, but I couldn't really decide whether I was enjoying it or not. This was seriously a difficult story for me to rate.

There were many interesting aspects and the horror imagery was very well written, however there were good solid chunks that I found boring. The contemporary character work, it was too in the feels and less in the dark mystery I was hoping for.

I can definitely recognize that Kilcoyne writes beautifully, I just think at the end of the day, this particular story was lacking a bit of the pizzazz I was hoping for.

If I had to compare this story to other books, I would say it reminded me quite a bit of Summer Sons, Burn Our Bodies Down and Ghost Wood Song; like the three of them meshed together.

It's funny though, because even though I wasn't blown away by this, I can't stop thinking about. I'm basically trying to figure out why I ended up feeling so ambivalent about it.

With all of this being said, I would definitely be interested in picking up future works from this author.

I liked the themes explored here, the characters were well done and as mentioned before the horror imagery was great. I would love to see her go even further into the Horror lane.

Thank you to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. It's certainly given me a lot to think about!
Profile Image for ☀︎El In Oz☀︎.
560 reviews320 followers
January 3, 2022

This is a very solid book and it definitely serves as an intriguing debut novel. This is a horror type novel, although I’m not even sure what genre it would really fully fit into? It definitely doesn’t confine itself to just the horror or mystery genre, which makes it to be an interesting read. Set in the summer I feel like this book is very atmospheric and definitely is slow, but it for the most part works really well.

The characters are all well developed, although they had stereotypical wants and needs for YA characters, I enjoyed them. Our main character Laurel is definitely strange and I see her being a conflicting MC to read about, and although I definitely didn’t enjoy all the things she did, I for the most part liked it. Ricky was okay. I initially really liked him but by the end he just really annoyed me with his dumb decisions. Garrett was definitely my favourite side character. He seemed to be the most logical of them all and was quite sweet. I didn’t really at all care for Isaac. I think the character of Christine was very underused. I was surprised when we had our first chapter from her POV as it’s mostly Laurel’s with Garret and Isaac’s thrown in too. Christine was really interesting but she seemed to be just a plot convenient character and only existed to help Laurel and co.

The romance and relationships both were a tad similar to me and I think although they were decently well developed, they were a bit unnecessary in the grand scheme of things and took away from the overall plot.

The plot itself was okay. I think it started off strong but as the ‘magic’ used in this book is described very loosely, any such scenes with it can be hard to understand. I wish it had been more clear. The climax felt too short for how intimidating the threat was made out to be. I thought the ending was very convenient, and it wrapped up a lot too nicely for me.

The pacing is slow and near the 70% mark became a bit slow, but for the most part it’s okay. The writing is very atmospheric and there are weird comparisons and descriptions here and there, but for the most part it’s an enjoyable read.

I think it was missing a more concrete plot (I felt so many things were left vague) and the characters needed a bit more depth, but it was overall a very enjoyable read. I’m interested in what the author will write next!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the E-arc in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Debra .
2,419 reviews35.2k followers
June 1, 2022
Laurel Early's farm just woke up. Her bone pile (don't ask) had gotten up and walked away. The woods are shifting, and the soil is dead.

The devil that courted her mother has come for her. She and her friends are now in danger and Laurel must rely on her own inner magic to help protect herself and those she loves.

This is a highly imaginative and original book. I had the privilege of having both the book and audiobook. The farm/land is very much a character in this book as well. It sets a very stark and hopeless stage.

This is a book that is best to go in blind. It won’t be for everyone. This book contains themes of abuse, sexuality, finding your inner power, dropping out of school, and friendship. There are dark elements at play here.

This book is a mash up of fantasy, horror, and romance.

This was an interesting book experience. The entire time I read and listened, I wasn't sure I liked it, but I also could not put it down. I'm still not entirely sure where I stand, but I must give it props for originality and creativity.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press, Wednesday Books, Macmillan Audio, Macmillan Young Listeners and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Read more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com

Profile Image for Cat Reads Books.
78 reviews35 followers
June 16, 2022
Thank you to Netgalley and St Martin's Press for providing me with a copy of this ebook. The following is my honest review.

