A horror story about friendship, growing up, and finding a place in the world: Gremlins meets The Breakfast Club by way of Stephen King and Stranger Things.
1982, the summer before seventh grade. Five kids with nothing in common–Sep, Arkle, Hadley, Lamb, and Mack–become instant friends. On the last day of summer, they find a stone box buried in the forest, and each places an object inside to seal their friendship. And they make rules:
Never come to the box alone.
Never open it after dark.
Never take back your sacrifice.
1986, the summer before eleventh grade. The five haven’t spoken since that day in 1982. Sep has gone through the past four years alone and plans to escape to boarding school. But strange things are happening–mirrors are breaking unexpectedly, electricity is flickering in and out, and people are coming down with inexplicable physical ailments.
Someone has broken the rules. And it seems the five committed more than objects to the box’s ancient stone–they gave it their deepest secrets and darkest fears, and now these are being returned in a flood of shambling corpses, murderous toys, and undead pets. The gang must reunite in an attempt to discover the secrets of the sacrifice box–and Sep might be the only one who can stem its tide of evil before it’s too late.
Martin Stewart has previously worked as an English teacher, university lecturer, barman, recycling technician, and golf caddy. A native of Glasgow, he now lives on Scotland’s west coast with his wife, baby daughter, and a very big dog. He enjoys cooking with eggs, running on the beach, re-watching his favourite films, and buying books to feed his to-be-read pile. Follow him on Twitter @martinjstewart and Instagram @martin_j_stewart.
I was not entirely sure what I was getting myself into when I started this book. Creepy? Sure, I’m game. Mystery? Yeah, I’m always down. Horror? If it is written correctly, of course. This was a nice mix of everything I just mentioned.
Short recap: During one summer in the late 70s, September “Sep” and four unlikely friends discover a mysterious box in the woods. They all decide to sacrifice something personal and valuable to the box to cement their friendship. Fast forward four years: Sep and the others are no longer really friends. But they are forced to band together to figure out who opened the mysterious box and why their sacrificed possessions are coming for them.
I was hooked from the beginning of this story. Random kids sacrificing objects to a chest in the woods in order to seal their friendship? What could possibly go wrong? A lot, apparently. There were rules that the kids were supposed to follow: never return to the box at night; they’ll never visit it alone; and they’ll never take back their offerings. Someone did not follow these simply rules and things get creepy, spooky, and terrifying … quickly. Why was I hooked so early on? Simple – I had questions that needed answers: Why was the box in the woods? Where did it come from? Who were the people that sacrificed before them and what happened to them? What happens if someone breaks the rules?
I will pause here to give a mild warning – there are some triggers that might upset some people. There is animal cruelty within the pages of this book. I, for one, do not have any patience or tolerance for said animal cruelty. Zero. HOWEVER, I feel it was not a huge trigger for me. Why? Because it was always implied but (thankfully) never spelled out in detail like some other stories. This is your warning just in case.
Continuing on. There were a lot of characters within this story and those characters had backstories. That being said, there were an awful lot of flash backs and flash forwards. There were several groups of kids involved with this sacrifice box so be aware that you could potentially get a little lost.
Regardless, this was one crazy ride. Not all of the characters were bad and not all of their stories were bad. While it is a horror story, it is also a coming of age story about friendship and facing your fears. I know this review is pretty vague but I did that in the hopes you would be intrigued enough to give this book a chance.
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