Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill

An interesting thing about listening to audiobooks at work is how the variously imposed stopping points affect my feelings about the book. For example, with The Amulet of Samarkand a little bit ago, I found myself really super duper excited to hear the end of it because my iPod died in the middle of a climactic scene. In other books, quitting time has come in the middle of some less exciting story bits and so I’m simply content to wait until the next day to find out what happens.

With this book, I encountered a new situation — a book that is completely different between Day 1 and Day 2 of listening to it. Seriously, after Day 1 I came home to Scott raving about how delightfully creepy everything was, with this ghost just sitting in a chair looking out a window or with the narrator always quietly suggesting a hint of bad things to come. See, in the first half of the book we meet a Rock Star with goth-y tastes who hears about some chick auctioning a ghost on the internets and is all, “Buy it Now!” So the ghost gets bought, in the form of a potentially haunted suit which arrives in the titular box, and Rock Star is all, “That’s cool, I guess.” Until, of course, it turns out that there’s an actual ghost involved. And then when it turns out that the ghost was purposely and maliciously sent to Rock Star, things get even more creepy. And that narrator seriously had the campfire ghost story voice down. I was spooked.

But then on Day 2, it seems we don’t really care about the quietly spooky aspect of the story and now we’re more interested in the loud, “I’ma GET YOU, Rock Star!” aspect instead. And it’s not quite as interesting, possibly largely because Hill throws in a few “unexpected” plot twists and then says, “Hey, did you get that? Let me say it another way, just in case.” There’s still a lot of decently creepy stuff, and I will never look at a Denny’s the same way again, but there is a lot more focus on Hill’s message.

And I really think I would have enjoyed this book more had I read or listened to it all in one go, or maybe in thirds, so that the division between Creepy Ghost Story and Journey to Find Oneself were less stark.

As it stands, I’m a big fan of Day 1 and would go listen to it again. I’m not sure how it comes across in print, but if it’s anywhere near as chilling, I will recommend this book based on that alone.

Recommendation: For fans of Stephen King-like suspense/horror (which, Hill being King’s son, makes sense), or campfire ghost stories, or perilous Journeys to Find Oneself.

Rating: 8/10
(A to Z Challenge)

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