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Heart Shaped Box: A Review

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9.5/10

This book was recommended to me by one of my  Twitter followers after a plea for a decent horror book, this has taught me that I can trust the advice of strangers.

I’m not going to say anything about the author though details are readily available online, I recommend reading the book before doing any research like I did!

The story starts out in a fairly formulaic way for a ghost story, but about midway through Hill really comes into his own and takes it in an original direction. I absolutely loved the tension, the creepiness and the nice mix of supernatural horror and good old fashioned real-life nastiness.

His language is deliciously compelling, once you’re in- you’re in! He has a remarkable gift for storytelling though I felt like his development of the female characters did leave a teeny bit to desired but only in comparison to the multidimensional male characters, I get the feeling this could also be because the main character was a dude. I’ll be checking out some more of his work in the future to see if my theory is correct on that one …

The main character is a retired but successful rockstar who likes bedding younger women but keeping them at an emotional arm’s length, the women are usually gothy groupies with deepseated issues- this is all well and good, even makes sense, but I find it a little bit odd that when it all hits the fan, the girlfriend character simultaneously comes into her own strength and doesn’t tell him to go take a running jump, to get herself out of harm’s way. There are explanations I could accept for this, but the author didn’t really elaborate.

The horror part was wonderful and the ghost was very creepy in a traditional way, without being too cliched. The ghost flickered in and out of existence which is a great image if you’ve ODd on Supernatural episodes and horror films like I have, he even has horrible black scribbles blotting out his eyes that I felt was a nice touch.

The ending of this book was a little unsatisfying if you’re a bit of a sadist (like me) because it all ended up ‘ice cream’ as my friend would put it- as in, all the loose ends have been tied up and everyone lives happily ever after and goes out for ice cream. Once I figure out that all the characters are going to be ok, I find a lot of the dramatic tension leaks away but this story was wonderful in that you couldn’t be sure until quite late on in the book.

All in all, I adored this book- it was very easy to get into and had some unexpected twists and turns in a very old and cliched genre. I would definitely recommend this to any horror and ghost story lovers out there.

Hideous oversimplification: Retired rockstar angers a dead dog-hating paedophile then goes on a road trip.

‘He was happy only to know about her what she wanted him to know- was something more like a selfishness. A childish willingness to remain in the dark, to avoid distressing conversations’ –  Heart Shaped Box, Joe Hill

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