Who knew vampires could be kind of boring?

NOS4A2 - Joe Hill

This is a really hard review to write because, having really enjoyed Joe Hill's other books, I REALLY wanted to love this book and I didn't.  NOS4A2 felt like a story that started out pretty well, then went nowhere for 450 pages.

 

The beginning is strong - we meet Vic, AKA The Brat, a young girl that develops a talent for finding lost objects with the aid of a bridge, though her talent takes a toll on her body and mind every time she uses it.  Her childhood is interesting.  We also meet Manx, the vampire, through Bing, his right-hand man.  The spookiest scene in the book is the cemetery scene with Bing and Manx visiting the dead children trapped under ice.  REALLY creepy - if the book had included more scenes like this, it would have been much, much better.  I ended up hating the main character, Vic, because as an adult she made the dumbest decision possible at every turn, and got super-whiny.  I forgave her poor decision-making skills when she was a kid, up to the point where she sought out Sleigh House, and met and escaped from Manx, because hey, she's a teenager and we all do stupid, reckless stuff as teenagers but the DUMB-with-a-capital-D stuff she pulled as an adult was too much.  Also the whining.  Vic's whole outlook on life is "nobody in the world could possibly ever love meeee because my daddy left my mom when I was 12."  Vomit.  I cannot stand female characters written this way.  Does divorce suck? Yeah.  I know, my parents are divorced.  But you know what, I got over it.  Her meltdown felt so forced after he spent so much time building up what a sassy, strong kid she was.

 

Also on the disliked character's list, Wayne, Vic's son.  I thought the author needed to either make him younger or write him more like a 12 year old in 2013, because he was the most immature 12 year old character I've read in a long time.  He really read like he was 6.  He seems to have inherited Vic's terrible decision making gene, because when he's kidnapped by Manx, he makes ridiculous decision after ridiculous decision, which left me wanting to scream "good god kid, you're 12, act like it!" His grandmother appears to him and TELLS HIM EXACTLY WHAT TO DO but he's like, "whatev, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy becoming a vampire."  He doesn't even try to fight or think about it, just goes with the flow. 

 

I also wasn't scared or even creeped out by Manx, the vampire.  I felt like there wasn't nearly enough development of his character, even though he's the title character.  You really don't learn much about him.  He's a creepy old dude with a fancy old car that turns kidnapped kids into vampires of some sort.  You never learn anything about his motivations, how the Wraith's magic works, what kind of vampires we're talking about here, or even why it's so bad that he's taking kids to Christmasland.  You're just told it's a bad place, the end, no further explanation needed.  Tell me more about the creepy games the vampire kids were playing! Scissors for the drifter and bite the smallest sound terrifying! Get into that!

 

Finally, the ending was also not good for me.  I felt like it was a giant cliche' cop out to let Vic die.  The harder ending would have been to make her live and figure her shit out.  I didn't like that Lou ended up with Hutter either.  Again, cliche'.  The only part of the end that I did like was the ornaments and the return of the kids when their ornament was smashed.  THAT was creepy and interesting and I would have liked him to expand on that aspect.  I did like the little Easter egg tucked into the paragraph about the font at the back of the book.  Look for it - it's an awesome tease.  Now I just have to hope that the author follows up on it with a better book than this one.  Overall, it's not a bad book, it's just not as good as Heart-Shaped Box or Horns. If you're going into it with lower expectations than mine (and without my pet peeve of a weak female character), I think you'll enjoy it.