The Marrow Thieves

The Marrow Thieves

Book - 2017
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Shortlisted for 2018 CBC Canada Reads

Winner of 2017 Governor General's Literary Award (Young People's Literature - Text)

Winner of 2017 Kirkus Prize

Nominated for 2018 Forest of Reading - White Pine Awards

A Globe and Mail Best Book

Shortlisted for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award

Shortlisted for the Indigenous Literature Award

Longlisted for the Sunburst Award

Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden - but what they don't know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.

Publisher: Ontario :, University of Toronto Press,, 2017
ISBN: 9781770864863
Branch Call Number: ON ORDER 2018


From Library Staff

BPLpicks Feb 06, 2018

Chosen as a contender for Canada Reads 2018 taking place March 26-29. Read the book watch the debates on TV.

From the critics

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Jul 24, 2018

If you like this book, you will probably like A Girl Called Echo. A Métis girl leaps between the history of her ancestors past and the present, showing indigenous history as tangible instead of simply word on pages

Jul 21, 2018

This book is very moving. Frenchie makes us love his dystopian world. "The Marrow Thieves" is a wonderful book based on the future world, and indigenous peoples. The book is about indigenous peoples and "regular" people. The "regular" people have lost the ability to dream, and now they realize that the indigenous peoples still have that ability. So they set out to have as many indigenous peoples as they can. They build a machine to extract the dreams from their bone marrow. Frenchies adventures with his new friends are both sad and exciting. I really loved the whole book, but if I had to pick a favourite part I would pick the part where Minerva breaks the machine. Minerva is the eldest in Franchise tribe. She was caught, but when she was brought to the machine she sang a song from her heart. The song lyrics and the tune was strong enough to break the machine. I loved reading this book but to be honest it got a little boring at the end. The same things were repeating over and over again. But please read this book!

JessicaGma Jun 19, 2018

This book is a very smart dystopia where Indigenous people hold the secrets to help everyone dream in their bones, quite literally. Frenchie is your narrator taking you through this land where climates have warmed, and most have died of some plague. It's no wonder it's won many awards, and that ending.....Read it!

Jun 05, 2018

A novel This novel is beautifully written, reminding me of Eden Robinson’s novel, Monkey Beach. The Marrow Thieves is a departure from traditional indigenous lit however, because it's a dystopian (!) novel set in Ontario's near future! It retains some of the same mystical elements found in magical realism, but presents a harsher landscape where Frenchie and his cohorts must learn and re-learn how to survive. It's a sobering comment on the unending struggles of the Canadian Indigenous people, teaching us that a glimpse into the future can reveal yesterday's and today's repeated mistakes.

I'm not a fan of books that focus on climate change and global warming, but it wasn't an aggressive enough theme to turn me off. I enjoyed the book very much and wanted to see Frenchie survive and thrive, and without spoiling the conclusion, I will say that the ending was unsatisfying. I love open-ended endings and books that don't lay out all the answers, but this one feels like it's setting up to turn into a series, and I didn't pick it up with the mindset that I was dipping into a series. I LIKE TO KNOW.

Overall, an enjoyable read, especially for younger readers (YA and teen). It's not a standout amongst Canadian Indigenous fiction, in my opinion, not when you're competing with the likes of Thomas King or someone like Richard Wagamese (RIP), who is the KING of Indigenous fiction in my opinion.

Happy reading!

Mar 28, 2018

The Marrow Thieves opens with Frenchie’s coming-to story, a flashback that recounts how he came to be on the run in the northern bush, and who he was before the plague came. The bulk of the story is set in the bush, but several of the characters in the party share their own coming-to stories over the course of the book. Using a futuristic echo of the residential school system, The Marrow Thieves examines how Canada might repeat the horrors of the past by failing to acknowledge or reconcile with them. The science fiction element of extracting dreams from bone marrow is not deeply explored in a technical sense. Rather, the bone marrow becomes a powerful metaphor for what has been taken from Indigenous peoples, as well as the appropriation of their culture by those who have already taken their land, their resources, their homes, and their families, and are still not satisfied by the destruction they have wrought. It is a gut-churning portrayal entitlement. But despite the dark premise, and the threat that Frenchie and his friends are facing, I still found an abundance of hope in The Marrow Thieves.

Full review:

liljables Mar 19, 2018

I'm a big fan of YA, dystopian, and First Nations fiction, so The Marrow Thieves ticked a lot of boxes for me. But this story transcended all of these genres, and it was by far the most emotionally affecting novel I've read so far this year. Much like the depiction of the United States in American War (another Canada Reads contender), the future landscape of Canada created by Cherie Dimaline feels familiar and utterly plausible. Aside from the one fantasy plot point from which this book takes its name, The Marrow Thieves feels heartrendingly real. In less than 250 pages, the author creates a captivating hero in French, our teenage protagonist - I felt every triumph and every disappointment right along with him.

As is often the case, Canada Reads hit the nail on the head with this choice - The Marrow Thieves is a must-read for all Canadians.