I was expecting whimsical horror from this book and instead I got a whole lot of nothing. This is like a slow romance for people really really into both body horror and plant magic. It's disorienting, but not in a horror-story way. More like when you accidentally overhear two people talking who have a completely different communication style from your own and also you're missing some crucial context. I understand the words but the conversation makes no sense.

For starters, none of the characters had any personality at all. They were just there. None of them reacted or responded in a way any real human would. Half of every chapter was spent on one character describing what another character looked like currently. People's relationship dynamics changed on a whim. The main character came across as a normal human surprised by magic, then suddenly halfway through she'd always known she was a witch, then 9/10ths of the way through she could summon fire? Why??

This isn't even touching on the horror. Or should I say, lack thereof? I can't stress enough how boring this book was. It was like the author went out of their way to make the horror scenes as unstartling as they possibly could. Most of the time I didn't realize anything scary was even supposed to be happening until halfway through the scene. The way this was written it was very hard to know what was going on at any given point.

I've been excited to read this one for months and what a disappointment. Perhaps it would be good for someone who likes very very slow, meandering romance with the occasional gross-out magical scene but that someone is definitely not me.
Profile Image for Inés  Molina.
267 reviews50 followers
May 15, 2022
This book has such great description you can picture every detail. I enjoyed reading it. It was magically eerie.
Profile Image for Shannara.
448 reviews81 followers
August 12, 2022
So to be clear, I’m going with 3 1/2 stars rounded up. I usually go with a half star if I keep flipping back and forth between ratings. That’s totally what’s going on here. I just liked it for the most part, but there were times that I really liked it too. Laurel is our main character and she is kind of a creepy girl. I mean, she uses animal bones to make things and talks to the dead. But that also makes her interesting to read about.

The other characters, and there weren’t really that many others, were also pretty interesting. I like Christine with her strange abilities, and Isaac with his heart, and Ricky for being the hometown boy sort. The characters together make up a good cast that you get caught up in.

The small amount of romance was fun too, nothing major and not too exciting. But that’s because the main focus is the freaky stuff that starts happening. There were a few moments where I was cringing because of the creepiness that is this book. It’s not really scary, but like the, oh hell no, type of creepy.

And there was one part that made me shake my head because, really?! Did that seriously just happen?!?! Cause I didn’t believe it, as a reader, not for one second. If you want to know what happened, here’s the spoiler… Anyway, other than that I liked this one.

I recommend this to those who enjoy a creepy YA read. I do recommend the audiobook btw. It made things a little more eerie I think.

Thanks so much to NetGalley, MacMillan Audio, and Elizabeth Kilcoyne for the opportunity to read this for my honest and unbiased opinion.
Profile Image for A Mac.
813 reviews139 followers
June 20, 2022
Laurel Early left her family farm near a small town to go to college, but it wasn’t long before she dropped out and found herself back home again. Things went back to how they’d always been – working in tobacco fields with high school friends and practicing taxidermy during her free time. But one day, she runs across a warning left on her land, learning that her mother practiced magic and an evil being is after Laurel’s blood.

The author did an amazing job with the setting descriptions. From the sweltering heat of the tobacco fields to the dust of the red clay land, the author completely evoked the feelings of living on a small southern farm. Honestly, it made me feel like I’d grown up right down the road from where this story took place. Similarly, the atmosphere of the small town and the interactions of its inhabitants (both positive and negative) were well written, realistic, and relatable. The author wove all of these things together to create a somewhat unsettling setting that focused on its tenuous relationship with nature.

The plot and the story itself were weird – but in a good way. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this work. There was plenty of detailed information concerning bones (especially teeth) and taxidermy and gore that got a little bit much for me, but I’m queasy when it comes to that sort of stuff. I liked how Laurel’s story centered around her coming back home after trying and failing to leave, and how her feelings relating to her home and its landscape were quite complicated. This was one of the most well-done aspects of the work. The plot itself was a little slow in getting off the ground, but as I enjoyed the atmospheric setting of the work and the author’s writing style, I didn’t mind this so much.

