The Lovely Bones, released in 2002, is Alice Sebold’s second published book, and her first published novel. The book sold almost three million copies and was on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year. The novel was translated into over forty languages. Before it was published, an excerpt of the book was run in the magazine Seventeen. The TV show i[Good Morning America] featured the novel in their book club shortly after it was published. The Lovely Bones won the Bram Stoker award for Best First Novel in 2002, and was nominated for Best Novel, both by the Horror Writers Association. The Lovely Bones received rave reviews from American critics, including the i[New York Times] critic Kakutani who commented that the novel is a “keenly observed portrait of familial love and how it endures and changes over time” and praised Sebold for her ability to capture so much in her writing. Many other American critics agreed; Publishers Weekly called the novel “a story that is both tragic and full of light and grace” and Booklist said Sebold “paints, with an artist's precision, a portrait of a world where the terrible and the miraculous can and do co-exist.” However, the reviews in Britain were not as full of praise; a number of British critics believed the novel was too sentimental and sweet.
Sebold told i[The Guardian] she writes about violence because she knows many people have experienced it and it is not uncommon. Sebold herself is a rape survivor. Another girl was also raped in the same tunnel where Sebold was attacked, and that girl did not survive - she was murdered and dismembered. While Lucky is Sebold’s story, some critics have wondered if in The Lovely Bones Sebold was trying to write the story of the other girl who was killed in the same tunnel. In The Guardian interview, Sebold said that was not her intention, but that the other girl’s story could have been subconsciously with her while she was writing. The title of The Lovely Bones refers to the relationships that form in the novel after the main character's death.
Sebold’s depiction of heaven in the novel is thought by some to be Christian. However, the heaven experienced by Susie does not include God or Jesus. Sebold meant for Susie’s heaven to be a simple view of what heaven could be like; Sebold is not religious.
Peter Jackson released a film version of The Lovely Bones in January 2010. The film starred Saorise Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci. The film received mixed reviews, and was nominated for a number of awards.