Teen Book of the Month: The Sacrifice Box
Book: The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart | Age category: 13+
Some friendships last forever. Particularly when they are sealed with a binding pact involving a mysterious, hidden box...
Five teenagers are drawn together one summer, bonding over mix tapes and bonfires on the beach. But as the new school term approaches, sensitive Sep fears the group will soon dissolve: a strange dream and the discovery of an ancient stone box in the forest offers a possible solution. Arkle, Mack, Lamb, Hadley and Sep gather with their most treasured possessions, offering them to the box as a way to mark their connection, swearing to stick to the rules.
Years later, and the people Sep once called friends are now strangers, even enemies. Strange forces are at work, as those connected to the box begin to find themselves under threat, dodging creatures that defy reason. They must use all their ingenuity to unravel the meaning behind the gruesome turn their lives have taken: how can they save themselves from the box's wrath and who was it that broke the rules?
An expertly written horror laced through with joyful comedy, Martin Stewart's follow-up to the award winning Riverkeep is a suspenseful and gruesome tale of friendship, family and faith - perfect for fans of Stranger Things or Stephen King.
Hear more from Martin Stewart in our Q&A below, or enter our competition to win one of five copies of The Sacrifice Box!
Q&A with Martin Stewart
What's one item that was incredibly precious to you as a young adult, that you might have chosen to put in The Sacrifice Box?
That’s a great question and one I’ve thought about a great deal, because I’ve enjoyed writing ‘what would you sacrifice?’ in the copies of the book I’ve signed so far! I think I’d have picked different things at different times ― but if I had to pick one thing I’ll show my age and say not a mixtape, but a mix minidisc! I loved my minidisc player (if you were born after 1990 you might have to google this), and I had several that I’d painstakingly curated with the best balance of tempos and styles, cleverly named ‘Disc 1’, ‘Disc 2’… I’d put those in, because the music beats through all the memories of my friends and the things we did together, as it does for all of us; which was why I was so keen to make a playlist for the music that features in the book!
How important was the geographical setting for the story you wanted to tell?
Oh, the setting was very important! I've always been drawn to stories of isolation ― I think it intensifies the narrative and gives a very strong sense of the world of the novel. My three favourite films are (in order) Jaws, Alien and Groundhog Day, each of which has their own isolated island (this is literally the case in Jaws, of course, but in the other two we have a facsimile island in the form of a spaceship and a town marooned by impenetrable weather). We’re locked into those places beside the characters, and I wanted that intensity in The Sacrifice Box.
The other reason for the island setting is my lifelong love of Arran. All my family holidays were taken there, and my grandmother was evacuated to Whiting Bay during the war: the town of Hill Ford is a composite of Lamlash and Brodick. But despite having such a specific inspiration for the town and the island, I didn’t want to be tied to Arran’s real-life geography ― I wanted the row of shops to have a chip shop-cum-veterinarian where Sep could work. That’s not something you find in many Scottish towns!
There's a mixture of laughs and thrills in the novel: what other comedy horror stories or movies would you recommend for young people?
It may come as a surprise, but I don't particularly like horror films! They scare me to my very bones. That’s why the laughs are so important ― a scare and a laugh both provide a similar release of tension, and I always wanted to write something that would have a real intensity of both. To that end, I’d recommend Shaun of the Dead, which has a very accessible level of horror and some proper comedy.
Book wise (and there’s never anything scarier than the world you and an author build behind your eyelids) I would recommend the Anno Dracula series by Kim Newman, which is knowing and witty, and The Fallen Children by David Owen. In graphic novels it’s definitely worth checking out the Hellboy, Locke and Key and the Walking Dead series. And there has to be a nod to the master, Stephen King. Some of it is very scary, some more thrilling, and although there aren’t laughs on every page the stories and the people are never less than completely human, so the laughs are welcome and real. It is that humanity and heart that makes the horror bearable, because you're always reaching towards the light, and I wanted that to be the driving force of the novel ― not terror and gore, but love and friendship.
We have 5 copies of The Sacrifice Box to be won! To be in with a chance of winning, just answer the question below. The competition closes on Wednesday 28 February 2018 at 5pm. All entrants must reside in the UK.