Magical-Realism in YA

I didn’t realise I’d been missing a whole genre in my life until I finally decided to pick up my first magical-realism novel, Bone Gap, and was swept away by the beauty of the world Laura Ruby had created and the way magical elements were seamlessly worked into the narrative to create a truly mesmerising read. It was only after reading this gorgeous book that I realised I’d read hardly any books with magical-realism in them. As a lover of contemporaries and someone who does like fantasy – but is rather picky about what fantasy novels I’ll read because high fantasy confuses the heck out of me – I found that magical-realism was the perfect solution. You’ll definitely be seeing me reading more magical-realism in future!

(For those of you that aren’t completely sure what magical-realism is, it’s basically the term used to refer to fiction where magic or the supernatural is presented in an otherwise real-world or mundane setting.)


Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

How do I even begin to explain how much I loved this book when it made me cry three pages in simply from the haunting poignancy of the lyrical prose? I mean, I could have just been overemotional from getting two hours sleep and reading it as I waited for a 3am flight, but it was definitely the novel. The last time I felt so emotional — so inspired — when I was reading a book was with the novels by Victoria Schwab. She’s my absolute favourite author and I thought nobody would ever make me feel the way she does when I’m reading her work, but then I stumbled across Bone Gap. Sure, I’d heard that it was good, but I didn’t really know just how sensational it would be until I opened up the first page and fell into a world of magic, love, and almost lyrical paragraphs. I haven’t stopped thinking about this book since I put it down almost two weeks ago now.

Things I did while reading Bone Gap:

  • Cry. A LOT.

    The metaphors in this book are astoundingly beautiful and reduced me to tears every time, crying out ‘Why can’t I write like this?!’. It only made sense that the writing was as magical and the world we were immersed in.

  • Fill a Booktopia cart with magical realism books I’ve been recommended.

    When I was reading Bone Gap, I just didn’t want to ever be torn away from my book. But the trouble with binge-reading a book you love is that you know it’ll inevitably come to an end. If you’ve ever loved reading a book so much that your heart hurts*, you’ll know the pain of the novel coming to an end all too soon. But that’s why we buy more books! To fill up the void in our lives that are left by books too pure for this world.

  • Plan a trip to a bee farm. And maybe a cornfield.

    Bone Gap is set in a small town surrounded by cornfield that are said to be alive and the scarecrows scare the corn, not the crows, and there’s a strange girl who has a bee farm. Right from the very first page I fell into this landscape and had the impulse to run away from home and hitchhike to this magical town. Except, you know, I kind of like my bookshelf. And free wifi.

*Why is your heart hurting? Are you sure it’s just from emotion? Have you forgotten to breathe for a while? Is that a heart attack coming on? Maybe you should see your doctor. Or, you know, keep on reading. One or the other.

“He left that farm and came to Bone Gap when it was a huge expanse of empty fields, drawn here by the grass and the bees and the strange sensation that this was a magical place, that the bones of the world were a little looser here, double-jointed, twisting back on themselves, leaving spaces one could slip into and hide.”

Characters I loved:

  • The adorable and strange Finn.

    Finn is the “prettiest boy in town”, but people don’t know what to make of him because he never looks anyone in the eye and he doesn’t always say what he means. I loved how misunderstood and complex he was. He’s the type of person that can’t be confined to a stereotype and he could easily walk right off the page. Preferably into my arms.

  • Roza, the missing girl.

    She’s gorgeous and not from around Finn’s town, and everyone thinks Finn’s in love with her. But then she disappears, and Finn’s the only person who saw what happened. She was kidnapped. Roza’s really the catalyst to the story, but there’s so much else mixed in with this mystery that you can’t even try to make it conform to one genre. It’s a mystery and a contemporary and a romance with peppering of magical elements. It’s delicious.

  • Petey, the “ugly” girl that you’ll fall in love with because of brutal honesty and the gooey mush that’s buried beneath her sharp exterior.

    I hated how she was always judged for what she looked like, but Finn saw past that. He saw her. I loved her snarky attitude and how she always verbalised what she was thinking, even when it hurt. The relationship she formed with Finn was absolutely adorable and their dynamics worked exceptionally well in producing a romance that you won’t be able to get enough of.

“Miguel hated the corn, said the plants seemed . . . alive. When Finn reminded him that, duh, of course the corn was alive, all plants were alive, Miguel replied that the corn sounded alive alive. As if it wasn’t just growing, it was ripping itself out of the ground and sneaking around on skinny white roots.”

Ultimately, Bone Gap is a story about:

  • mysteries
  • love
  • sentient corn
  • a small town
  • hope
  • truly seeing those that matter to you


“I have found that people never love the way they say they do. They can’t. They are just people. Full of lies and sentiment and fear.”


5 Stars

Magical-Realism Recommendations

These are some of the magical-realism novels that have been recommended to me! I haven’t many of these, but I’m planning to get around to reading them all soon! I need more magical-realism in my life. If you have any more suggestions, please let me know!

Let's Talk

Have you read Bone Gap? Do you read a lot of magical-realism, and have you read any of my other recommendations? Do you have anything to add to the list? Let’s chat about our favourite magical-realism novels!

Thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!


43 thoughts on “Magical-Realism in YA

  1. You should read Francesca Lia Block’s books! She’s not only one of the earliest YA writers who is still writing today, but she was writing magic realism YA right from the start with Weetzie Bat. (The Weetzie Bat books are collected as Dangerous Angels today.) To write about magic realism in YA you have to include her, as she was the author who birthed and shaped it, and is still shaping it.

  2. The Raven Boys is my favourite! The story, characters and writing are on pointe. From what you’ve mentioned in this post, I think you’ll really like it 🙂

    As for the Bone Gap, I haven’t read t but I’ve heard great things! Cait also loves it. But after your review I am extremely tempted to buy it… by the way, how old are the characters (approximately)?

    Lovely post as always 😉 💕💕

  3. Love this! Magical realism is my favourite. I feel like if I was a genre, I’d be magical realism haha. I love the idea of magic being a part of reality without there necessarily needing to be some epic fantasy land. The strangeness is so alluring to me. I’m suuuuper excited to read Bone Gap and I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! Great review ♥

    • Thanks so much! I absolutely adore magical-realism now too 😍 And I completely agree! I think you’ve just summarised why I loved that book so much in one sentence – WELL DONE! You should definitely read BONE GAP ASAP! I’d love to hear what you think of it 💕

  4. Sarah,
    I am relatively new to magical realism. Like, I have read two of the Raven Boys books, and I love them immensely. But, “When the Moon Was Ours” shook me up quite a bit. I am so happy that you are enjoying the genre, too. Looking forward to reading more of it, for sure.

  5. I might have read a few magical realism books but at that time, I might have overlooked it or I wasn’t familiar with the term. However, this is a great post, Sarah. I would really like to discover more of magical realism, probably starting with Bone Gap because your review is ace! ❤

  6. yesss the Night Circus and the Strange and Beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender are AMAZING! Hope you enjoy them as much as I did 🙂 I will definitely be reading Bone Gap soon, it sounds great!

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