Laurel was a well written protagonist, with the right amount of conflicting feelings, strength, and personality to make for a genuine character. I enjoyed reading the story from her POV. Overall, the secondary characters were nothing special. There are three men Laurel’s age that didn’t feel particularly unique in the way they were written. They were given some distinct characteristics that the author repeatedly referenced but their personalities and the characters themselves felt interchangeable. Things about their characters were revealed through Laurel constantly telling the reader about them, but then the characters never actually do these things during the story. It made them feel flat overall.

I listened to the audiobook version of this work. The narrator did an amazing job at bringing the story and characters to life; she was the perfect choice for this audiobook.

This story excelled at its setting and the atmosphere, and the author’s writing style was gorgeous. I would have loved stronger secondary characters, but overall I enjoyed this work and recommend it.

I received a complimentary copy of this work through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,423 reviews215 followers
November 10, 2021
I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wake the Bones was a really weird but interesting book. Like the weirder things got the harder it was to look/walk away from it all. I'll admit that Laurel was a strange character too. Mostly because she was a taxidermist and I don't think I could do that myself. It's definitely a me and not you situation.

After meeting her, and the rest of the characters, we start to dive into the mystery of it all. Especially when we dive into the hauntings and the devil. I had so many questions and thoughts floating around in my head while I was reading this. Things and situations never went the way I thought it was going to go. Which is probably why this is such a good book to digest within a sitting (or two).

Towards the end, I had a feeling not everyone was going to make it but I'm just basing that off of all the horror movies I've watched before this. It was still really weird, interesting, and entertaining though. I'm really happy that I got the chance to jump into this around Halloween because it's a spooky book that everyone deserves!
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
732 reviews104 followers
December 31, 2022
Honestly I liked this one but struggled with it’s age group appropriateness, so it is hard for me to rate. I would push it on the 18-25 age group and keep it off the YA imprint.

With walking bones, rising evil, death, abuse, and a terribly disillusioned drowned ghost among other eldritch things, this is definitely one to have on board for spooky season. It’s much more lyrical than a typical horror novel though and encompasses magical realism and literary fiction too.


Ok here are my quick thoughts on the age thing: it’s marketed as YA (13-18) but I really truly strongly feel it should target an 18-20something age group. The characters are 18+, one was in college and dropped out, and all were struggling with loyalty to home, their  future, and generational bonds vs their own fate. Is their home down on the holler or where does fate lead them? Many of the conflicts and issues were not ones that 13-17 yr olds are going to face, although some will, plus the language includes at least one f*ck per chapter, s*x scene at the penultimate moment AGAIN (please, YA authors, STOP doing this – we assume a second couple shacked up that night too) … I just have a hard time with this on the YA imprint.

That said: let’s talk about this contemporary fantasy / horror / literary fiction

It takes place mostly on Kentucky farmland, where Laurel’s family tobacco farm has sat for generations.  The atmosphere it set from the start with a hunt for bones and trip to the graveyard, where we learn that Laurel has a penchant for death.  From there, things slowly start getting spookier and spookier.  It never gets to the splattering stage but there are dead animals, blood trails, dreams of the dead, her mother’s drowned ghost, lots of blood, someone is hanged, and the devil is downright creepy .. among other things.

The spooky parts are interspersed with a number of important themes to the New Adult (18- ?) age group, like generational chains.  Laurel’s family has been rooted on Kentucky for generations, and she tried leaving, failed, and came home to the farm and friends that needs her.  Another character is abused by his father, and wants to leave, but also struggles with loyalty to his friends and the area.  One doesn’t want to leave at all and is happy as is, and, the fourth has no idea what he wants.

So we see these scary parts mixed with chapters about love and mixed feelings.  Two male characters (Isaac and Garrett) have feelings for each other and that is a constant storyline, plus Laurel and Ricky feel fated towards each other but recognize fear and obligation as obstacles.

All this taking place in a muggy, hot summer, in the middle of a pretty severe haunting.  Each character, even a fifth that is brought in as a guide to Laurel, has different parental and generational issues that has shaped their experience growing up in this small town.

Can they all be friends like they were before, what needs to change, what will their futures hold? Will they even be alive to find out?

