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Kallie's Review of Gwendy's Button Box by Richard Chizmar

"Wanting to know things and do things is what the human race is all about."

Gwendy Peterson is a slightly chubby 12 year-old girl nicknamed "Goodyear." Yes, because of the blimp. She is set out to lose weight before she starts middle school, so she runs up a steep set of stairs every day that are known as the Suicide Stairs in the town of Castle Rock. During one of these runs up the killer steps, she meets a strangely charming man by the name of Richard Farris. Wearing a small black hat that will come to haunt Gwendy, Farris charms her into taking a button box from him. This box, her box, made of mahogany, 2 levers and 8 hard-to-push buttons will haunt her and help her throughout the next part of her life in this dark coming-of-age horror novella. Gwendy's Button Box draws on old school horror, for me. Where you can't see the monster under the bed and the things that we don't know are scarier than the things we do. You are basically told in the first chapter what this box does, but there is still this huge mystery floating around it. What power does the box have? Why was it given to Gwendy? Who had it before her? Is Richard Farris always watching? Was the success in Gwendy's life always meant to be? Or is the box influencing her life? Are regular people more evil than what’s inside the box? Like the classic scene from Se7en, what’s in the box? While we're asking ourselves these dark questions, we're watching Gwendy grow into a beautiful young woman. We watch her have fights with friends, become a track star, study for school, go on dates, deal with grief, and find love. However, the box never leaves her mind. The whole story is enjoyable and entertaining with a ton of nostalgia - drive-ins, your first car, school dances, first jobs and obviously the supernatural (we are talking about a King, here). Though Stephen King did co-author this book with Richard Chizmar, it doesn't have as much horror as a typical King. That doesn’t mean, though, that there aren’t some cool horror scenes. The horror is there, but it’s not shoved into every crevice of every page. It is well placed exactly where it is needed. This book feels like a coming-of-age horror for those that are coming of age. It is kind of like an introduction to Stephen King for younger teens before they tear into 'It.' The writing style is a little more simplistic and the horror is way toned down, but I would recommend it to anyone in any age range. I read it in one sitting and was eager for more. But the length was perfect, any more and it would have answered too much to have the intangible horror aspect that I loved so much. And any less would have just left me mad. I could describe this book as horror that left me smiling.

I’m giving this book 4/5 stars. It was quick, fun and left me questioning the ease some humans have with violence. I do wish the writing wasn’t so simple and there was a bit more of Gwendy’s nightmares, but that’s just me.

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