Gwendy’s Button Box

By: Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974, twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong—if time-rusted—iron bolts.

Then one day when Gwendy gets to the top of Castle View, after catching her breath and trying to see her feet, a stranger calls to her. There on a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat, and a small, neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat.

The stranger gives Gwendy a button box that somehow feels familiar and she knows instinctively what it can do. The box holds a terrible power that can destroy civilization itself, and Gwendy must make sure no one else ever finds it. 

This novella isn’t particularly dramatic or thrilling but rather seems to function as a thought experiment. Imagine that any time something or someone made your life difficult, you could make them disappear with the push of a button. Would you? Do you think you could even bring yourself to push a button like that or would you be too afraid? But most importantly, do you feel that you could trust a child with that kind of power?

One of the common themes I’ve enjoyed across several Stephen King books is his inclusion of children as main characters. Children have a unique way of solving problems and looking at the world, but I’m not a fan of teenage protagonists on general principle. They’re too angsty and self-absorbed for me to ever relate to them, and those characteristics are why I despise most young adult stories. Perhaps that’s because I’m no longer a teenager. 

Thank the universe. You couldn’t pay me to go back to those years.

While I’m not sure King and Chizmar would have categorized Gwendy’s Button Box as YA, it hits too many of the points for comfort. Perhaps the charm of Stephen King’s children protagonists couldn’t come through because he co-authored this story, but I just didn’t like Gwendy. I certainly don’t see how this story could have spawned a trilogy, but apparently it was more popular than I anticipated. Don’t expect to see reviews of the other two stories as I’d rather not waste my time reading tripe that I know I won’t care for. 

The story poses interesting questions but was quite disinteresting and anticlimactic outside of that.

Overall rating: 3

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