Coming home and self acceptance are huge themes.  I loved how the magic worked, as Laurel’s mother was tied to the land and so is she.  Land based magic is my favorite but I’ve never seen it in a contemporary fantasy before so that was interesting

I wish I could share quotes … I normally am not a fan of purple prose but Kilcoyne manages to write about death, life, and survival in such a way that I had SO many quote tabs on the pages.

OH, yeah, survival is a HUGE theme too.  Everyone has to survive their upbringing, life situation, and all the self destruction of those around them while taking hold of their own futures.

The real question is … Does everyone survive? Heh heh I actually did like what the author did at the end, but no spoilers

For me, 🌟🌟🌟🌟, but I’m 33 and would hold this one til my kid was at least 17.  I will not rate it for YA
Profile Image for CYIReadBooks (Claire).
636 reviews103 followers
June 12, 2022
I thought I would enjoy this novel based on the description. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The novel is a very slow read with very little excitement. It's not a page turner and in my opinion, very boring. At the 33% point, I gave up and started skimming the remaining chapters. Nothing grabbed me or stood out to get my attention.

The characters are not developed enough to add dimension to the story. All of them seemed so generic without any color to their personalities. They appeared "gray" in my mind's eye and nothing stood out to differentiate them.

The world building, however, is excellent. I enjoyed how the author carved out the details in the farm, environment, and forest. Too bad the story didn't quite make the cut. One, I didn't like it, star.

I received a digital ARC from St. Martin's Press throught NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
July 18, 2022
3.5 stars

Laurel Early dreamed of leaving her rural Kentucky town and she made it …only to return after giving up on college classes in the city. She’s ready to settle back on the family tobacco farm and make a little extra money from taxidermy.
Laurel’s return awakens a devil that has been sleeping since her mother’s death - the woods begin to shift, the tobacco is dying in the fields, and her bone pile manages to stand up and walk off. It’s up to Laurel to discover her mother’s legacy and tap into a magic she wasn’t sure she had.

The summary I just gave downplays literally everything about the book: the creep factor, the atmosphere that holds true to rural Kentucky, the complicated mother-daughter bond, yearning to leave your hometown while I also aching for the familiar comfort it offers.
This was a beautifully written story that walked a fine line between mature YA and general southern gothic horror. The most intense character in the entire story is the farm and while the characters never felt fully realized to me, I was invested in Wake the Bones because of the strong writing about the land itself.
Thanks to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Wake the Bones was released July 12, 2022.

For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Plant Based Bride).
429 reviews4,872 followers
October 21, 2022
I went into this book expecting a witchy, dark, southern gothic YA novel with spooky magic. And while it certainly took place in the south and had magic, it never quite came together for me.

The characters were underdeveloped, and all blended together, even our protagonist. There was very little to distinguish them, and the details we did get were told to us, not shown. The side characters were more interesting than our protagonist, and the romances were awkward.

The writing style wasn’t my favourite, either. An attempt at purple prose that feels a bit self-important but isn’t as beautiful or impactful as it thinks it is. Not only that, but the writing was so vague I was left not knowing what was happening until a scene was almost over, and even then, I wasn’t sure, sapping all the tension from what were, I assume, meant to be scary moments. Of course, there is a way to write a hazy thriller with unanswered questions, but this wasn’t it.

The magic was unevenly incorporated, and the world-building was so non-existent that it was never clear if magic was known to exist and in what capacity.

This book at an interesting concept at its core, and I see potential in the author, but it needed more editing and reworking to live up to its potential.

Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC for review, and thank you to the author for providing an extensive list of possible triggers at the beginning of the book.

Trigger/Content Warnings: suicide, guns, mental and physical abuse, dental trauma, animal death, blood, gore, death of a parent, taxidermy

You can find me on...
Youtube | Instagram | TikTok

You can join our book club over on Patreon...
PBB Book Club
Profile Image for Carrie (brightbeautifulthings).
837 reviews30 followers
December 19, 2021
Laurel Early hasn’t told her friends that she’s dropped out of college and moved back to her family’s farm, but that’s about to be the least of her problems. Haunted by her mother’s suicide and the town’s whispers that the Early women are witches, she quickly realizes that the haunting on the Early farm is quite literal. Bones are walking around on their own, her mother’s ghost invades her dreams, and that suicide may have been something far more sinister. The devil has come to the Early farm, and Laurel doesn’t know if she has the magic to stop it. I received an invitation to read a free e-ARC through NetGalley from the publishers at St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books. Trigger warnings: parent death, suicide, animal death, drowning, abuse/abusive households, car accidents, severe injury, some blood/gore, guns, homophobia, grief. Some brief NSFW content.

