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|Return To Bone Tree Hill|
Resource Links, Vol 14 # 5
Kristin Butcher's novel Return to Bone Tree Hill centers around three childhood acquaintances Jessica Lawler, Jilly Carlisle and Charlie Castle. The novel begins with eighteen-year-old Jessica recalling a disturbing nightmare that has plagued her since returning from living in Australia. The introduction establishes a very mysterious, sombre tone. The introductory flashback begins quite pleasantly with the children frolicking and teasing as seemingly normal 12-year-olds often do. However, the intensity of this nightmare builds once Jessica recalls killing Charlie with a shovel!
Readers will be impressed with Butcher's descriptive introduction. Her writing gives one's mind eye a lot to imagine and grasps readers with her ability to establish the setting and life at Bone Tree Hill with mysterious knack. In the first chapter, Jessica returns to Bone Tree Hill, situated in Victoria, Canada. She returns not only to see her grandmother, but with an underlying motive to search for the actual truth. Did her dream really happen? Could she possibly be a murderer?
It is early in the story where she reunites with Jilly after six long years. Because the girls have kept in touch over the years, their reunion is effortless and it is as if Jessica never left Bone Tree Hill so suddenly years earlier. Jessica's recurring dream is noted numerous times throughout the novel. In each instance, Jessica recalls a little more detail into Charlie's death. These clues give readers insight and the ability to become literary detectives in this adventure, along with Jilly and Jessica. It is evident that Jessica recalls little from that time. She discovers that Charlie disappeared about six years ago. She learns she can barely remember anything because of a terrible case of meningitis which has partially erased her memory from that time, including speaking with police and searching for Charlie. Not being able to handle her secret any longer, Jessica finally reveals her dream and her concern over possibly murdering Charlie to her dear friend, Jilly. While baulking Jessica's theories of murder, Jilly joins Jessica in discovering what actually happened to Charlie. Their search is eventful right to the very end. While the outcome may not be the most desirable, readers are left with a sense of fulfilment that leaves both Jessica and Charlie content and at peace.
Butcher uses significant objects in Jessica's dream/nightmare in an effort to foreshadow — a snow globe, an oak tree, cornfields, and a tin box. She incorporates these objects in an inviting manner that creatively sums up the storyline while giving readers that "A-Ha! moment!" With that said, there are some criticisms with this novel. Jess's good friend, Jilly, doesn't get as much time on paper as she deserves. Butcher does a wonderful job creating such a memorable character, it is unfortunate she doesn't develop Jilly into her full potential; she's a sidekick that readers could really love! And too bad Bone Tree Hill has to be a fictitious place filled with its large oak tree and rows of creepy, corn fields. Butcher's descriptive tale of such a place makes it hard to believe that it doesn't actually exist! If it did, I think readers would quickly venture up that hill on their next trip to Victoria. — Angela Killeen
Thematic Links: Mystery; Adventure; Dreams and Flashbacks; Friendship; Victoria. B.C.;Canada
CM: Canadian Materials Magazine, Volume XV Number 22, June 26, 2009
Eighteen-year-old Jessica, who has been living in Australia for the last six years with her family, has returned to her childhood home in Victoria, BC, to visit with her grandmother before starting school in Alberta in the fall. It should be an idyllic summer-catching up with her best friend, Jilly, and visiting favourite old haunts like Bone Tree Hill, but lately, she's been haunted by a recurring nightmare. In it, she's 12-years-old and playing witn ner rrienas on bone I ree Mill wnen sometning goes terriDly wrong. Jessica ends up killing a boy named Charlie, and the vision is so real, she can't be sure it didn't happen. Along with Jilly, Jessica searches for answers, until finally she recalls the truth of what really happened the day Charlie disappeared.
There is no graphic violence or sexual content, and the story is not overly difficult or disturbing. Though the characters are eighteen and college bound, the content is safe for early teen readers seeking a gripping page-turner.
Rachel Steen is the Elementary/YA selection manager at S&B Books in Mississauga, ON.