Heart-shaped Box

Heart-shaped Box

Book - 2007
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A collector of obscure and macabre artifacts, unscrupulous metal band musician Judas Coyne is unable to resist purchasing a ghost over the Internet, which turns out to be the vengeful spirit of his late girlfriend's stepfather.
Publisher: New York : William Morrow, c2007.
ISBN: 9780061147937
0061147931
Characteristics: 376 p. ; 24 cm.

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From Library Staff

Aging rocker Judas Coyne has a taste for the macabre. He cannot pass up the opportunity to purchase a haunted suit, a decision he comes to regret when his life and the life of his girlfriend fall into jeopardy.


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SLDESLIPPE
Nov 09, 2020

Ever get the feeling that the book you finished isn’t quite the same as the book you started? I don’t mean like a full-fledged, Game of Thrones about-face that made you wonder if a whole new team of writers was hired that knew nothing other than the names of the principle characters. I mean a subtle, uncanny valley-esque transition that makes you feel that the author ultimately did not write the book s/he intended to write at the beginning. That’s kind of how I feel about Heart Shaped Box.

Based on the book description and the first few chapters, I get the feeling that Hill intended to write the main character Judas Coyne as a monster. He keeps no shortage of macabre memorabilia in his home, which goes well past the sort of endearingly quirky Addams Family material and straight on to American Psycho. The book description implies that he’s a pathological heart-breaker and serial narcissist but the truth is I thought he was just kind of a dick. This makes things difficult when the ghost arrives. Had the character been more evil, the reader might have had more ambivalent or conflicted feelings about the protagonist which could have heightened the tension. It would have forced us to ask what we want to see happen to Coyne and (by extension) wonder what that says about us. On the other hand, had Coyne been totally innocent, the story could still have worked as a classic ghost story and the tension would come from whether or not he was able to escape. The final product feel somewhere in the middle and instead of pleasing both sides of the coyne (get it?), ultimately rang a little hollow.

Complicating matters is the twist in the second act that changes both the hero’s objective and the background story of the ghost. I won’t give it away but essentially it exaggerates the distinction between good and evil that sort of undercut any ambiguity established in the first half of the book. This change in circumstances leaves the hero feeling somewhat vindicated to the point that he doesn’t express remorse for his previous behavior. Like I said, he wasn’t a terrible person, but he could be selfish and having him apologize to the people he wronged could have led to a more complete character arch. As is, the story left me feeling a little flat.

To be clear, I liked this book. The premise is really engaging, the pacing is crisp and I certainly cared about the outcome. I just feel that it would have been stronger if the author had been a little more stark or committed in his initial description of the main character and the motivations of the ghost.

LCPL_Cindy Oct 21, 2020

All comparisons to his dad aside, Joe Hill knocked it out of the park with this one! I finished the book and had to sleep with the lights on.

j
jazimmermann
Aug 14, 2020

I loved the premise. The book started so good, so creepy, and with such potential....and then fizzled. While it was a page-turner, it was just okay. I found the character development strange and not entirely believable, and the sexual abuse just cringey. I thought NOS4A2 was far better.

KHCPL_Wagner Oct 18, 2019

This horror novel features a haunted suit.

s
smatte
Jul 30, 2019

Heart-Shaped Box is a creepily psychological suspense novel that turns the conventional ghost story sideways. Being raised by Stephen King probably didn't hurt Joe Hill's ability to spin such an entertaining yarn in his debut novel, and Judas Coyne is exactly the kind of flawed protagonist King fans love to read about. However, Hill isn't a carbon copy of his dad; he has a unique style, but the apple fell close enough to the tree that fans of one are likely to become fans of the other, and there's no question that Hill learned some great tricks of the spooky story trade from King the Elder. If you're looking for a suspense novel with just enough violence and gore for occasional discomfort, look no further. The only real drawback is that you may be saddened to find that you've read the last page.

h
harrisaj7
Jul 03, 2019

In the mood for a scary story? Try this book! I don’t often get scared, but there are definitely some parts of this story that made me want to keep the lights on at night. This storyline was also unusual because there were parts where I thought it would wrap up everything but then something creepy would come around the corner.

BostonPL_KirstenD Jan 09, 2019

I wouldn't call this book bad, but it definitely wasn't my favorite Joe Hill novel. While most people recommend starting with this one, as it is Hill's debut, I found that it lacked the substance of his other novels (Horns would be a better starting point, in my opinion, although NOS4A2 is my favorite!). The ghosts with the scribbles over their eyes were deliciously creepy, but much of the book's other content seemed like it was more there to shock the reader with its perverseness than it was to scare. I will say that it was an absolute pageturner, though; I devoured it in a day. I don't regret reading it, even if I was a little let down overall.

sit_walk Oct 19, 2018

This was Joe Hill's first novel and it's a pretty good page-turner. Could have done with a little less introspection on the part of the main character and a little more horror (for a supposed horror novel there's actually very little that's scary here), but a decent first outing.

s
sat7
May 17, 2018

Joe Hill. Explosive entry to Novel craft. Good read. I read this twice -

m
Marti500
Dec 26, 2017

Joe Hill stands on his own. You can read this because he's Stephen King's son, and there are elements about his writing you can't help but compare, but Joe HIll is definitely a different generation and has his own style and flair. This was the first book I read by him and I enjoyed it a great deal. I like ghost/supernatural stories the best and this was right there.

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mvkramer Feb 13, 2017

Sexual Content: A graphic and rather disturbing masturbation scene. Implied sexual abuse of children.

mvkramer Feb 13, 2017

Violence: There are some very bloody fight scenes, especially at the end. Trigger warning for violence against animals.

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PimaLib_WilliamB May 06, 2015

What happens when you buy a dead man's suit off E-Bay? In this case, you also inherit the man who died in it. And for an aging morbid rock star, this could prove to be quite a challenge to his mental state of mind. Filled with references to rock music including each chapter dedicated to a song.

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shansen91
Jul 17, 2019

Another book I zipped through quickly; it was hard to put down. Hill manages to write the two worst people as protagonists that I would up rooting for in the end.

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