Heart-Shaped Box

Author: Joe Hill
Publisher: William Morrowheart
Date: 2007
Genre: Horror
ISBN: 9780061147937
Price: $24.95
Number of Pages: 374
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, E-Book, Audio

Rating Scale: 4Q, 5P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews



Links to Reviews



Reader’s Annotation

Buying a ghost over the internet, where’s the harm in that?

Plot Summary

The book begins with Judas, a former rock star who has an interest in occult items. His assistant finds a listing online to purchase a ghost. Judas jumps at the chance and buys a suit that the ghost is supposed to be attached to. When the suit arrives, it comes in a heart-shaped box, and Judas almost immediately begins to realize his mistake. Strange things begin to happen, such as his girlfriend, Georgia, getting pricked while touching the suit. Judas also begins to see ghost, whom he realizes is intent on making him kill himself and those around him.

Critical Evaluation

I thought this was a really solid horror novel. I wasn’t sure in the beginning, as I don’t usually gravitate toward unlikeable protagonists. However, I was pleased with the direction of Judas’ character. I loved the fact that this was a redemption novel for him and that it was as much about him overcoming his demons as it was about the ghost. I was also pleasantly surprised by the character of Georgia. From the beginning, I had her pegged as an annoying character who would meet their doom fairly quickly. However, I really enjoyed seeing how many layers she really had. She quickly became my favorite character in the book. The only issue I had with the novel is that I felt some of the scenes in the middle dragged a bit. However, I think this might have to do with the fact that I was eager to learn exactly what the motivation was behind the ghost’s malevolence.

Appeal Factors

Atmospheric, creepy, character-driven


Bag of Bones by Stephen King

Saint Odd by Dean Koontz

Awards & Lists

Bram Stoker Awards: Best First Novel

Locus Awards: First Novel

The Reading List (RUSA): 2008

Thriller Awards (International Thriller Writers): Best First Novel

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss Judas’ relationship with his father.
  • Discuss Judas’ character development over the course of the novel.

Justification of Selection

This was the pick for the horror discussion group. At first, I was a little wary because I usually dislike reading books with an unlikable protagonist, but I was happily surprised by the main character, Judas. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would definitely read other books by Joe Hill.


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