I’m torn on my feelings about this book. It’s dark, weird, and atmospheric, which are all things that are usually up my alley, but for some reason, I really struggled to connect. However, I wouldn’t take my ambivalence as a reason not to read it, since there’s plenty of good. I loved the magical realism aspects of the book, from Laurel’s curious sensitivity to dead things to the creepy bone monsters shambling out of the woods. (I’ll read any book with bone and stick monsters, guaranteed. Throw them at me.) In that vein, the magic is somewhat vague though. In part, I think that works for the kind of story it is. It doesn’t need a well-defined system, but I would have liked some more limitations, side effects, clarifications, etc. to what Laurel can do.

I really enjoyed the chapters with Christine, and I almost wish we had a book from her perspective, since I found her more interesting than a lot of the main characters. I found it difficult to connect with most of them, but I don’t think it’s a writing problem so much as a me problem. Laurel’s moodiness and uncertainty about who she is make it hard to get a feel for her, but they also ring authentically teenager. Isaac’s backstory and the tension with his father help to flesh out his character, but they also feel somewhat abrupt and don’t really have a place in the main plot. I did love Garrett though, sunshine boy that he is, and I found the relationships complicated and interesting.

The plot gets a little lost in everything else. There are the bones of a good story there (har, see what I did there?), but it doesn’t quite get the attention it needs. There are times the novel is atmospheric, but the lush descriptions are often overwhelming and out of place. Specifically, I sometimes found it difficult to tell what was actually happening or what characters were doing because the action was overshadowed by internal monologues and flowery language. (Is Laurel actually running or just thinking she should run? We don’t know until she trips and falls.) I enjoyed the ending probably more than any other part of the book though, so it was nice to leave things on a high note.

I review regularly at brightbeautifulthings.tumblr.com.
Profile Image for Judy.
1,155 reviews
June 12, 2022
Gorgeously descriptive prose provides an atmospheric backdrop for this debut novel. Contrasting the writing style, themes deal with violence, physical abuse, mental abuse, and suicide. This is being classified as sci-fi and fantasy as well as YA. I think it fits for YA but should also be horror due to the creepiness and walking bones, and the "devil".

I enjoyed the book and liked the characters. The writing is delicious and tones down the horror. The paranormal aspects were well done with several characters having some magical ability. I enjoyed the intertwined relationship of the four friends who were trying to find their way.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press, Wednesday Books through Netgalley for an advance copy. This book will be published on July 12, 2022.
Profile Image for ♠ TABI⁷ ♠.
Author 15 books488 followers
Want to read
May 20, 2021
this title is me every morning ever

but also this sounds like my type of weird magical realism
Profile Image for  Bon.
1,194 reviews114 followers
July 11, 2022
July 2022: Happy release week to this debut!

January 2022: Thank you SO MUCH to Netgalley and the publisher for this treat to review. Wake the Bones is a dark, unsettling tale about the decay of the American heartland and deteriorating relationships as much as the reanimated skeletons that haunt its pages. I enjoyed it immensely.

Our setting, Dry Valley, lives up to its name, a husk of a once-prosperous town now hollowed out by hard living, drained by a combination shortage of jobs and hope. Protagonist Laurel ekes out a living by helping her uncle farm tobacco, supplementing her income with a side hustle of taxidermy projects she sells online. Yes, there are indeed a lot of the titular bones in this novel. The town is slowly emptying and rotting away, and so are the relationships of the people remaining; the age-old yearning of young people like Isaac to flee for more fulfilling city living, or, as in Laurel’s case, the staunch disbelief of an uncle in the elemental magic that is threaded through their property, leading to friction between father figure and proxy daughter.

