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A Stir of Bones Hardcover – September 15, 2003

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile; First Edition edition (September 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670035513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670035519
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,612,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up-Susan Backstrom, the protagonist of this haunting and harrowing novel, appears to have everything. In reality, she is a prisoner of her abusive father, who beats his wife whenever he disapproves of his daughter's behavior. In a rare moment of freedom at the library, Susan overhears a group of kids talking about entering a haunted house and convinces them to let her go with them. With these new friends, she discovers that the house has a life of its own. Susan forms a close bond with the house and with Nathan, the ghost of a boy who committed suicide in it. When her father's menacing becomes too much, she decides to kill herself to be with Nathan and the house forever, and it is up to her friends to stop her and the house to show her how to use her newfound powers, derived from a piece of Nathan's bone, to heal rather than hurt. In this prequel to Hoffman's adult novels A Red Heart of Memories (1999) and Past the Size of Dreaming (2001, both Ace), the author creates an unusual world. As the story is told through Susan's eyes, everything, even the more fantastical events, seems matter-of-fact and dispassionate, which draws readers in and intensifies the horror. However, while some readers may find it satisfying that Susan has found a way to help her mother, others are likely to question her ability to protect herself from her father and worry that she has no adult to turn to for help.
Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-8. In this atmospheric prequel to A Red Heart of Memories (2000) and Past the Size of Dreaming (2002), a teenager begins the painful process of breaking away from her abusive father, with help from allies both human and supernatural. A chance encounter with three classmates leads Susan to an abandoned house that not only turns out to have a strong personality of its own but also harbors an uncommonly substantial ghost named Nathan. After years of listening to her mother being beaten for her minor transgressions, Susan is internally well armored--but that armor thins under the influence of these newfound friends and the eerie closeness that develops between her and Nathan. Richly endowed with complex relationships, a strange and subtle brand of magic, evocative language, and suspenseful storytelling, this will draw readers into a world less safe and simple than it seems at first glance, then send them on a determined hunt for sequels. John Peters
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

That aside, the book has a slow start.
Hoffman has smoothly created unforgettable characters with real issues, some magic, and a forever friendship.
L. Schloegel
This is another of those books that could be categorized as either children's fiction or fantasy.
K. Hernandez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kirsten A. Edwards on May 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Like Rapunzel, Susan is a girl set away from life and human companionship by a possessive and jealous adult. Her father keeps her locked in fear for her mother's safety at his hands. But Susan has tiny rebellions, times and places she carves out for Susan-inside, momentarily free from the picture-perfect Princess her father requires. In one such moment, reading in the small public library, Susan overhears three friends plotting to visit the local haunted house. Her house is haunted by secrets and pain-what might this one offer?
Magic, it turns out, and friendship and a ghostly love. The haunted house Ms. Hoffman creates is both creepy and alluring, and Susan's relationship with Nathan, the ghost who haunts it, is tender and sad. The three friends, Julio, Edmund and Dierdre are wonderfully real teens-their passionate curiosity and helpless desire to put things right are a rope thrown out to draw Susan back into humanity and life.
Although the story is full of incident-driving off a nosy schoolmate, figuring out the magic of the house, a confrontation with the police-Susan's character and dilemma are the heart of the tale. It is to Ms. Hoffman's credit that an internal journey-which could easily plod or wander down "lyrical" byways of naval-gazing angst-keeps the reader glued to the page. Susan's pain and hope drive the story forward-will she escape? Will her father discover and destroy her-or will she falter and destroy herself?
The only problem I had with this book is that it was too short-the characters and the setting so vivid, and I so caught up in Susan's story, I hated for it to end. Happily for the reader who has just discovered Ms. Hoffman through this book, it is a prequel to The Red Heart of Memories and Past the Size of Dreaming: Instant gratification is available at your local public library or bookstore! For readers who have already read these two books, A Stir of Bones should prove a pleasing reunion with old friends and a skillful storyteller.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on July 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Susan, a seventh-grader, has terrible secrets. Her father beats her mother and then blames Susan. He controls Susan, telling her what to wear, what to watch on television, and how to spend every minute of her time. At school, she is a lonely outsider. Her only real friends are the family's housekeeper, Juanita, and Juanita's son, Julio.

At the library one day, Susan overhears Julio and his friends plotting to visit the local haunted house, and she invites herself along. There, they meet a ghost named Nathan. Susan is oddly drawn to both Nathan and the house, and she begins to carry one of Nathan's finger bones. Her talisman emboldens her away from the house, and she finds herself able to connect with people a little more easily.

Susan finds refuge when Nathan invites each of the visitors to keep a room at the house. She develops relationships with her new acquaintances, both the living and the dead, and spends an unforgettable Halloween night with Nathan --- a mystical evening that makes her supernatural host even more alluring.

Many facets of Susan's life gradually become better. However, her home situation does not improve. Susan's unbearable pain plus her attraction to the boy ghost lead her to ponder whether or not she would be better off joining Nathan forever.

Susan and Nathan are heartrendingly sympathetic characters. The lyrical writing weaves together a dreamy ghost tale and the harsh realism of Susan's home life, ending on a hopeful note. The fact that there is no easy resolution only adds to the believability. This memorable story left me longing for more, so I was happy to learn that A STIR OF BONES is a stand-alone prequel to two previously published novels, A RED HEART OF MEMORIES and PAST THE SIZE OF DREAMING.

--- Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By cammykitty on May 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Nina's writing had a similar feel to Richard Peck's writing, although a little darker in "reality." They both succeed in creating characters that are able to make friends with the odd ones that have crossed over to the other side. As a teen, Richard Peck's ghosts became my friends. Nina's Nathan has that same ability to come off the page and become a friend.
Then I see warnings on its Satanic Imagery. No. It has Pagan/Wiccan imagery, and if you have read anything about Wicca, you'll know that one of the basic tenants of Wicca is that what you do to others will come back to you tenfold. So, if you want to use wicca for evil purposes, expect 10 times that evil to befall on you.
That aside, the book has a slow start. I almost gave up before I got to the second chapter, but I'm glad I kept with it. The story is not about Wicca. It is about a girl, Susan, who has grown up with a father who is so controlling and abusive that she has come to believe that her body is not her own. She no longer even feels pain. He has successfully isolated her from other people her age, and even all other people except the housekeeper. Then Susan finds a way to sneak out of the house to join others at a "haunted" house. And there, she learns about the power of friendship.
This book has achieved a balance of fun, seriousness and mysticism that is rare. Definitely a book worth reading. Unless you feel children shouldn't read A Wrinkle in Time because of Mrs. Who, Mrs. What and Mrs. Which.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S Peterson on March 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This prequel to Hoffman's other books is just as juicy and delicious as the others. She can really get inside the adolscent heart and make us bleed for the characters. I don't know why this is listed as adolescent fiction, because it's not. If you love contemporary fantasy these are great books for you. READ THEM!
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