Gwendy's Button Box was such a pleasant surprise. It serves as a continuation (possibly even a conclusion) to Stephen King's previous novels taking plGwendy's Button Box was such a pleasant surprise. It serves as a continuation (possibly even a conclusion) to Stephen King's previous novels taking place in Castle Rock, and also references several other of his works. However, this novella also manages to stand on its own feet and doesn't need to hide behind King's more famous efforts. Whereas the premise is not as uncommon anymore after being explored countless times before, Stephen King takes things into a completely different direction with his story and allows his readers to escape into a really interesting story.
The premise is actually rather simple: a twelve-year-old girl trying to lose weight is approached by a man dressed completely in black and is given a box by him with a number of buttons. In the beginning, it remains ambiguous what these buttons actually mean, but they end up shaping Gwendy's life nevertheless. The box also includes two levers, one of which gives her magical chocolate everytime she pushes it, and the other one gives her silver dollars. She is only told that each of the other buttons represents a certain continent, but what happens if you push these buttons? Would you, the reader?
It's an almost classic formula, perhaps most well-known thanks to Richard Matheson's short story Button, Button: Uncanny Stories. But King includes so many different twists and turns and actually manages to induce this formula with new breath. It's an immersive, engaging novella which can easily be read in the course of two hours, and proves that King hasn't lost his ability to tell wonderful stories. At just a little over 100 pages, it struck me the most how the characters were portrayed in such a thoughtful way. Even if you might expect the focus to be lying on the plot development, King still always manages to create memorable characters who drive the story along themselves....more
Emma Cline's debut novel has been promoted as a literary sensation and a "sensual, disturbing trip through a late-60s California". Upon initially starEmma Cline's debut novel has been promoted as a literary sensation and a "sensual, disturbing trip through a late-60s California". Upon initially starting this book, I was impressed by the author's sophisticated and complex writing style, especially since young authors of her age often tend to attempt presenting a new direction for the YA/Fantasy/Dystopia genres. Cline isn't afraid to delve into a completely different and yet very interesting genre. Perhaps it was her age and the promotion which fooled many people into expecting something different from the novel, ultimately resulting in the surprisingly low average rating it received since its publication.
The Girls are several women from different age groups during the violent end of the 1960s who are part of a murderous cult. Our protagonist, Evie Boyd, is introduced as a lonely and tempted teenager who longs to discover more from this world than only the confinements of her upbringing, which leads her to the culmination of her path in a violent and uncontrollable circle of self-destruction. Both the novel's concept and execution are very original, and the unique writing style is something Emma Cline will be recognized for, even though it is ultimately up to her whether The Girls is going to remain a one-hit wonder.
Many reviewers on Goodreads have pointed out the strengths of this novel, and I am going to direct you towards those more encouraging reviews since this is obviously not a novel for everyone. My rating originates in a personal problem with the author's writing style, as I ultimately realized that I wasn't as engaged with the novel as I had hoped to be. I suspect many readers have experienced the feeling of reading a book which you could easily appreciate for its insightful contents and the interesting plot, yet were unable to really get immersed in - that's what happened for me. Evie Boyd's fate was an interesting one to follow throughout the novel, but unfortunately the very diverse minor characters remained pale and colorless for me.
Right now, Emma Cline's novel is nominated for the title of "Best Fiction" in the Goodreads Choice Award 2016. I wouldn't be surprised to see it win in this specific category. But there is no doubt that this is a novel which will continue to leave its readers polarized in their opinions.
(Actually, this book has grown on me since I have originally read it a few years ago, hence I am changing my rating from two to three stars. I might actually even reread it one day - who knows?)