I must start with the things I loved, as they far outweigh any issues I had. The writing in this book is gorgeous, vivid and absolute excels at description. I could feel the heat of the tobacco fields, touch the ridges of the bones Laurel handles, smell the blood and decaying flesh that begin to permeate the plot, taste the sub-par food offered at the town’s sole surviving restaurant, little more than a gas station hot food counter. 
The story felt timeless, the aged vehicles characters drove reminiscent of something set in the fifties, but then a cellphone would buzz with a text, a detail just anachronistic enough to make the atmosphere all the more chilling and disorienting. There are characters you recognize, and maybe know, farm boys in love with each other but too oppressed by living in a red state, too stamped-down by an abusive parent to admit to themselves what they feel. There is enough folk and green magic in this novel that if you’d told me it was written as a guest episode for my favorite podcast, Old Gods of Appalachia, I’d absolutely believe you. 

The setting, general ambience and mood as you turn the pages, and magic system are excellent. The [minimal] issues I found myself taking away were where these assets fall short. Creepy atmosphere and lush writing are style, but some of the substance, the meat on the bone, was missing for me, and it was a combination of a split POV and poor fleshing-out of characters. (This book was so good it’s got ME using the visceral language now!) First, the all-knowing narration splits its time between Laurel, long sections about Isaac, and Christine, the town witch. I feel that character building suffered by this darting between voices.

If you asked me to name three character traits of a particular love interest of our protagonist, and why it was so important they be saved, I could not. Laurel herself is hard to describe, so from the top down, characters felt half-baked amidst a well-crafted world of magic. The high-stakes plot is just that, until things are tied up neatly, and the tension built for nothing. I’m also very, very sick of the One Magic Girl trope, although Christine’s presence alleviated that a bit. I wanted more of her, though, a fascinating character. 

These stumbles never made me even consider stopping reading, though, and I stayed up far too late to finish devouring the book. Five unique stars to a book that despite its flaws, charmed me in the darkest way possible. 

*Content warnings for a bit of animal death, gore, and language around those things, references to suicide, as well as some on-page domestic abuse and violence.
Profile Image for A Book Shrew.
638 reviews144 followers
June 14, 2022
That was so weird, but good weird? So good, so weird, so creepy.

Full review and more at A Book Shrew

A few days out from finishing this book, I realize I don't quite know how to review it. So, in other words, apologies if this is a useless review. Just know that I really liked it and I have no clue how to explain how or why. I'm just vibing with it at this point.

This is a YA southern gothic horror that is incredibly chilling in its examination of heavy themes like grief and death. There is a lot going on and yet it's kept within a very confined setting and a small group of characters. Almost everything happens on Laurel's farm, with five core characters and a few minor side characters. However, Kilcoyne paints a very atmospheric world within that small space. Her writing is stunning and effortlessly carries much of the horror and creepiness with the best descriptions and word choices.

Laurel is an interesting character, constantly elbows deep in bones and dead animals. She's a college dropout who makes extra money on her uncle's tobacco farm via taxidermy. As far as main characters go, that's an odd combination, but it works incredibly well for this story. She's stuck in the past with her mother's death, but wanting to grow up and look to the future with life in the small-town south. She wants Ricky, but he's not mature like she wants him to be, and that frustrates her. I have to admit that I really liked the dynamic between the two of them, and was so satisfied with the ending. Laurel is also someone who loves fiercely and will protect everyone however she can.

I really liked the monster though. Clacking together of bones found across the farm, incapable of dying by normal means, and begging to have the main character's bones? Supremely my type of devil.

Given how much death is in this overall, it can get a little heavy and sad at times. Laurel's mother died in a terrible way, leaving Laurel to grow up with her uncle and her mother's reputation as the devil's daughter. That death/suicide has stuck with Laurel her entire life, despite being only a baby when it happened, and it guides the rest of the story with the same devil that tormented her mother coming back for her bones. There are other heavier topics tackled under the story like abusive parents, queer identities and where to belong safely in the deep south.

I think what kept me from giving this five stars is that it felt like there were a few things missing. Plot points that didn't spin out right or conclusions reached that had me racing to catch up.
Profile Image for Sheena.
613 reviews277 followers
August 3, 2022
Something in this was lacking and I did have somewhat of higher hopes in it. I feel like it took me forever to get through it too, I just did not want to pick it up! Laurel is a taxidermist on a farm and weird things start to happen around town. Soon, a devil pays her a visit and things get even more weird with ghosts and bones coming alive.

