Bird Box Review
Updated: Jan 31, 2019
by Josh Malerman
Most people have probably heard of Bird Box through all the media surrounding the Netflix Original movie of the same name starring the one and only Sandra Bullock in late 2018. The idea is a simple but terrifying one - keep your eyes shut or the monsters will get you. As any true book lover knows, no matter how good the movie interpretation is, it is just that - an interpretation. My husband and I watched the movie twice in one weekend before I finally decided I needed to read the book and see if I was missing any details.
The book follows most of the same plot as in the movie. It flashes back from current time when Malorie, Boy, and Girl are about to embark on a trip on the nearby river in order to get to a safe haven to a time around 5 years prior when Malorie was pregnant and there were news of mass suicides occurring around the world to people who have “seen something” outside. All it takes is one look at the “monsters” and that is enough to drive a person to suicide or to killing others. After the death of her sister, she finds an ad for a safe house not far from where she lived. When she gets there, it’s a group of survivors that learned early of the dangers of looking outside. In the time that she is there, they learn to scavenge and find ways to commute outside using blindfolds and counting their steps in order to resemble some old way of life. However, as a few more survivors (including Olympia, the famous pregnant door opener, and that horrible Gary - DON’T LET HIM IN!!!!), things fall apart in the house leaving Malorie, her son, and Olympia’s daughter to be the only survivors. She spends that time by herself training the children and preparing for that trip to the true safe haven.
Back to the current time, she is traveling through the river and encounters some tough times including the monsters trying to rip off her blindfold. The man who told her about this safe haven told her that at the end of the river, it splits into 4 pathways and she must take the second to the right which would require her to remove her blindfold to pick the correct path. After dangerous waters and fearing for both herself and the children, she decides not to look and ends up picking the correct path and being found by the people from the safe haven. They bring her back to their institution which ends up being a school for the blind where Boy (now named Tom) and Girl (now named Olympia) can have a (relatively) normal life.
Based on reading the book, here are the main differences I found in the book and not in the movie:
Malorie’s sister died at home
In the movie, Jessica dies after driving Malorie from her ultrasound appointment and jumping in front of a truck. In the book however, Malorie and Jessica learn early on about the strange phenomenon outside. They shut themselves inside their home covering all windows and openings however Jessica sees through a small glint in the window and kills herself in the bathroom.
Gary was hiding in the house before everyone died
In the movie Gary just kind of woke up one day and decided that while Malorie and Olympia were in the middle of labor, it would be a good time to start ripping off all the paper off the windows and killing everyone. While it was terrifying, in the book it was a lot more calculated which made it that much more sinister. In the time when Gary was living in the house, Malorie finds one of his journals that has the ramblings of a lunatic in it and pieces together that this is Gary’s writings. She confronts him in front of the group and they vote to kick him out of the house. A few weeks after this, Malorie and Olympia are in the midst of giving birth when Victor their dog keeps growling at the basement door. Who else is down there but Gary, who was hiding there since he was kicked out! He catches everyone by surprise as he begins his mass murder which resembles the same as in the movie, save for the detail when Olympia jumps out the window but hangs by her umbilical cord - excuse me while I puke now.
Tom dies during house murder
While we all love Tom, we got to enjoy him a lot more in the movie as he played a more central character and became Malorie’s partner and helped her raise the children. In the book, we didn’t get to keep Tom for long. During the Gary attack at the house, Tom was killed while trying to protect Malorie and Olympia as they were giving birth. RIP to my Bird Box hubby.
Dogs could become suicidal too
While you would assume the main animal was the birds, which were used as an alarm device to notify the characters whenever the “monsters” were close. In the book there was more emphasis on their dog Victor that was found during an expedition that Tom went on. They were looking for dogs to figure out whether the same suicidal affect would happen to dogs as it did to humans and initially they assumed it did not since Victor was alive when they found him. However, they found him INSIDE a house so their theory really wasn’t properly tested. During a scavenge with Malorie, Victor is tied up while she looks around the house when all of a sudden Victor sees a monster. He immediately starts struggling against his bindings to the point where his bones start popping and his flesh begins ripping until he dies. Remind me to put a blindfold on my own dog moving forward.
Malorie almost blinded the kids
And the mother of the year award goes to… not Malorie. Due to the crippling fear of whether or not the children would one day see the monsters and go insane, she thinks about potentially blinding the children. She even goes as far as grabbing a lethal substance to pour over the infants’ eyes so they could be adjusted from youth. She decides not to (thank goodness) and instead vigorously trains the children to live without sight, smacking the infants anytime they opened their eyes when they woke up (still no mother of the year award in those cards).
Final Rating: 9/10
I really enjoyed reading this novel and would definitely recommend to others. I couldn’t put it down when I was reading and finished it within 2 days time, not daring to go outside or look out a window just in case. I thought the concept of monsters you can’t see was very original, not that you have to tell me twice not to look at a monster. I thought the book kept you in suspense from beginning to end which is fitting because these characters are also always in suspense due to the fears of seeing the monsters at any point. The book draws you in as if you yourself was a character and often has you thinking how would you be able to survive? Would you be willing to blind yourself? Would you be able to navigate blindly? Could you live with the unknown? This was one of the main questions I would say Malorie had to figure out herself from beginning to end. From the beginning she’s a natural skeptic, she goes along with covering up windows and keeping her eyes closed outdoors but it’s not until the mass murder of the house that she finally confirms that whatever monster is being seen is truly menacing. We often see her have a dialogue with herself of whether this is too crazy to be true and could something actually be that powerful to get you to kill yourself. As a reader you often ask yourself the same question.
The only reason I didn’t give this book a 10 is because I think there were a couple changes made in the movie that I think could have made the book more meaningful, such as Tom surviving and helping Malorie raise the children and be that voice of reason in times when she grows desperate and cold. There could have been additional detail of them spending time at home amongst the rest or offering a chapter that talks more about Gary before he finds the house or more explanation as to why the monster seems to affect some through suicide and others through homicide. I also wish they might have included a little more detail of when she was raising the children on her own such as any close calls they might have had or when she finally told the children about the dangers of opening their eyes. Here’s to hoping for a sequel!