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Bones of a Saint


When a gang pounds R.J. into ripping-off antiques from an old man he has befriended, he must find a way to save his life without sacrificing his soul.  Set in a forgotten valley near the haunting Mission San Miguel Arcangel, in 1978, fifteen-year-old R.J. rants about this summer caring for his sibs in their trailer, running cons with his dude Manny, and helping the weirdos in this lost valley. Bones of a Saint is at once a mystery as he investigates the disappearance of an abused girl and discovers secrets within his family; suspense as he defies the ruthless Blackjacks; coming-of-age as he explores his sexual awakening; and spiritual journey as he wanders through his own bizarre Catholicism. These elements are woven together through his relationship to the ancient Mr. Leguin and the secret within his root cellar.


NY TIMES 13 YA books to add to your reading 2021


BOOKLIST Top 10 Historical Fiction Youth 2021


"A celebration of the power of story...This ambitious debut invites serious contemplation as it examines the role of religion, a connection to The Canterbury Tales, and more...A compelling, unforgettable reading experience that is brilliantly executed."

   Booklist, starred review


"Bones of a Saint reads like a dream---I found myself muttering the word 'wow' over and over as I read.  My favorite stories are coming-of-age ones that find a new way into the teenage struggle, a new lens through which to view the fight for one's innocence against the adult world's corruption and chaos.  Bones of a Saint is exactly that, but there's something else---A grittiness and an honesty that earns the reader's trust from page one.  It's like nothing I've read in years."

   John Corey Whaley, National Book Award finalist for Noggin, Printz winner for Where Things Come Back


"Surreal but at the same time so real, and intensely meaningful.  This is the kind of book no one writes anymore, but that everyone wants---and needs---to read."

   Maggie Thrash, L.A. Times Book Prize nominated author of Honor Girl


"The story reads fast and tight and colorful and your eyes always feel low to the ground.  The dusty landscape and every object and every person, and even hope itself, pulls you forward toward an ending which is like the sting of a scorpion.  You may not see yourself in this book, but the book never lets you out of its sight."

   Jack Gantos, Newbery winning author


"Though RJ confronts weighty topics---among them corruption and redemption; the power of storytelling; and the haunting aftermath of war---his evocative, unflinching narrative keeps the pages turning...this suspenseful coming-of-age tale packs a punch."



"Bones of a Saint is one of the best novels in any genre that I've read in years.  It frightened me, thrilled me, and delighted me.  An indelible setting and unforgettable characters."

   Tim Hallinan, prolific author of the Poke Rafferty, Simeon Grist and Junior Bender series


"(Bones of a Saint's) literary style sets it apart from other young adult novels."

School Library Journal


"R.J.'s candid voice will engage contemporary readers in this atmospheric coming-of-age tale that effectively knits together storytelling, religion, morality, redemption, and heredity."

Publishers Weekly


"This deftly crafted coming-of-age story set in Northern California in the '70's is an inherently absorbing and fully entertaining novel."

Midwest Book Review












If you were to enter some paradox-propelled time machine, perhaps located just beyond the men's room of the Federal Bar in Burbank, and you were to emerge into a time when it was truly a bank---sometime later than 1916...let's say 1959---and you were to stroll out past white-gloved tellers onto Lankerheim, unfold your irony map, and find your way past strip malls, vacant fields, pastel housing tracts, haunted pools, delusional buildings and odd churches, you would arrive at the heart of these stories.  Stories that explore how the elements---earth, air, fire and water---can nurture or damage the lives of those living on the edge of this unique metropolis.


"Grant Farley, one of the most talented and creative writers I know, deftly combines suspense with poignant insights into the human soul in these stories.  He is a must read."

David Putnam, author of the Bruno Johnson novels, including The Vanquished


"Grant Farley has the talent for writing quiet stories in elegant prose that leave you gasping as he twists the knife when you least expect it."

Sheila Finch, ground-breaking author of the Guild of Xenolinguists universe, including Reading the Bones