"This book lacked something for my heart. It checked all the horror boxes and all the technical merit boxes but there wasn't anything for my heart box."I was reading the review to my husband and he noticed it too. He asked me about these "horror boxes" and after we discussed it awhile, he suggested I develop the ideas into something more tangible that I can use for future reviews.
So that's what I did. I carefully considered what these "boxes" might be so that when I'm reading a horror book, I can think critically and logically about them and make concrete judgments about them.
So my Horror Boxes, when you stack them up right, look like a body.
The Head: This box is for all the technical aspects. The biggest box. I ask a lot of questions that get dumped into this box for me to unpack during a review: Was the plot a fully formed idea? Were there plot holes? What was the narration style? Is the writing compelling? Could I follow the story? Did parts ramble, lag, move too quickly? Too many characters? Not enough. Big info dumps? This is an important box simply because so much stuff goes in here.
The Heart: This is a very important component and it's one that if I peer inside of it at the end of the book and the box is empty, it will weigh heavy on my overall score of the book. For me personally, horror is only *really* good if the author invites me into it. The author must give me something to invest in. I want to give my heart over to the book and have it be squeezed or manipulated or broken. This is the risky behavior that I've come to enjoy when reading this genre. It's where the SCARES come in! You want me to be scared right?? This is HORROR! SCARE ME! This doesn't happen unless I've filled up this heart box. Otherwise, I'm just an observer--I'm just watching. So many books are like that for me. I'm just standing on the sidelines and the book is just throwing all kinds of violence and gore at me and I'm getting dirty but my heart isn't in the game and at the end of the day, that's not going to do it for me.
The Hands: This box is just skill and skill alone. Did this book make me feel like I was in capable hands or not? Different than the Head box because there aren't any questions other than that and it's based on my personal connection with the writing so it's super subjective. It's all feel.
The Teeth: I read a book recently where I felt like the author was dancing around the horror. It never really went there and I wanted it to tip the scales and just rip it open. No horror fan wants to read a book that won't deliver. It's why we show up. We're looking to hit pay dirt and if the author pussyfoots around with the violence or the gore or the stakes aren't raised, then it's not really horror and I'm bored. Give me teeth. BITE. I want to be like, "Oooooo there it is!!"
The Eyes: Just like with my food, I eat with my eyes first. I like a good cover on my physical copy. I like pretty title pages. I like a good font on the title. Bonus points for illustrations, deckled edges, fancy, dancy dazzle and pizzazz. Also, the Eyes box holds space for setting & mood. The atmosphere and the aesthetic. I'm very impressed with all of that. It's not everything but it accounts for the extra icing on the cake.