I found this a little slow despite what it tried to be. I never really got any gothic vibes. the way it was written gave me reality TV romances with horror elements. I’m not even sure if that makes sense/ this did remind me a little bit of What We Harvest by Ann Fraistat and T. Kingfisher but not even close to as good. It also took a little halfway for things to actually happen which is a shame because it could’ve been interesting.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced copy of this book.
Profile Image for Trisha.
4,746 reviews167 followers
June 27, 2022
"What's a little death to you? You've seen too much already."

This one was odd but I think I liked it. You have Laurel, freshly home from not making it out of her small town. She was the success story and now she's the failure, dropped out of college and back to work the tobacco farm of her family. But she's also back with Ricky, Isaace, and Garrett. This ragtag group of boys that are too close to be friends, but only one doesn't feel like family but might be more. It was interesting to learn about her land, her legacy and the people.

But the horrors don't take long to appear. Quickly there are unnatural deaths with a lot of blood but with beyond rotting bones. Nothing makes sense, not the soil, the plants or the bones that Laurel knows so well.

The writing is a bit flowy and showy. It's not bad, just at times it painted a picture I'm not always sure I saw clearly. I loved the boys and learning each interesting personality. It's gruesome at times but dealt with interesting topics with care. I liked this one, even if I was confused a time a or two.

A huge thank you to the author and publisher for providing an e-ARC via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.
Profile Image for Jess (oracle_of_madness).
782 reviews61 followers
June 5, 2022
Thank you Netgalley and Publisher for this Arc!

I really enjoyed this read and for reasons more than just the horror aspect. Laurel is living and working on her family's tobacco farm in Kentucky. She has a unique hobby of working with bones and an ability to read them in the sense that she can see the death of the owners of these bones. However, one day her bones walk away and she begins to understand the evil at work on her land.

While being a creepy read, especially the ending, I found the author's look into grief and hopelessness really intriguing. Kilcoyne told this story with a bone jarring passion that cannot be ignored. I was lost in the author's winding storytelling style and it felt amazing to be so wrapped up in a book that is so honest about how many new adult's deal with change and decision making during difficult times. I definitely would say this is worth a read!

The author has a link on their book review on Goodreads for all the trigger warnings. There is rape, abuse, violence and disturbing imagery in this, but check the link if you can because it's more detailed. Also this list is available in the book.

Out July 12, 2022!
Profile Image for Mia.
2,320 reviews649 followers
October 17, 2021
If you've started making your 2022 TBR and are on the lookout for an supernatural and atmospheric story to read Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne is must book to read.
The story is unique, and the world building is executed superbly. The characters are complex, relatable, endearing and interesting.
Overall, I enjoyed this debut novel and definitely looking forward to reading this author's next book!

A special thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press & Wednesday Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
636 reviews92 followers
June 20, 2022
This book was so disappointing. I liked the writing, but nothing that happened made any sense. The characters were one-dimensional, and their reactions to everything happening didn't make sense and it seemed like their dynamics with eachother kept changing. The magic didn't make sense and the character being a witch was randomly brought up halfway through the book. It seemed liked the author kept adding in things as she was thinking about them throughout writing the book and never bothered going back through to make sure it made sense.
Profile Image for Kaya.
379 reviews64 followers
July 10, 2022
Wake The Bones is an eerie, otherworldly story that will leave you unsure of what, exactly, you just read. It’s simmering in the summer heat, ripe with bones and new growth and dead things walking. There are some books that will be favorites for those who connect with them, and I believe that this will be that book for many people.

We follow a girl named Laurel Early who has an affinity for magic involving bones. Unfortunately, when something unearthly awakes on her farm, she is forced to come to terms not just with her magic, but with the truth surrounding her mother’s death and her own life. And that’s probably a terrible synopsis but this is the sort of story where you should dive in blindly and just go where the current takes you.

Personally, I didn’t love this book. It has some great elements: a summery horror atmosphere, a swampy farmland setting, and relatively quirky characters with their own relationship dynamics. It just didn’t all come together the way that I wanted it to. However, I truly do think that it was more of a “me” thing and not the fault of the book.

