Novel Lives

ARC Review of The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart: Four out of Five Stars

The Sacrifice Box is of the Horror Genre, I believe you can expect it to be disturbing. However I’m trying to get better at trigger warnings. There is, in this particular book a good bit of animal violence, overall violence, bullying

Also- very minor spoilers. I’m going to deviate in my review from other reviews I’ve seen because I always try to add something different to the mix when possible.

Four out of Five Stars

Martin Stewart‘s second book, The Sacrifice Box is released, tomorrow August 28th.

Penguin Random House (Viking Imprint) provided the ARC for a fair review and will be donated to the Saint Louis Public Library for Circulation.

What are the rules of the Fight Club?

  1. You do not talk about Fight Club.
  2. You DO NOT talk about Fight Club!
  3. If someone yells “stop!”, goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over.
  4. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight.

You might be asking why I’m bringing up Fight Club in a review of Sacrifice Box but lets be honest. Is there ever not a good time to bring up Fight Club? And did it ever go well to break the rules of Fight Club? Right. Plus, like Fight club, this box has a set of rules.

  1. Never come to the box alone.
  2. Never open it after Dark.
  3. Never take back your sacrifice.

All seems straightforward, right? When is anything straight forward for twelve-year-olds I ask you. Taking a lot of the best parts of Stephen King, Stewart starts off Stand by Me and goes straight to It in Final Jeopardy, without the thirty-year time skip (well, not for Mack, Hadley, Lamb, Arkle, and Sept). In the summer of 1982 five friends who spend a summer bonding put five sacrifices in a box, make a pact on the rules and leave. Four years later? This where our faithful heroes stand.


As you walk on by Will you call my name? As you walk on by Will you call my name? When you walk away Or will you walk away? Will you walk on by?

Each is dealing with their own individual traumas: having lost family members, self-esteem, being bullied as the nerd, for sexual preference. These things have torn them apart rather than having brought them together. Here would be where my only criticism lies. There is so much going on at once that it is really only Sept that we every truly get to know in depth. While I want to praise Stewart for going with an omniscient point of view (which is rare these days in young adult novels), I do wonder if going character by character point of view in stead might have given each character more depth and more connection to the reader.
Meanwhile, while our group of friends have been torn apart, the otherworldly box holding the long-forgotten summer of memories and sacrifices has begun to unearth itself and unleash and a horror all its own that will either further rip them to shreds (literally? You’ll have to read the book) or bring them together. The box holds yet another secret from long ago from a group of kids who once held and broke the same ritual during World War II in the 1940s. Let’s just say that piece of history isn’t done writing its tale, either. Stewart uniquely takes all this and mixes intensity and creepiness with the kind of humor cartoons like the Animaniacs, Bugs Bunny and Rug Rats won Emmys year after year (and we all watched). You know the kind… you knew as a kid it was funny, but you weren’t sure why? And you definitely didn’t understand until 20 years later what you mom and dad found so hilarious? For instance, there is a scent that I dare a teacher, parent or student to not laugh at:

    “You mean my story?” said Arkle.

    “I mean your story, yes”

    What was wrong with it? I used everything on your list.”

    Arkle fumbled with the papers o his desk and produced a crumpled sheet that was stained with food.          “Setting, characterization, dialogue, theme, plot,” he read. “I did all that, like. In order.”

      Mrs. Woodbank took off her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Those are the tools of a               writer’s craft,” she said. You’re not meant to do them one at a time.”
Ok. Maybe it is me as an ELA specialist for fifteen years and having known, observed or had these conversations but that caused me to spit water all over my poor unsuspecting cat when I read it. That wasn’t the only time, either. Completely relatable and completely on point to multiple generations.
Finally, I rarely get to talk about motif very often but the cover of this book world-wide is quite different than the version I have. You can see it on Goodreads, or Google. That along with some hints throughout the book brought me back to a duology near and dear to my hear from the past couple of years. I am not going to offer you the whole connection out right. Instead I’m going to leave you without a parting quote.

During the Six of Crows/Crooked by Leigh Bardugo Crows Duology Kaz Brekker, head of the Dregs is asked why he decided on the Crows for the head of his walking cane. He could’ve picked anything. He could’ve started a whole new moniker, symbol. Kaz simply responded with the following- something I’ve come to ask around about and it seems to be embedded pretty deeply in folklore, myths and wife’s tales….

“Crows remember human faces. They remember the people who feed them, who are kind to them. And the people who wrong them too. They don’t forget. They tell each other who to look after and who to watch out for.”- Kaz Brekker

Let’s just say the crows and maybe other forces in this novel are no different than the ones Kaz Brekker has in mind, nor the ones he often models himself after.


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