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Book Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman (5/5)

12 Oct

It’s been a long time since I found a book I couldn’t put down. Even some of the books I’ve read recently that have gotten 5 stars weren’t so engrossing I couldn’t put them down. Bird Box was a welcome surprise. I actually turned down pizza and cornhole to finish this book. Yeah, that’s right. I had twenty pages left, how could I stop then?

Bird Box

Cover image via Goodreads

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Summary from Goodreads:

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

I was skeptical at first. I’ve read a lot of books that jump forward and backward in time and have been annoyed by it. So I started out with a bitter taste in my mouth but that quickly went away. The past story is rushing to catch up with the present story and it helped the books pace a lot for me. You see the beginning of the creatures and you see how bad it got and the whole time you’re asking yourself, “How could it get this bad? And where did everyone go?” Well, I’m not going to ruin that for you because it all comes rushing out at the end in a wonderful mass of story. I know that doesn’t make sense. Just read this darn book, okay?

I liked Malorie and the other housemates. There were resourceful and found ways to do what they needed to in order to survive. I was surprised not all of them were as cynical as Don. I found him very believable. He was scared, rightfully so, and wanted to protect himself. The others seemed more giving and trusting ad I’m truthfully not sure I could have been so welcoming.

Tom was my favorite character. Maybe because he was Malorie’s favorite, she got me to like him, but he was a good leader for the house. He helped them establish a way to live in the house without daily fear, but he was also determined to make things better for the all. He was progressive but not overly so. He was worried about ending up like George and trying something too dangerous.

The idea of being afraid of something unknown is universal. It might be a blind date or a new job or your first day of college, but most humans have felt that sense of unease or fear when something is going to happen that you’ve never experienced before. I related to that feeling in the characters though situations I’ve been in were less deadly. It’s a feeling no one likes and no one is really comfortable with and I think that’s a great element of horror to use in a book such as this.

Image via Twitter

Josh Malerman. Image via Twitter

I don’t want to give too many details about my favorite part of the book because it comes right at the end as Malorie is about to find what she’s been searching for. She was so brave in that scene and reading about her overcoming something so frightening was encouraging and helped me see her strength as a character and a mother.

There’s one basic part of this story that bothered me. How did people know it was looking at something that caused the madness? This theory seemed to have been established very early on in the world and I didn’t get it. Why not an airborne virus? How did they know it was seeing something? This kept bugging me the whole time and I never felt it was properly answered, especially because people didn’t know if there were really creatures at all for a long time.

I also wondered why her children were referred to as Boy and Girl for so long when they obviously had names in her mind. They didn’t know their own names. I felt that was very removed of mother and children. It made me sad.

And the title. I know what the Bird Box was, but I’m not sure it deserved the title. Just a personal opinion.

Fear of the unknown is almost universal. I’m sure there are people who don’t fear new situations, but there are those like myself who are uneasy at a facing something for the first time, be it a person or a situation. For years, Malorie let her fear control her. She let the unseen creatures and her lack of knowledge about them and what they could do keep her hidden. Overcoming that fear can be terrifying and we might need something to motivate us to do it. For Malorie, it was her children who kept her focused and determined. It was for them that she overcame her fear. Being a mother kept her alive.

Writer’s Takeaway: I enjoy the short chapters. In suspenseful books, it helps keep the book moving well. It also serves well for jumping forward and backward in time like Malerman was doing. I’m a fan of this part. I think he did a good job of building an antagonist that we were afraid of without knowing anything about. That can be hard to do, but the fear was real in me. I was camping when I read this and I was snuggling deeper into my sleeping bag, terrified those in the tent near me were going to come over and kill me. It was great!

Couldn’t stop reading, couldn’t put it down. Loved it, a full Five out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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