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Sebold, Alice.
Boston : Little, Brown, 2002.
ISBN 0316666343

(8 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie.  I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973 … It was still back when people believed things like that didn’t happen…My murderer was a man from our neighborhood.  My mother liked his border flowers, and my father once talked to him about fertilizer.”

                        Susie’s opening words in the book Lovely Bones will instantly grab you, pulling you into the life of Susie Salmon beyond the grave as she watches her family struggle with her disappearance; as her life leaves her body in the cornfield, brushing past her friend Ruth; as she sits with her father each evening, alone in his study; as she watches her friends grow and continue their lives over the next seven years; and as she tries to communicate the events of her tragic abduction and death to those trying to piece together the evidence that will allow vengeance on her slayer.  Even though you know the circumstances of Susie’s death from the first chapter, you will not quit turning pages until clues unravel the mystery of her murder, revealing the identity of the killer to her friends, family and community.  Lovely Bones will make you aware that things like Susie’s murder do happen ­ and that today one must always be cautious, not of just strangers, but of people we know.

                    Lovely Bones is a South Carolina Young Adult Nominee for 2004-2005.  (Rebecca Elswick,, English I teacher -- Mid-Carolina High School, Prosperity, SC)

Booktalk #2

Three days after being assaulted and killed by a neighbor, Susie is in heaven looking down on her family.  She knows what would have happened at her house, when she was simply late returning home from junior high, and the steps her family would have taken when they decided she was not late but missing.  Susie watches the police investigation and discoveries that lead police to the conclusion she in not only missing but dead.  Susie finds peers, a support group, and even friends in heaven.  While exploring heaven, Susie discovers that heaven is not the same for everyone and is related to each person’s idea of what heaven should be.  Additionally, with experience and involvement with heaven, Susie’s heaven grows and changes as she does.  Initially, Susie focuses heavily on her family and how they are coping with her missing from their lives.  She expands to look at her friends, the community, and even her uncaught killer from her heaven.  Susie muses about both the things she can see and know from heaven and the many things she will never experience because she is dead.  Naturally, a ‘missed experience’ of prime importance to Susie is her first sexual encounter that is not an act of rape.  As time passes following her death, Susie’s heavenly “being” ages with her former peers and she is able to borrow the physical body of girlfriend to have a sexual encounter with a boy she has long had a crush on.  The encounter is blatantly sexual intercourse, but not presented in graphic detail.

Prepared by: Linda Bryant for South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominees 2005

Booktalk #3

My name was Salmon, like the fish: first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. In the newspaper photos of missing girls from the seventies, most looked like me: white girls with mousy brown hair. This was before kids of all race and genders started appearing on milk cartons or in the daily mail. It was still back when people believed things like that didn't happen.

My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer. His name was Mr. Harvey. He believed in old-fashioned things like eggshells and coffee grounds to fertilize his garden. He lived next door and built miniature dollhouses. And like everyone else after my death, he told my mother "I'm sorry for your loss".

When I first entered heaven I thought everyone saw what I saw. That in everyone's heaven there were soccer goalposts in the distance and lumbering women throwing shot put and javelin. That all the buildings were like suburban northeast high schools built in the 1960's. But after a few days, I realized that everyone that I saw was in their own version of heaven. We had been given, in our heavens, our simplest dreams. Eventually I began to desire more. What I found strange was how much I desired to know what I had known on Earth. I wanted to be allowed to grow up. I could not have what I wanted most: Mr. Harvey dead and me living. Heaven wasn't perfect. But I came to believe that if I watched closely, and desired, I might change the lives of those I loved on Earth.

In the weeks that followed my death, I observed these things; my friends at school trading rumors about my disappearance, my family holding out hope that I'll be found, Mr. Harvey trying to cover his tracks. As the weeks turned into months without leads, my parents' marriage began to crumble, my sister hardened herself to stay strong and my little brother tried to grasp the meaning of the word "gone".

As I watch my family pass through grief and begin to mend these events take place. My father embarks on a quest to find my killer, my sister undertakes a feat of remarkable daring and the boy I had a crush on, moves on and finds him at the center of a miraculous event. And ultimately, I affect what happens to Mr. Harvey.
Susi Bonato for The Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award

Booktalk #4

"I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

Susie Salmon is dead and in heaven. And, although she is eternally fourteen, she grows and matures as she watches her family trying to cope with her death. Her father buries his sadness by relentlessly pursuing the murderer, her mother escapes by leaving the family for a time, her sister falls in love but can't seem to get Susie out of her mind, and her little brother can't understand what "gone" means. From heaven Susie also tracks the murderer, Mr. Harvey, who lives next door and builds miniature dollhouses.

