Rule of the Bone ~ A Modern Coming-of-Age Tale?
Written in 1995 by Russell Banks, Rule of the Bone, has been compared to Huckleberry Finn and The Catcher in the Rye. It's a tumultuous tale written from the point-of-view of the 14 year-old main character by the name of Chappie Dorset (also known as Bone). But unlike Twain and Salinger's epic novels, Rule of the Bone, takes the reader on a journey of drug deals, child abuse, sex and guns, as our young "hero" searches for his meaning of life.
Even though this coming-of-age novel may have some critics up-in-arms (while others salivate over its contents) the story is still one of true adventure.
Chappie's story starts out in upstate New York with his mother and an abusive stepfather (Ken) whose temper is quick to flare, leaving Chappie in the line-of-fire. This sets Chappie on a path to self-destruction through stealing, drugs, dropping out of school and being on the run.
After running from his difficult family-life Chappie has no where else to go and finds himself in a filthy apartment with his best friend - Russ is also a teen drop-out and works at the video store below his home. From here Chappie is introduced to a brutal biker gang that brags about their killing sprees and spends most of their time getting high. After a brush with the law, Chappie's adventure is just getting started. On the road Chappie has to make many life-altering decisions - one of these decisions include getting his bone tattoo giving him the titled nickname.
Although, the tale goes on to find Chappie in an abandoned bus with an illegal, Rastafarian migrant worker, saving a young girl from the hands of her capture's pronography ring, and a trip to Jamaica, some readers may find it difficult to feel sorry for him. Although, we do see glimpses of goodness in his character, Banks has given Chappie's character a jaded and sardonic view of the world right from the get-go.
Rule of the Bone may be more relatable to today's teen and will definitely feed their need for adventure, but whether it becomes a classic tale like Huck Finn or Catcher in the Rye is yet to be determined. The story contents may teach a coming-of-age, but it is done in a harsh and brutal environment that will still have most parents cringing.