With all of the hype of the Netflix movie, and knowing that my fellow readers consider it to be one of the scarier books they have read, I wanted to experience Bird Box before I did anything else. Unfortunately, I was unable to avoid all of the spoilers out there while I was reading it, so I know my feelings about the story are not what they could be had I been able to finish it without knowing anything.
First, the dislikes. I am not a fan of the ending. I feel like it is anti-climatic. We spend all this time following Malorie in the past as she adapts to this new world of darkness and enclosure that we are genuinely vested in her present trip to safety. We want her to succeed and find that freedom she wants for her children. However, I don’t feel she finds it. Sure, there are signs she feels comfortable in her new surroundings to relax the rules, but I feel like the ending is a bit of a copout. I don’t expect closure, but I do think Mr. Malerman could give us a bit more than he did.
I also struggle with what message Mr. Malerman is trying to share. Because he makes Malorie so capable, is he trying to show that being blind is not a handicap? Or is the fact that people fear not being able to see almost as much as they fear the creatures a dig at those who are blind? Then there is Gary and his crazy person theory. Doesn’t it stigmatize those with mental health issues? I cannot discuss this in greater detail without giving away a key plot point, but I am not certain Gary’s theory is a good thing. I almost feel as if Gary’s argument damns those with mental health issues more than the creatures ever could.
Now, the likes. I do think Mr. Malerman did an awful lot with his sparse prose. We may not know what the creatures look like but damn if they are not some of the most terrifying beings to grace the written page. There may not be much in character development, but we still know each person’s inherent faults and strengths. We may not know exactly what hell Malorie is going through trying to navigate her way down a river while blindfolded, but we can certainly close our eyes and try to do something as simple as walking around our house without hurting ourselves to understand the gargantuan amounts of inner strength it takes to undertake such a journey. There is not much in exposition, but we know each and every change in the area because of the creatures. We understand the breakdown of society and just how miraculous the idea of a small group of people living together in relative harmony truly is. Mr. Malerman establishes this knowledge with few words and fewer descriptions, spending most of his time on actions and thoughts. It is an impressive bit of storytelling.
Is it scary? I have heard the movie is not scary. I do think the book is terrifying in that way that only the unknown can be. To the sighted, living in a world without sight is one of the scariest things that can happen, and Mr. Malerman plays on that fear of the unknown something that lies in the dark. That being said, the story did not keep me up at night, nor did it cause nightmares. I stayed up past my bedtime solely because I wanted to know what happens and not because I was terrified to close my eyes. I can also say that I doubt I have the mental strength to remain hidden behind boarded-up windows and doors. My curiosity to know who or what is out there would get the better of me, and I most definitely do not have it in me to train my children as Malorie did. Recognizing this in myself makes me appreciate Malorie’s journey that much more.