Author: Richard Chizmar, Stephen King
Series: The Button Box #1
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
First Published: May 16, 2017
Genres: Coming of Age, Magical Realism, Young Adult
The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.
There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.
At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.
One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”
On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…Also by this author: Guns
What a fast and fun little read, Gwendy’s Button Box takes a unique spin on the wish trope and the powerful burden of choice. Young Gwendy is presented with a mysterious gift, a button box with different colored buttons and levers, the functions of which are unknown. She is given ownership of this box by a mysterious man whose intentions are unclear and whose presence seems to haunt her everywhere she goes.
Now the story is a little predictable, anyone that is familiar with the wish trope will know some of the themes that go along with it. It is also made immediately apparent who the main antagonist is, so as a reader I ended up just waiting for the eventual clash between Gwendy and this character.
“Secrets are a problem, maybe the biggest problem of all. They weigh on the mind and take up space in the world.”
Despite the simple plot, I found that I liked most of the characters. Gwendy is a pretty average kid, determined and knows her own mind, it was refreshing to see a female lead that had believable fears and concerns but was far from weak. She is intelligent and conscious of the responsibility placed on her and readers watch her grow. I actually feel that this would be a suitable book for young adult readers as Gwendy’s experiences and development are highly relatable: the pressure to be in shape, to do well in school, changing friendships, bullying, first love.
Mr. Farris was also an exciting character because he is just so ambiguous, the smiling man with a black coat and a bowler hat. What are his true goals in placing the button box in the care of a child? Even though he is clearly a threatening character there is also something disarming about him, I greatly enjoyed his character.
I thoroughly enjoyed Gwendy’s Button Box, more so than I expected. It was a refreshing little novella though if you’re looking for a thrilling scare-fest as you might expect from these two authors, you won’t find it here.
- Does it bother you that any book that King writes is automatically classified as horror?
- What are some other good examples of the wish trope done right in literature?
- Do you think that books that are co-written by multiple authors can be good?
- Read: if you enjoy YA urban fantasy and the concept of a wish box.
- Avoid: if you are expecting a scary thriller, this book is more coming of age.
- Warnings: violence