Review | Hex – Thomas Olde Heuvelt

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  • Hardcover (Hodder & Stoughton, 380 pages)
  • Published 28th April 2016
  • Translated from the original Dutch by Nancy Forest-Flier
  • Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars
  • Buy the book here

“Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s beds for nights on end. So accustomed to her have the townsfolk become that they often forget she’s there. Or what a threat she poses. Because if the stitches are ever cut open, the story goes, the whole town will die.

The curse must not be allowed to spread. The elders of Black Spring have used high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break the strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into a dark nightmare.”

This is a creepy book, I’ll say that much. It’s so creepy that I had trouble going upstairs to bed in the dark. (Yes, I do believe in ghosts, and this book is one hell of a ghost story.)

I started off a little confused – the introduction of a particular character was quite abrupt – but as I continued reading, I settled in and realised that what I was reading could quite easily be made into a film. Hex reads exactly like a piece of visual media. (At the time of writing this, Hex is being considered for a TV series by Warner Bros.) And it would work extremely well; if I’m honest, I feel as though Hex would work much better in visual format than it does as a piece of literature.

It’s a chilling novel, but I don’t know whether it’s down to the English translation or the original Dutch text that I was left feeling somewhat underwhelmed by Hex as a book. It’s a great ghost story – gruesome in parts and unnerving in others – but the ending was incredibly anti-climactic and I was left going ‘hang on – WHAT? That’s it?!’. The characters, thankfully, are memorable, however I don’t feel as though there was enough depth or emotional nuance to them – I didn’t care when certain figures died or got hurt and when you’re reading a ghost story, you want to care. Yet I didn’t. The events of the novel, at times, felt like they were being included only for shock value, and when that happens again and again, it gets tiring.

What was jarring, in addition, was the significant inclusion of social media in the novel. Normally I’d be over the moon with references in books to vlogging and Twitter and the like – but it didn’t work in Hex. It felt like an attempt to understand teenagers and young adults of the Internet without actually understanding them. And that’s a shame.

(Also, there are HUGE plotholes in the novel, but I won’t spoil them because that wouldn’t be fair.)

This book could make a great TV series, and I hope it’s done properly, because it deserves to be amazing. But as a novel, it doesn’t really work. It’s creepy, true, but that doesn’t save it from being less than it should be.

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