I genuinely have no thoughts on this book? Like, it’s all some sort of vague “eldritch thrumming*” semblance of something in my mind that cannot be fully separated into the plot, characters, worldbuilding, etc. If you enjoy weird magical stories sprinkled with horror, there’s a good chance you might enjoy this!

*if you’ve seen stranger things 4 with subtitles…then you understand. if not, oh well

Overall, I would recommend this if you like books such as House of Hollow or The Bone Houses!


ever since house of hollow, i've been craving fantasy horror books and this one sounds incredible.

thank you so much Wednesday books for the ARC!
Profile Image for Manja.
152 reviews16 followers
August 8, 2022
Oh damn, I loved this book. If you are someone that loves The Raven Cycle , you'll have to read this book. It has such similar themes and atmosphere, but much much darker. It also reminded me of one of my other favorite books, House of Hollow

While marketed as a Young Adult horror novel, I would definitely also recommend this for an adult audience, as the themes and characters would really fit well within the adult genre as well.

The writing and atmosphere were immaculate. The smells and sensory experiences about the particular setting in nature were described so wonderfully and real, and I could really feel myself standing right where the story took place.
Themes of grief, found family and friendship were so well written in my opinion. After already 50 pages I could feel myself falling in love with the characters, and I think that's really a big achievement with such a short standalone novel. The magical elements, which I would group in the magical realism category with how they were written, were really unique and cool. I mean, it has taxidermy! Which plays a role in the horror elements of the story (the horror is also magical and supernatural by the way! I loved it.)
The ending hit very close to home for me at the point where I am in life right now. It was an unexpected way to end the story, but it was perfect to me.

I am really excited to read more works written by this author, and can't wait to find out what other books she will write!
Profile Image for Aly.
2,724 reviews
November 3, 2021
I'm really enjoying small town horror stories right now and this fits the bill perfectly. The story is unique and does a great job of blending magic into the real world so that I can almost see something like this happening on a tucked away farm in the middle of nowhere. There are plenty of creepy moments and times when I wasn't sure which characters would make it to the end. The pacing kept me interested and the bits of romance softened it a bit and rounded out the story.

The main character Laurel has come back to her family farm after failing college. She's not sure what her future will be, but is working on taxidermy projects for now. When Christine, a so called "witch" tells Laurel that the farm is haunted, terrible things start happening. Laurel begins looking into her mother's death and realizing that her bloodline may have it's own magic.

I liked that Laurel was a bit jaded and sometimes hurt other's feelings. She's not perfect, just a girl trying to make her way in the world. Her friendship with the boys was sweet and gave her the motivation to stand up to the Devil and take back her home.

I enjoyed this one and if you like horror, it should go on your TBR for 2022.

I voluntarily read and reviewed this book and all opinions are my own. Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for the copy
Profile Image for Vee_Bookish.
1,461 reviews351 followers
August 28, 2022
This wasn't a bad story, but I think I was expecting something different from this story, as the actual horror that I read this for always seemed second place to the story of teens growing up in small town America.

Laurel's connection with death, the way she collects and sells bones and her ability to see events from the perspective of the bones owner was really unusual, and interesting. It connected well with the Devil made of bones in her town, and the description of the bones crunching together as it walked will stick with you.

I did like Laurel, Isaac, Garrett and Ricky, I understood why they were so close and why they clung to each other, misfits almost ready to leave a conservative town in favour of an inclusive city, but I don't know if I found them or this story truly memorable, I feel like there was something missing.
Profile Image for Emma Cathryne.
518 reviews84 followers
February 16, 2022
In brief, this was gorgeously written but inelegantly crafted. The best thing about this novel is the atmosphere: Kilcoyne has perfectly captured the heat, stickiness, and broiling tension of a southern summer infested with horrors beyond imaging. However, this equates to a meticulous and intricate painting done over crumbling drywall: the plot and characters don't do nearly enough to match the care taken with the language and atmosphere, leaving behind a story that is pleasing to the eyes but shaky to the imagination. Full review to come at publication.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 692 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.