'Gwendy's Button Box' will have you pressing for more

Posted May 23

"GWENDY'S BUTTON BOX," by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, Cemetary Dance Publications, $25, 180 pages (f)

"Gwendy's Button Box" is a hauntingly short summer read that will have readers pressing for more.

"Gwendy's Button Box" was born from the duel masterminds of two writers: Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, who is also a publisher and editor. Their book tells the story of the plump preteen Gwendy, who climbs a set of stairs everyday in the summer. One day, she meets a man dressed in black who offers her a box covered in buttons and filled with magical chocolate. The man instructs her to eat the chocolate for some sweet results, but he gravely (and ambiguously) mentions the buttons could have destructive consequences.

Throughout her teen years, Gwendy eats the chocolate and, just as the man in black predicted, her life does indeed change. Her skin loses its acne, her body thins out and she becomes a popular high school teen. All the while, she holds onto her magical button box, worried if she should press its buttons. She also ponders if there are consequences to getting everything she ever wanted.

Despite the book's two authors, readers won’t notice any difference in style. The story flows with the smoothness of a river, sharing one important moment of Gwendy’s life after another. King and Chizmar hook readers with short chapters, easy-to-understand language and a compelling story.

It's impossible not to fall for the main heroine and identify with her teenage struggles. Readers will likely ponder what they would do if they found themselves in similar scenarios as a young person.

If the book lacks one thing, it is complete answers. King and Chizmar leave much up to the reader's imagination, choosing not to explain the full purpose of the buttons — nor do they explain the consequences of Gwendy’s decisions and indecisions. Answers would have enhanced the ending surely, giving readers a more rounded view of Gwendy's sacrifices and choices.

The novella, though, is an excellent metaphor for growing up. Like Gwendy with her box, people spend copious amounts of time trying to hold onto their childhood innocence, but no one knows what the future holds. It’s not until each person finds themselves in the adult world that that childhood box goes away, and we’re left to discover the person we’ve become.

"Gwendy's Button Box" contains graphic violent scenes of attempted rape and murder. There are also a few instances of strong swearing and mentions of teenagers drinking.


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