The Lovely Bones

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Logo disambig-broom.svg This page needs some cleaning up to be presentable.

Multiple versions or instalments of this work have been lumped into this page. Multiple Works Need Separate Pages. and this page needs to be turned into either a franchise page or a disambiguation page.

Run away, Susie!

"My name is Salmon, like the fish."
"First name, Susie."
"I was fourteen years old when I was murdered on December 6th, 1973."


The Lovely Bones is a highly acclaimed, best-selling 2002 novel by Alice Sebold. Its heroine is Susie Salmon, who posthumously narrates the story of her family after her own rape and murder in December 1973. While she watches from her own private heaven, grief throws her family into disarray, and when the police investigation yields no clues, Susie's father and sister take matters into their own hands when clues lead them toward the actual murderer.

The book was adapted to film by Peter Jackson and released in 2009. It stars Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, and Susan Sarandon.

Tropes used in The Lovely Bones include:
  • Adult Fear: The premise is based on the worst possible outcome of the "Oh shit, my daughter was supposed to be home hours ago; what if she's dead?" fear.
  • Age Cut: The scene with Susie's picture of her as a toddler which then cuts to a picture of her at fourteen is an example of this.
  • Almost Kiss: In the movie, Ray and Susie are about to kiss at school until a teacher and Ruth interrupt them in the hallway.
  • Audience Shift: The book was marketed towards adults, although a lot of teenagers read it anyway. The movie was deliberately made tame enough that the scriptwriters' kids could watch it, and audience testing showed that teenage girls liked it much, much more than adults. As of this writing, it's being advertised heavily on fan blogs for Twilight.
    • Roger Ebert noticed the shift and thought this and the whole film was creepy in all the wrong ways.
  • Big No: Done straight, agonizingly so, when Susie realizes what has happened to her. Between this and Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson directs the Big No quite well. (YMMV)
  • Bittersweet Ending: Naturally, since Susie is dead, and also Mr. Harvey is never caught by the police.
    • Although Mr. Harvey does die soon after leaving town, in a manner that's kind of foreshadowed in previous scenes.
  • Book Ends: The page quote above is said near the beginning and at the end of the movie.
  • Bottle Fairy: Grandma.
  • The Cameo: Peter Jackson himself has a very brief appearance the first time Jack goes to get Susie's film developed. Even better, he's making a home movie with a period video camera throughout the duration of his appearance.
  • Cassandra Truth: Hardly anyone ever believes Jack. At all.
    • He doesn't have any hard evidence; he's only going by intuition.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Movie only: Susie mentions the sinkhole at the Conners' farm in the beginning; near the end, Mr. Harvey dumps a safe with her body locked inside into it.
  • Dawson Casting: Rose McIver plays the younger sister of Susie; in reality, McIver is six years older than Saoirse Ronan. Particularly notable is the scene where McIver's character is kissing her boyfriend -- she looks about 19 in that scene, but about 13 in all the others.
    • Though it should be pointed out that McIver's character is only a year younger than her sister and the film chronicles the events of a better part of a decade. Most of Lindsey's scenes are when she is older and has graduated from High School, including the climactic scene. While Susie will always remain 14, Lindsey grows up, gets married and becomes a mother. So casting an older actress is necessary.
  • Dead All Along: Played with - the audience knows Susie was murdered from the beginning, and she quickly learns that she was as well, but for a few minutes after fleeing from Mr. Harvey's underground lair, she thinks that she managed to escape alive - she only realizes she's actually dead when she has a vision of Harvey washing her blood off in the bath.
  • Dead Little Sister: Susie, or Dead Big Sister in this case.
  • Dead Person Conversation: This happens with Susie and Ray, more so in the novel.
  • Death by Irony: The eventual fate of Susie's killer? Killed by an icicle that drops on him. There's an incident earlier in the book where Susie refers to the "perfect murder" game played in heaven. The weapon she always picks? An icicle, because it melts away. Also consider that Susie just might be able to alter the slightest things on Earth, and that she's watching when Harvey is hit by the icicle.
  • The Determinator: Jack
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Notwithstanding the possibility that he likely would have been sighted at some point while building his "clubhouse" (or, after the murder, while destroying it), Mr. Harvey engages in lots of very suspicious behavior that should have at the very least led the police to consider him as a suspect earlier in the investigation than they do. Jack is no better, naming just about every person he can think of who had any contact with Susie to the police before he starts suspecting Harvey.
  • Disney Villain Death: Mr. Harvey dies by falling off a cliff when an icicle hits him.
    • Subverted, in that we see him hit every branch and sharp rock on the way down, culminating with a terrific splat! and a close-up view of his mangled body. Catharsis at it's finest, folks.
