I have a feeling that this is going to be a rambling kind of review full of leg-humps and drooling.
You've been warned.
But first, I want to get the non-leg-humpy stuff out of the way. Technically, I'm giving this 4 1/2 stars, because there were a couple things that just... didn't feel right to me. Forced, one might say. They were little things, in the grand scheme of the book, but they just didn't really work for me, and took me out of the story. I know why they were there, but knowing why someone painted their house fluorescent orange doesn't make it easier to look at. Appreciating a style of art doesn't necessarily mean one has to LIKE it.
So my first issue is with the carryover sentences from the end of one chapter, to the header of the next. These are abrupt cut-off sentences hanging in the middle of a page, and the header of the next chapter finishes them.
It took me quite a while to get used to this, and it had a tendency not to stick. I don't read chapter headings. This hinders me a lot at times, because, in a book like this, the chapter headings are vital to keeping up with the story. They tell the reader where, and when, we're at in the story. But I find that chapter headers are often times spoilery, or hinty, and this annoys me. I don't want the chapter saying "Hey, watch out for this thing to happen... it's gonna be good!" I just want to read the story and get to the thing when I get to it, and be surprised. I especially dislike the cutesy ones like "Chapter 7, In Which Character A Has Things Happen To Him And Then Learns A Valuable Lesson". Ugh.
So I stopped reading them quite a while back. Sometimes it means that I get a little lost in the story and backtrack, and sometimes it means nothing because the only thing I've skipped is "Chapter 3".
Back on point - As I mentioned, it took me a long time to get used to the end of the sentence being the beginning of a chapter thing here, but I also said it didn't really "stick". What I mean by this is that there would be gaps of several chapters that ended normally, no carryover, and so the next time I'd see it (usually when it was supposed to be suspenseful) I'd have to pause and remind myself to read the next header. And not only read it, but read it as part of the previous chapter's last sentence.
Anyway... Needless to say, it took me out of the story. I've now written more about this carryover thing than some of my full reviews, and I feel like I'm starting to sound like I disliked it a lot more than I did. I actually didn't really mind it so much except that I just had to take that moment and remind myself how to continue. But it DID serve the purpose it was intended to serve, which was to make the reader pause, to wonder where things would go... to create some suspense. And it worked well in my case, for all the reasons mentioned already. Probably better than intended, actually. I tend to... skim. Especially if I'm anxious for characters and need to know what happens.
I know that this seems to go against everything that I hate about spoilers and hints, but I don't see this as spoiling myself, because technically I am reading the page - twice. One quick skim to find out what happens, and then a rescan to pick up anything I might have missed on the first pass. I don't do this with every page, or even every book. But the ones that grab me, that have hooked me and know it, they are the ones that I'm likely to skim because I just have to know what happens. It seems contrary - you'd think that the ones that I don't like would be the ones I'm most likely to skim... but no. Those my cause my interest and desire to read to fizzle out and die, and they eventually are just abandoned. Or abandoned quickly depending on how hard I hated it.
Moving on... The second thing that took me out of the story was the unlikely relationship at the end. I'm not going to give anything away here, but it just didn't seem realistic to me. I feel like I understand it, but it felt forced and... wrong, somehow. Tacked on, perhaps. And that's all I'm going to say about that. (See, I can be brief!)
Moving on to the things I loved about this book... Oh, there are so many. It will be much, much harder to specify these, and much harder to explain just why I loved it... at least without giving anything away.
First, I'll just say that this book was not at ALL what I expected. One expects, with a title like NOS4A2 (Nosferatu, if you don't speak license platenese) that it's a vampire story. And it is, but it isn't. It's so much more than that. That sounds trite, but I don't know how else to describe it. It's a book about the mind, and the power of belief, and in belief in oneself, and parenthood, and the nature of innocence... It's really so much more than I expected, though I feel like I should have known better, considering how much I loved Joe's last novel, and the reasons I loved it.
To date, I've read everything that Joe Hill has published, with the exception of his Locke & Key series, which I'll be getting to very soon. I started reading him, obviously, because he's Stephen King's son, but I've KEPT reading him because he's an amazing author in his own right. His voice is unique from his father's, he has his own style, his own way of using words and images and music to bring a story to life, and I love that about him.
But in this book, there's a distinct shift. Joe's no longer striving to separate himself, it seems, but is now incorporating... There's a kind of linking of the universes. I absolutely LOVED stumbling across the references to other books (The knife Maggie mentions was one that I thought fit perfectly into this story, though not very subtle. :P), but especially from Stephen King's. I highlighted a lot of passages - ones that Constant Readers will recognize immediately. There were a surprising number of them.
In addition to that, I felt like this book felt more like one King would write, especially post-2000 King. Don't get me wrong, Joe Hill's hand is alllll over this book, and it's incredible, but I can see an influence here, that's all. One of the major contributors to this is how Joe writes children. Stephen King is known for writing children with perfection, and it's abundantly clear that the apple did not fall far from the tree in this aspect.
I want to say a little something about the characters... but I'm not sure what I could say without giving anything away. I'll go vague then. I thought all of the characters were perfectly done. Their lives and their hopes and fears were all handled perfectly and I felt like I'd known many of them for a long, long time. Vic especially. I felt like I knew her better than she knew herself. Or maybe I just had more faith in her. I'm not sure there's a difference. I loved her, her strength, her refusal to give in... she's one to admire, if only for her determination. Goodness knows there's not much else to admire there. She's flawed, hugely flawed, and that's what makes her beautiful.
Lou was another one of my favorite characters. I was surprised at how important he became to the story, and by the way it happened, but I almost immediately came to love him. He's the perfect guy to have your back, no matter what it might mean for himself.
Anyway, I'm not saying anymore. To say more will be to spoil. I highly recommend this one, as I do with all of Hill's books. They are all amazing, and should be read and loved forever. The end.