Review: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

heart shaped boxIf you have the Nirvana song in your head, join the club. You know how sometimes you get an earworm, and you can’t figure out why? Well, this was me with “Heart-Shaped Box” (the song) for the weeks while I was reading “Heart-Shaped Box” (the book) (no connection). I’d be walking around hearing “Hayyyyyyyy! Waiiiiittttt! I’ve got a real complaint…” in my head and wonder how it got there. And then I’d remember the link between the two.

In any event, other than the fact that it triggered this musical association, this book was straight up creepy. Joe Hill is a pseudonym; the author’s name is Joseph Hillstrom King. You may have heard of his daddy, Stephen. (Personally, if my dad had that kind of fame, I might be tempted to milk it for all it’s worth. But Joe maybe wanted to make a name for himself by writing in the exact same genre as his dad. I don’t know.) So we know Joe has a pedigree for writing creepy shit. He kind of grew up alongside of it.

This is the second Joe Hill book I’ve read, the first being NOS4A2, which I loved. This one was a little bit harder for me to get behind. Not that it wasn’t good; I still enjoyed it. But NOS4A2 was a “can’t put down” kind of book for me whereas HSB was a “yeah, maybe I’ll read a few pages after I beat this level of Candy Crush” type of book for me. (Do people still play “Candy Crush?” I have actually never played it, but you get the idea. I could find other things to do besides read this book.)

Jude, a rock star past his prime but still living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, buys a “haunted” suit off of an eBay-type site. As a collector of strange items, this suit intrigued him, though he had zero expectations that it would actually be haunted. Well, guess what.

Turns out the old man whom the suit belonged to kind of wants to kill Jude. His ghostly form shows up and starts infiltrating Jude’s thoughts, taking over TV and radio broadcasts with messages for Jude telling him to kill his girlfriend … you know, typical ghost stuff. Craddock, as the man is called, happens to be his ex-girlfriend, Florida’s, stepfather. Florida, aka Anna, killed herself after breaking up with Jude (allegedly), and Craddock is seeking vengeance (allegedly). The whole post on eBay was a set-up; the suit was always meant for Jude.

Yadda yadda, spoiler alert, some dogs die and this PISSED ME OFF. Kill off all the characters but leave the sweet babies alone!!!

Also look out for:

  • Loss of limbs
  • Daddy issues
  • Hypnotism
  • Car crashes
  • Pigs

In terms of whether or not I’d recommend it, I’ll give it a solid thumbs up if you’re into horror but don’t want something too gory. This has its gross moments but nothing too terrible. But if you just want to check out Joe Hill’s writing, based on the two books of his I’ve read, I’d say to go with NOS4A2. Or just read one of his dad’s classics!

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