  • Died Happily Ever After: When Susie moves out of the in-between and into heaven where she spends most of the time with her grandfather.
  • Disposing of a Body: Susie's body is hidden in the safe that gets thrown into the sinkhole at the end. Except, of course, Harvey keeps her there for ages just to relive the pleasure of killing her.
    • In the novel, the disposal is much earlier. The final scene is of Susie's charm bracelet being found in the sinkhole years later by someone with absolutely no idea whose it is, or that it would not only lead the police to Susie's body, but also link her murder to another long-dead teenager who was buried with one of the broken-off charms. He merely comments "The little girl this belonged to is all grown up now," to which Susie responds, "Not quite."
  • Distant Finale: In the novel; see immediately above.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Ray, as stated by Susie's narration in the novel, after the Time Skip.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The Salmons' dog barks angrily at George Harvey.
  • Facecam: When Mr. Harvey is chasing Lindsey inside his house. This shot is featured in the trailer.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Susie mentions that if she had been more attentive to her surroundings, she would have noticed Mr. Harvey watching her implying that she could have avoided her death.
  • Focus Group Ending: Semi-not-averted. The ending was generally the same, but people who have trouble separating fantasy from reality, wanted more blood. Being a woman, Sebold probably thought the girl ascending was uplifting enough, and the icicle didn't need to be a cameo by Sub-Zero.
  • Foreshadowing: The random, oversized objects (ball, hat, flute/recorder, etc) are linked to Harvey's other victims, revealing the In-Between as a special place just for them. There's also special focus on an icicle, which later kills/facilitates Harvey's death.
  • Genre Busting: The novel really doesn't fall under any particular genre; however, the movie has been labeled a "supernatural thriller".
  • Genre Savvy: Lindsey shows signs of this when she breaks into Harvey's house to search for evidence. During her search, she opens a cabinet door and then goes upstairs after seemingly forgetting that she left it open. A second later, she runs back to close it. She is still nearly caught, but Harvey would have realized she was in the house sooner if she'd left the door open. Also, she thinks to search under the floorboards for hidden compartments after they creak when she steps on them while searching his bedroom.
  • Hell of a Heaven: Susie is in Heaven, but it seems like a rather dull place, and she's absolutely miserable missing her family and watching them grow up without her. Although this is partly because her character arc is explicitly about learning to let go of her previous life and accepting that she's dead; once she does this, she becomes a lot happier.
  • His Heart Will Go On: Ray.
  • Hot Dad: You betcha with Mark Wahlberg as Jack Salmon.
  • Hot Mom: And Rachel Weisz as Abigail Salmon.
  • Idiot Ball: The Police seem to have this in the handling of Susie's murder case, see Fridge Logic.
    • Also, Susie's Dad suspects every single one of his neighbours... except the creepy single man living across the road who seems to spend a lot of time just sitting in his car staring out of the rear-view mirror at the street.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: As Susie died at 14, she ends up misinterpreting some of the things that happen after her death.
  • I See Dead People: Ruth after Susie touches her shoulder on her way to heaven.
  • The Ishmael: Susie again
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Semi-averted in that Susie can change clothes when she wants, but her default clothes are the ones she wore when she died.
  • Karmic Death: Literally. After attempting and failing to ensnare another victim in an icy parking lot, Mr. Harvey is struck by a falling icicle and slips on the ice, plunging off a cliff to his death. This is foreshadowed by an earlier image of an icicle falling in the In Between, as Holly tells Susie that "everyone dies", suggesting that either Susie herself or some kind of cosmic force is responsible for Harvey's death.}}
  • Lady Drunk: See below.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Stanley Tucci apparently had a lot of trouble in playing the part of Mr Harvey. In an interview, Peter Jackson describes Saoirse Ronan giving Tucci a hug after shooting that scene. You know the one.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: In the novel, no fewer than three characters note, on multiple occasions, the tragedy of women and girls abused and murdered; male victims aren't mentioned at all. Apparently, men and boys raped, beaten, abused, murdered, etc. don't count.
    • The novel takes place in the '70s. If people still have trouble acknowledging these things can happen to men, too, the characters seeing men as potential sexual assault victims would most likely make it Anachronism Stew. Doesn't excuse the bit about murders, though.
  • Mood Whiplash: Quite a bit in the film, especially with Susan Sarandon as the comic relief.
  • Mundane Afterlife: Susie's heaven is mostly just nice things from her life.
    • Subverted at the end of the novel when she learns to accept her death along with the rest of her family and she moves on to the next tier of heaven that is described as very beautiful, more so than she can describe.
  • Near-Death Clairvoyance
