Hex is the scariest book I’ve ever read. Hex was so scary that when I was reading it in bed, I got too frightened to continue and also had to walk around the upstairs of my apartment checking the closets for bad guys/ghosts/monsters. Hex was so scary that I thereafter stopped reading it before bed and only read it during my commute.
The basic premise seemed fine. There’s this town called Black Spring where once upon a time a woman called Katherine was forced to murder her own son, then hanged as a witch. Her ghost has haunted the town ever since, and her whispers have driven thousands to suicide. The residents of Black Spring have learned to live with her, and with the brutal penalties they would face if they ever broke the town’s rules. But a group of teenagers is determined to bring proof of Katherine’s existence to the outside world.
This does not go swimmingly.
I read a review of Hex that pointed out horror stories often depend, for their oomph, on what we don’t know; whereas in Hex, we know from moment one what this town’s horrors are and where they came from. Hex isn’t scary because of Katherine. Well, it is scary because of Katherine. But the oomph of the story isn’t that we don’t know what Katherine will do; it’s that we don’t know what the townspeople will do. At first we think that we only need to worry about one of Tyler’s friends, the kid from a broken home, the slightly unstable one. Or we only need to worry about this stern-faced Colton Mathers guy on the town council.
The true horror, of course, is that we have to worry about everyone. A well-intentioned action by a character we have been asked to like and identify with can lead to “The Lottery”-esque outcomes. When that happens with over a third of the book left to go, it’s scary as hell because what else might be coming?
I’ll note that women have very little to do in this book (even Katherine mostly just stands around being scary), and there’s the occasional weird gendered moment in this book, particularly w/r/t boobs. Since I was enjoying the book so much (slash, being terrified out of my wits by it), I was able to roll my eyes and skate past it, but your mileage may vary.
Interestingly, Hex was substantially revised for its American publication, shifting the action from the Netherlands to America and just changing a whole massive bunch of things about it. Here’s Heuvelt on that decision. If you are a Dutch reader, may I politely request that you read the Dutch edition and report back to me on what the original ending was? I am near-dead of curiosity, and the internet has been of no use at all.