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Winter’s Bone: Daniel Woodrell’s Novel Recommended Read For Teens

A tale of survival amidst hardships and violence, this novel offers a complex look into the world of drugs through the eyes of a teenage girl. Stark and gruesome, readers will not be able to look away.

PARENT & TEEN REVIEW | by Leah Pike (daughter) & Earl Pike (father)

Winter’s Bone is a gritty novel about 16-year-old Ree Dolly, a young Appalachian girl whose father skipped bail after his arrest for cooking meth, whose mother is profoundly mentally ill, and whose entire community seethes with rage, fear and hopelessness. Faced with nearly impossible moral choices, Ree must figure out how to save her family—and preserve her humanity.

Winter's BoneAs the novel opens, we learn that if Ree can’t track her father down, the Dolly family will lose their house—posted for her father’s bond. She therefore sets out on a journey that uncovers secrets and betrayals, the hidden darkness of her community.

Ree is, in many ways, not unlike any other teenage girl. She just happens to live amid violence, hardship and methamphetamine use and production. It’s a starkly different world than most of us have ever experienced. And yet Ree is the girl we all hope to become. Although Ree’s life is full of problems, she wants to survive. She learns how to face life-threatening obstacles each day. There are no saints in Ree’s community, and everyone is broken; at one point in the book, a minor character describes the area and its people perfectly when he says, “nobody here wants to be awful.”

Everybody has their ghosts; most people flee from them. What makes Ree different is that she faces hers. She shows us that no matter where you live and who your family is, everybody has troubles and issues that must be confronted.

What makes Ree’s journey particularly precarious is that in her community, there are only two or three degrees of separation from one person to another. Everyone is connected—by blood, history and a long-nourished hatred. As Ree’s Uncle Teardrop advises her, “You got to be ready to die every day – then you got a chance.”

Both of us were particularly struck by Teardrop. He was also a meth cook, which was a common profession in the town. Over the course of the novel Teardrop ends up revealing his true self, helping Ree’s family at a time when they needed him the most. The complexity and reality of both Ree and Teardrop give the story richness and unexpected, but appreciated, realism. This quotable novel includes important life lessons, and through beautiful writing, unveils an incredible story.

Caution: the novel contains graphic violence, with one particularly gruesome scene—not recommended for younger teens.

Leah Pike is a Junior and honors student in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, who enjoys swimming, singing, reading and writing.

Earl Pike is a nonprofit consultant in Cleveland Heights, is married to Elizabeth Klein, and is the father of Leah and Jonah Pike.

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