Review: The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart

Review: The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart

There are a few words I could use to summarise The Sacrifice Box. 

Gratuitous. Excessive. Unnecessary.

I’m struggling to comprehend how a book like this managed to get published, let alone published as a young adult novel.

Honestly, it’s my own fault. I should have known what to expect from The Sacrifice Box because I hated Martin Stewart’s first novel, Riverkeep. In fact, I only gave The Sacrifice Box two stars because it’s not as terrible as Riverkeep, but it doesn’t have any redeeming features of its own.

There are so many things that make me angry about The Sacrifice Box that I’ve decided to write a list. Here are the five things I absolutely hated about this novel:

  1. When the events happen
    The Sacrifice Box begins in the year 1982, but is primarily set in 1986 (and occasionally jumps back to 1941). There’s no real reason for it. Sep and Hadley listening to cassettes on their Walkmans is the only thing that makes The Sacrifice Box feel as though it’s set in the past. The language doesn’t feel authentic, particularly with characters using, “Shit happens”, a phrase which has a decidedly modern feel to it.
    There are links to Chernobyl and Halley’s comet, but these could be replaced with modern concerns such as global warming, nuclear weapon testing, etc.
    Honestly? I think it’s an attempt to cash in on the popularity of Stranger Things.
  2. The protagonist’s name
    Who the heck calls a child September? The other weird names – Lamb, Arkle and Mack – make sense, because they’re nicknames. But September? Seriously?!
  3. The constant jumping from location to location
    One moment we’re following Sep at school, the next minute we’re watching a woman getting pulled to her death by a subway train in New York. By the end of the novel, most of the loose threads are wrapped up, but as the events are unfolding it’s disorienting and makes it hard to keep track of what’s happening when and where.
  4. Gratuitously gory goings-on
    If you don’t like really in-depth descriptions of dead animals, this is not the book for you. I’m not opposed to a bit of gore, if it’s vital and fits with the rest of the novel. Neither of those were the case with The Sacrifice Box. There are scenes with animals in horrendous pain, a really weird section when one of Sep’s friends keeps cuddling a squirrel which has been turned inside out, and more violence towards wildlife than I’ve ever encountered before. Yes, the creatures are reanimated zombies, but it still made me uncomfortable, and it takes a lot to unsettle me.
    This is why I’m surprised that this book has been published as YA. Yes, the characters are teenagers, but the characters in IT are children and that’s an adult horror novel for a reason. If I’d gone into this expecting a horror novel, I wouldn’t have been as disturbed.
  5. That ending
    I’m not going to spoil what happens, but I’m just going to warn you that there’s an epilogue at the end of the book which is completely unnecessary and doesn’t actually resolve anything. You’re left with a lot of unanswered questions, and my most pressing one was: How were these events explained to the general public?

There were a couple of inclusions that I appreciated. Sep is deaf in one ear, but he still loves listening to music. Meanwhile, Hadley’s mother is Korean. Although the latter is a throwaway reference and we never meet her mother, it’s nice to see diversity being included, especially when it’s done so casually.

I also thought it was great that Sep and his friends weren’t afraid to ask adults for help. It made The Sacrifice Box far more realistic than the books where the teenagers save the day without any guidance whatsoever.

If I’d noticed Stewart’s name on the cover, I would never have requested The Sacrifice Box. Unfortunately, the beautiful cover and the compelling blurb grabbed my attention before I spotted the connection to Riverkeep. It’s annoying, because the concept is unique and intriguing and this should have been a book that I absolutely loved! At least now I know that I’m never going to get on with Martin Stewart’s writing.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Sacrifice Box, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon Affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!