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers for the movie marketed the movie as some kind of thriller. It's an exploration of Susie's life in heaven and how her family copes with their grief and eventually learns to move on.
  • Nostalgia Heaven: It's stated that each person's version of heaven is what they would have found most appealing in life; Susie's (in the book, at least) includes a high school and a duplex (because she wanted one while she was alive).
  • Not Growing Up Sucks: Since Susie died young, she is envious of things her friends and sister experience as they grow up that she never will, which later motivates her to kiss/have sex with (depending on the book or the movie) Ray when she's in Ruth's body.
  • Obviously Evil: Possibly justified in the 1970s setting, but for any Genre Savvy viewer, Mr Harvey may as well have "serial killer" written on his forehead.
  • Oh Crap: The movie has a particularly effective moment when Susie says to Mr. Harvey that she needs to go home, and then he responds by telling her to "be polite." The look on her face drives it home in that she now knows just how much trouble she's in.
    • "...I don't want you to leave."
  • Oscar Bait: The movie, but it didn't take with critics.
    • It apparently didn't take with Academy voters, either: the only Oscar that the movie was nominated for was Best Supporting Actor for Stanley Tucci.
    • And if you watched the Oscars, you would have noticed Stanley Tucci mouthing "Awful" to himself on camera after seeing his nomination clip being aired.
  • Parental Abandonment: When Susie's mom leaves her family and goes to the other side of the country for several years.
  • Pastimes Prove Personality
  • Playing Against Type: Stanley Tucci. SWEET BUTTERY CHRIST, Stanley Tucci...
  • Posthumous Character: Susie, obviously, but also Holly and the other girls she meets in the In Between, who are implied to be Harvey's previous victims.
  • Posthumous Narration
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: The "it's better to accept death and move on rather than allowing the desire for revenge to consume you" Aesop seems fine and well, until you think about it for a few seconds and realize that Mr. Harvey is almost certain to kill again if he's not apprehended, and there are very good reasons other than personal vengeance to be obsessed with catching him. Although part of the point of the novel is that Susie, being dead, is no longer really in a position to do anything about Mr. Harvey one way or another (although it is ambiguous whether she manages to affect things in order to kill him or not at the end), and her obsession is only harming herself by this point.
  • Put on a Bus: Many, many characters in the book that you think are major are actually minor and, once their part is served, you don't see them again. Chief Case: Susie's friend, Clarissa. Seems like a main, but is never spoken of again after the incident that put Susie's dad in the hospital.
  • Rape as Drama: In the novel, Susie is raped before she is murdered, and it's described in graphic detail. However, it's averted in the movie, as the usually Gorn-loving Jackson used a Gory Discretion Shot and leaves it ambiguous whether Susie was raped. This has been met with criticism.
    • According to Jackson, the actress who played Susie as well as her family were uncomfortable with signing onto the movie because of the gorn present in the book. So Jackson adjusted the movie accordingly.
    • It is mentioned later that he "only wanted to touch" one of the girls he killed, but "she screamed", which would imply that it was possible he did, in fact, rape the girls.
  • Reality Subtext: Alice Sebold, the author of the novel, is a survivor of rape.
  • Rear Window Investigation: What Lindsey ends up doing at George Harvey's house.
  • Resurrected Romance: Susie and Ray experience this, but only briefly.
  • Scenery Porn: The in-between has some very gorgeous scenery.
  • Serial Killer: Mr. Harvey.
  • The Seventies
  • Shout-Out: During the scene with Susie and Grandma Lynn in the bookstore, a 1970s poster advertising The Lord of the Rings book trilogy is on display.
  • Snooping Little Kid: Susie's sister, when she sneaks into the killer's house to find proof.
  • Steven Spielberg: Produced the film though did so rather quietly like Memoirs of a Geisha (which he also produced) compared to other films where he is given a full name drop (like Transformers).
  • This Is My Story
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. Heaven has Frannie the intake counselor, whose tasks include dispensing kool-aid and urging the girls to accept their deaths and move on. That said, she quite cruelly reminds Susie how easily her murderer lured her into a trap ("Like taking candy from a baby") mere moments after dispensing this advice. So it's not quite clear how effective a therapist she is.
  • Time Skip: An interlude chapter in the novel appropriately titled "Snapshots" illustrates this.
  • Title Drop: Before the epilogue.
  • Virginity Makes You Stupid: Justified Trope; sounds kind of weird to say The Seventies were a more innocent time, but nowadays even a kid would know not to go in that hole. Hell, to begin with, Mr. Harvey would be setting off red flags all over the place today.
  • What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Susie's in-between world is seriously trippy. Especially in the movie.
  • Word Salad Title: Just what the hell are the lovely bones? Susie refers to them as the bonds formed between people that were affected by her death.