The heaven Susie is in is a lovely place where wishing something can make it come true. Susie loves her family and sometimes even through their depression and gloom, manages to let them know in often uplifting, humorous ways. And, she affects what ultimately happens to Mr. Harvey.
Lisa Maher for The Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award

Booktalk #5

                        Susie was walking home one night from school through a cornfield, in sight of home, when a neighbor asks her to take a look at an underground room he has made.  Susie wants to go home, but reluctantly follows Mr. Harvey for the sake of manners.   It is an interesting little room, complete with a fireplace and a working chimney.   But when Mr. Harvey closes the entrance and blocks her way out, she realizes that this was a mistake, a mistake that she won't live to regret.

                        The story that follows details Susie’s struggles in ‘heaven’ as she comes to terms with her own violent death and the on-going lives of those she loved.  Lives that were forever changed, but that continued, nonetheless.

                    Can Susie make peace with her own demise and the reactions of her family and loved ones?  Will she be able to let go of her worldly existence and embrace her spiritual one?   Read The Lovely Bones to find out.  (Laura Blevins,,  University of South Carolina, graduate candidate School of Library and Information Science)

Booktalk #6

                    The title of the book that I want to talk you about today is “The Lovely Bones”.  I want you to close your eyes now and think about the title.  What does the title suggest to you?  Can you figure out what this book is about just by thinking about the title?  Now, I want you to look closely at the cover.  Are there any clues that you can detect by looking at the cover of this book?  There are different shades of blue used on the cover, do these colors have a special significance?  What about the charm bracelet with just one solitary charm?
                    The charm bracelet you see on the cover belongs to Susie Salmon.  Susie is a fourteen year-old girl, who lives in a town located in Pennsylvania.  Susie’s story unravels in 1973 in a place and time when people still believed that bad things didn't really happen to good people.  Or, do they?
                    This book is a popular book with people of all ages, but especially with your people your age.  Find out why this psychological thriller is so popular and what happens to Susie Salmon in “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold.  (Cathy Hesselink,, CLIS Student - USC)

Booktalk #7

 “The Lovely Bones” is a book where you get the first person view of a girl named Susie Salmon, who was murdered on her home through a cornfield from school. “The Lovely Bones” is an eerie, but not anywhere near the horror genre, kind of mystery book .She gives the first person view from heaven, where she meets Franny, a resident in her heaven. Susie meets other people in her heaven that have had the same fate as her. But not all the same age or died from the same person. She watches her family from heaven, seeing how the investigation for her murder was going on, and looking on at the man who had killed her.
The Lovely bones is a book for someone who likes mysteries and stories that make you not want to put the book down, that you just had to see what would happen next. How Alice Sebold describes how and what is happening, is seems like you are actually in the book, looking at the things as the words scramble on the page. It’s not the hardest book to read, but it isn't the easiest. And the more you get into it, the more you will like it.
If you like the book “Elsewhere”, you will love “The Lovely Bones”. I would like to recommend this book to 13+ and up.  (Sabrina D., K-12 student)

Booktalk #8

Imagine you are the parent of a fourteen year old girl who didn't come home from school one day.  Waiting around all day wondering where your daughter could be.  This becomes reality for the Salmon family in Alice Sebold's, "The Lovely Bones." This contemporary realistic novel follows the story of Susie Salmon who was brutually murdered by her neighbor in the first chapter of the book.  Her parents Jack and Abigail struggle with the loss, while Susie is trying to leave them signs showing them their trusted neighbor, Mr. Harvey, should actually not be trusted.  Will Susie's body ever be found? Do her parents ever figure out that the man they trusted is actually the man who killd Susie?  All these questions and more will be answered in Alice Sebold's, "The Lovely Bones." (Caitlyn Lee,, college student)

SUBJECTS:     Family life -- Fiction.
                        Homicide -- Fiction.
                        Girls -- Fiction.
                        Teenagers -- Fiction.
                        Psychological fiction.
                        Domestic fiction.


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