Mar 18, 2018

Rating: 3.5/5 This story is a very interesting take on indigenous relations in Canada that is very unique and unheard of in the teen fiction genre. However, although the perspective of indigenous people being used for their ability to dream was interesting, I felt that there was no depth to the novel and I could not connect with the characters. It felt like the novel was trying to be a sci-fi but lacked the thrill. Also, there seemed to be no definitive resolution and the characters were left hanging. I wonder if that was a tactful decision made by the author in order to expand the series. Overall, the concept was interesting but the execution of the story fell flat in my opinion.
@sunsetzuzu of the Hamilton Public Library Teen Review Board

Such a moving and eye opening novel. The Marrow Thieves showed me the culture of different tribes of indigenous people and how they handle issues when it comes their way. French, an indigenous boy who is on the run north with a group he meets up with along the way, learns how to hunt and survive in the wilderness. Forming many great friendships along the way as well as romance, each person helps to guide each other to their destination, or they think they know the destination. Their goal is to run from the recruiters who capture aboriginals and take them to schools, where they harvest their dreams which they hold in their bones. When they avoid the recruiters, they find themselves question who to trust out in the bush and if where they are heading north is really safe. The past of each person is revealed along the way at the most shocking moments leaving you putting together the pieces of the puzzle to show the full picture of their lives. An amazing book and I would strongly recommend it to readers interested in young adult and fiction novels that take place in the future. 5/5
- @booklover327 of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

Mar 18, 2018

It is refreshing to read a story with indigenous characters who possess a fierce pride for their traditions and understand the stored value in the memories held by the elders. Not to be dismissed as 'just a YA book' or 'another dystopian survival story', the author makes a valuable addition to the canon.

Mar 14, 2018

Well-written. I had a hard time with the young adult fiction format and found it to be choppy and disjointed in places. I am also not a fan of dystopian fiction so it wasn't really my favorite book. This book may win Canada Reads but only because the topic has had so much air play in the last year. Other Canada Reads contenders are better written and have more to tell us.

Mar 06, 2018

I struggle with young adult as a genre. I have always struggled with young adult as a genre. I didn’t like young adult when I was a teen and instead stuck to modern classics, crime by Agatha Christie and comics. I always tried to read what everyone else was reading — it always ended the same, with a bookmark stuck 30 pages in and my returning it to the library to be forgotten about.

There’s just something in young adult that doesn’t feel genuine to me. Much like when you’re a child and you realise there’s an educational aspect to a favourite game, it often isn’t a favourite game anymore, because of its deception. I wanted to love young adult for years and still do, but the disappointment was just too much to take, so I stopped reading young adult altogether.

Until now.

Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves is short-listed to win the Canada Reads Prize for 2018 and it’ll win. I don’t think it’ll win, I know it will. I’ve read quite a few other candidates from the long list and though I love them, and some of them were five star reads, this one will win.

The Marrow Thieves is about a teenager named Frenchie who identifies as First Nations (Metis, specifically) in a post-apocalyptic world where people have gone mad, the planet is ruined and the only people who can dream are First Nations people. So they’re farmed, for their bone marrow, so that white people can dream, at the expense of their own lives.

… that’s something else that I forgot to mention.

Not only do I struggle with Young Adult as a genre, I don’t like dystopian fiction. I don’t like caste systems or blood magic or world-building with three levels and whatever other shallow representations of culture so much young adult fiction seems to come out with.

… but this feels so real. I love dystopian fiction when it’s done well — frighteningly similar to our own world, where it makes me ask questions about who I am, what I’d do if I were in that situation and how I’d survive.

THEN there’s the representation in this book. The main characters in the Marrow Thieves are a motley crew of young people and adults that Frenchie eventually finds himself with. No spoilers, but Dimaline takes time to craft each person individually. Although, with so many people, there were times when it did feel a little crowded. I wanted a book on each person in the group and so I understand if that is a drawback for some people. Frenchie meets people who are Anishnaabe, Cree, Inuit and I adore that she reiterates again and again that identity has nothing to do with blood quantum. She discusses the importance of learning language, and in each interaction between characters there lies a message for a young First Nations person reading it.

And if I think about a young First Nations person reading it, seeing smatterings of their language, talk of braids, of ceremonies, of sweetgrass written on the page, I tear up.

There’s also queer representation and a sweet, sweet romance (with no love triangles in sight thANK THE LORD) and this book feels like it came from a place of love. This novel is full of so much hope and is layered with so much story-telling. Between these pages lay thousands of promises Dimaline has crafted, for the generations present, past and future.

It had one of my FAVOURITE TYPE of endings ever! (I won't spoil it, but...)

Thank you Cherie Dimaline. I want to hug her.

EVERYONE: The Canada Reads 2018 WINNER.

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Mar 28, 2018

Everyone tells their own coming-to story. That’s the rule. Everyone’s creation story is their own.

Mar 26, 2018

"Cherie Dimaline uses Indigenous futurism to rewrite the past and reimagine the future. Bottom line, this is a book about hope, sacrifice, survival, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, healing and chosen families." - Jully Black, CBC Books


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Mar 28, 2018

Fifteen-year-old Frenchie is a survivor, the last remaining member of his family after seeing his brother snatched by the government. In a near-future where the world is falling apart thanks to the results of global warming, society is also plagued by a new problem. People have forgotten how to dream, and this dreamlessness is slowly driving them mad. Only the Indigenous population retains the ability to dream, and it is their bone marrow that seems to hold the key to why they have not succumbed to this new plague. As the madness spreads, the government takes a page from history, and begins herding the remaining First Nations people into facilities modeled on residential schools, where their marrow is harvested at the cost of their lives. The few who remain free push northward into the wilderness, trying outrun the reach of the government. But a confrontation with the Recruiters is inevitable, and one day there will be nowhere left to run.

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