‘NOS4A2’: re-reading (and finally reviewing) an all-time favorite

January 10, 2024

AUTHOR: Joe Hill
GENRE: Horror
PAGES: 692pg
PUBLISHER: William Morrow

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

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“You can’t let facts get in the way of the truth.”

I’m so happy that I re-read this, because NOS4A2 has to be one of my favorite horror stories of all time.

While it has its flaws*, this book captures family and motherhood in all of its beautifully damaged wonders, not to mention the fact that it has perhaps one of the single best examples of my favorite villain archetype: the bad guy who believes with his entire being that he’s the hero.

* okay, just ONE flaw, but we get it, Lou’s fat – move on already

I’m also immensely drawn to this idea that we each live in two worlds: the “real” one and the one of our imaginations, and that perhaps some of us could find a way to navigate the spaces between them. I love the parallels between Vic with her bike and Manx with the Wraith, as they’re really two sides of the same coin. Honestly, I think an entire essay could be written about the depth of writing here.

Everyone you lost was still there with you, and so maybe no one was ever lost at all.

Of course, there’s also the way Joe Hill makes you love these characters (specifically Vic, Lou, Wayne, and Maggie) so much that it breaks your heart to even think about anything bad happening to them. No spoilers, but there’s a scene near the end of this book that obliterates me emotionally, and I can never decide if I’m grateful for how hard it hits or if I just want to forward a therapy bill to Joe Hill’s fan mail address.

I could gush about NOS4A2 for a long time but I’ll cut myself off here. This is easily one of my most commonly recommended books to friends and has been for a long time, and after this re-read, I know that won’t stop any time soon because it’s a truly brilliant story that I believe will be a modern classic of the horror genre for a long time to come.

“I felt like it needed some color down there, so I painted the walls with the motherfucker.”

^ also, this quote is perhaps one of the most satisfying lines ever written.

Buddy read with Misty!

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WARNINGS (click to expand):

violence, gore, murder, implied rape, molestation, misogyny, ableism, substance abuse, forced institutionalization, brief racial slur usage, pedophilia, child death, kidnapping, fatphobia, medical content, medical trauma, animal death

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sapphic side character



More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. Great review Destiny!! Thanks for getting me to finally read this because I loved it and it has become a favorite for me as well.

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