The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
Copyright Date: 2017
Reading Age: 13-17
Reading Level: Grades 8-12
Awards: Governor General's Literary Award, Kirkus Prize, Sunburst Award, Amy Mathers Teen Book Award, Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Young Adult Literature
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
In the near future, the world has been irrevocably altered by climate change. Pockets of humanity still exist, but the majority have lost their ability to dream. Only the Indigenous peoples of North America still seem capable of dreaming, so they are being hunted in order to harvest their bone marrow, the key to bringing dreams back to the rest of humanity. Frenchie and his motley group of companions fight their way through a dystopian landscape, trying to stay alive. But the harvesters are only ever one step behind.
The story of Indigenous people losing everything to those with more power is not new, but there is something about reading a dystopian novel about the very near future set in North America that makes for a haunting story that is hard to forget. Frenchie and the rest of the group's experiences as they try to survive being hunted because of what they possess rings so true and feels like it could be something that is written about in the paper tomorrow. Using the connection of the people of a land still being able to tap into the magic of that land is a compelling way to think about environmentalism and where people fit into the world of nature. As a quest tale, the characters in the Marrow Thieves experience the bonding and challenges that have been outlined since Tolkien penned the Lord of the Rings. The harvesters of dreams carry the same sort of dread as the all seeing eye of Sauron. Frenchie and his crew know that at any moment, they may be discovered, but they are going to fight for their lives and fight to avoid being plundered like the Earth itself. The narrative about the lost cultures of the different tribes that find themselves in the same place, struggling to avoid capture is just as heartbreaking as the loss of characters to the hunters. One of the ideas that surfaced again and again in the telling was the idea that a people who have lost the oldest and youngest among them have lost both their roots and their need to protect. The Marrow Thieves examines what it means to have history and what it means to lose it as well as how hollow existence is without a connection to the world around us.
The world has almost been destroyed by climate change. When there is not much left to live for, the people in power will come to harvest your dreams.
About the Author
Cherie Dimaline's 2017 book, The Marrow Thieves was declared by TIME magazine, one of the Best YA Books of All Time. This international bestseller has won the Governor General’s Award and the prestigious Kirkus Prize for Young Readers, and was named a Book of the Year on numerous lists including the National Public Radio, the School Library Journal, the New York Public Library, the Globe and Mail, and the CBC. Her newest novel Empire of Wild (Random House Canada, William Morrow US, Weiden and Nicolson UK) became an instant Canadian bestseller and was named Indigo's #1 Best Book of 2019. It was featured in The New York Times, the New Yorker, GOOP, and the Chicago Review of Books among others.
Cherie spent many years working in and for Indigenous communities and now lives in her home territory where she is a registered and active member of the Georgian Bay Metis Community. She is currently writing for television, working on a new novel as well as adapting Empire of Wild for the stage and screen. Hunting By Stars (Abrams US and Penguin Canada), the hotly anticipated sequel to The Marrow Thieves, will be released in October 2021. (About the author and photo can be found here.)
Booktalking Ideas: Canadian geography, the idea of dreams and remembering them, what would we be without dreams?
Challenge issues: LGBTQIA+, violence
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This is a story that stayed with me for a long time after finishing it. I needed to sit with it for a bit before beginning another book. The allegories in the novel brought the hopelessness of loss that many Indigenous peoples face to the forefront in a compelling, heart-breaking way. The novel is also fascinating, a dystopian near-future in which only a few still dream.