Review: Malorie by Josh Malerman

Malorie by Josh Malerman
Del Rey (July 21, 2020)

304 pages; $19.29 hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

From my review of Bird Box in 2018:

Our protagonist, Malorie, is young and a little naive. There is a global calamity going on and she seems very preoccupied with her own circumstances. As a reader, you are concerned with our protagonist’s perspective—can she navigate through this story safely for us? I wanted a more reliable, capable protagonist to be honest but this is a horror novel and I came prepared for the worst. And the worst did come…

…This was an engaging, edge of your seat read. I loved every hair-raising moment. A solid work of horror, suspense and apocalyptic storytelling.

In this sequel, Josh Malerman pens the evolution of the protagonist Malorie from his bestselling book (and one of my favorite horror novels) Bird Box. Malorie is an adult now. Her children are teenagers. They “live by the blindfold.” Considering the ending of Bird Box, this is a curious statement.

In order to protect reader discovery, this review must, at all costs, be light on plot details and lean in on my reading experience. I think the most important thing readers need to know is that yes, Malorie can be read as a standalone, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Perhaps my personal favorite aspect of reading is joining a character on their journey towards self-discovery and evolution. In the genre of horror, this character growth is often a forced process as the characters are put through various trials and face many terrors.

In Bird Box, Malerman did an excellent job of portraying a young woman navigating through the catastrophe in a realistic way that many of us could relate to. She worries about her own self-preservation. She makes mistakes. She grows impatient and frustrated with her circumstances.

Sometimes, in horror, the “final girl” is immediately brave or heroic in almost all situations and it makes the reader feel detached from the story. It’s hard to identify with someone who can flawlessly execute “the right thing to do” all the time.

In Bird Box, Malorie was almost too real; too like me. I was scared about what could possibly happen to her and if she would be strong enough to survive. By the end of the book, she had undergone a huge transformation and the person she was, in the beginning, had been tested by fire. The woman that emerged was capable, competent and resourceful.

Malorie is the sequel we desperately needed but didn’t even know we wanted. When I heard Malerman was writing a sequel, I thought, “Of course Malorie has more to show us. There’s so much more to her story.”

Whereas Bird Box is one person’s journey, encountering various people along the way, Malorie is the story of a nexus. A family. The addition of Malorie’s children and the way they rub against each other’s flaws and distinct personalities makes this story shine.

Character-driven horror is my absolute favorite. I show up to my books expecting to fall in love so that I can be destroyed, and Josh Malerman delivers.

Malorie is a new favorite horror story and stands perfectly equal to its predecessor. Once again, Josh Malerman proves his place among my all-time favorite authors of horror fiction. Always unique. Insatiably original. An identifiable, almost magical quality to his storytelling that never disappoints. 

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