I've said before that I tend not to get too scared reading books. Even books that are in the horror or thriller genre that are meant to be frightening usually don't give me shivers. The only books I avoid reading at night are those heavy or depressing ones that threaten to send me spiraling into a funk at bedtime.
Then I read Bird Box.
Holy schnikeys is this book scary. I read it in full daylight with the sun streaming in through the front window, and I still found myself jumping every time the floor creaked.
The thing is, considering the premise of the book, I probably would have felt safer with the curtains tightly shut. A woman, Malorie, and two children are sequestered in a house that is completely shut off from the outside world. Blankets and cardboard cover all the windows. The children sleep under makeshift chicken wire cages covered with black fabric. When they do venture out, to get water from the well in the yard or to empty the latrine buckets, they do so blindfolded.
Beyond their house lies a suburban street, full of empty homes and abandoned cars. Something is out there—something that created a worldwide panic. Something that Malorie can't let herself or the children see.
Because whenever people see this Something, they kill themselves.
It's a fantastic premise that only improves with Malerman's execution. He expertly cranks up the tension, detailing the paranoia and hysteria resulting from such a strange plague. Malorie is tenacious, resourceful, even as she is wracked with terror. In deliberately paced flashbacks, we slowly learn how Malorie and the children ended up in the house alone, with supplies and hope dwindling. And it's really freaking scary.
Malerman clearly knows that what scares us most is what we can't see, and he plays with that notion to great effect. Bird Box is an intelligent, vivid horror story—and it scared the pee-widdly out of even this genre skeptic. Read this one with the lights on, sure, but most importantly, make sure the curtains are drawn.