Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Boxed In by Bird Box

Close your eyes and think about putting on a blindfold and maneuvering your way through life, especially when you are outside. This is what has become the norm for the people who remain in Josh Malerman's debut novel Bird Box.
Bird Box
by Josh Malerman

I have to say I was intrigued when a friend posted a comment about this book on Goodreads (and subsequently Facebook). Evidently high school students are flocking (pardon the pun) to this book. My guess is because it is darker than other books they have read in this same genre - Dystopia. When I was in high school I loved reading horror novels. I started reading Stephen King when I was a freshman. I would never say Josh Malerman, with his first novel, is the new Stephen King, but to young people this might just fit the bill for them. Me, not so much.

According to the Reader's Bill of Rights, I have "The right to not finish" any book I pick up to read. Well, let it be known I am no quitter (well sometimes I am, simply because I can't stand the direction in which a book is going)! However, I did finish the book. It took me A LOT longer than most books to read because I just couldn't get into the story as much as I desperately wanted. 

The Readers Bill of Rights

To start with, the book is NOT considered a YA (young adult) book. It is an adult book. An adult book written, I believe, based on the popularity of current YA books which have recently been made into movies, for instance the Hunger Games trilogy, the Divergent series, and even The Testing series which was acquired by Paramount Pictures a year ago, but has not been made into a movie as of yet. Ruth Graham's article from The Slate Book Review says "Adults should be embarrassed to read young adult books." Since I am a fence rider, I can see both sides to this argument. When an author writes a book, I believe they have a target audience in mind. Is the book solely for that target audience? No. Should it be? Of course not! Will others want to read the book? Hopefully. Isn't that the point of writing? To have your work be read? I ride the fence here because as Graham says, "There's a special reward in that feeling of stretching yourself beyond the YA mark, akin to the excitement of graduating out of the kiddie pool and the rest of the padded trappings of childhood: It's the thrill of growing up." Yes, I agree with this statement. There is a completely new realization when, as an adult you begin to read all written works in a very different manner than you did as a teen, or young adult. I can see that in myself as a fortysomething. My book choices have changed somewhat over the years. Yes, I still love the mysteries and thrillers, but I have also grown to love biographies, historical fiction, and fantasy. My spectrum has broaden a great deal in my time as a reader. Do I think adults should be embarrassed to read YA novels? HELL NO! My goal as a reader and an advocate of reading is to pair a person with the right book for them. If that book is a YA book, then hand them that book to read. If that book is a picture book ~ give it to them! Reading is reading, no matter what the material may be, or what it may be labeled. Okay, I will now step down from my soapbox and get on with my review of Bird Box. Thank you for my time to rant a little.

Like I said before, I did finish the book. Did I enjoy it? Yes and no (I warned you, I am a fence rider!!).
I was intrigued by the concept of the book. When mysterious "creatures" appear around the world, those who see them turn violent toward others and themselves. Thus the words below the title, "Don't open your eyes". Malorie, the main character sets out with her two young children on an intense river adventure which is even more horrifying when you remember they are blindfolded. With an increased sense of hearing because of the intense training Malorie has put the children through in four years time, the children must help her navigate blindly through the river and all it holds between the only home they have ever known and the safety and security Malorie hopes to find at the end of the twenty mile journey. Mingling the past and present, Malerman provides Malorie's background story (what happened to her family, how she arrived at the home she has lived in for five years, and how she knows to travel on the river to safety) and the incredible
journey she and her children must make in order to get to a safer location.

As I write this review I am beginning to see how this book could capture the imagination of young adults. The fear of the unknown. The darkness, the horror of knowing something is there, but if you open your eyes to see it you will not survive. Horror is what you make of it. What you read into it and how you wrap yourself in the belief that it is real. Fully accepting the circumstances and putting yourself in the place of the character(s). We feel empathy for characters in books filled with sadness and sorrow. We feel the joy of characters who are empowered. We feel the suspense, tension, and angst Malorie must feel as as she sets forth on a journey which may only take her and her children to their untimely deaths. 

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