Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Boxes

The Boxes

4.5 15
by William Sleator

See All Formats & Editions

Annie's Uncle Marco goes on one of his mysterious trips, leaving her in charge of two sealed boxes on one condition: she must not open either one while he is away. But she is tempted...and soon she has unleashed the unspeakable. The creatures inside the box are crab-like and grotesque. And they possess a power Annie could never have imagined: the power to transmute


Annie's Uncle Marco goes on one of his mysterious trips, leaving her in charge of two sealed boxes on one condition: she must not open either one while he is away. But she is tempted...and soon she has unleashed the unspeakable. The creatures inside the box are crab-like and grotesque. And they possess a power Annie could never have imagined: the power to transmute time."Sleator is the master of the creepy-crawly, and his inventiveness is at full power here." --The Horn Book

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like Pandora, 15-year-old orphan Annie has been given a box she is forbidden to open, opens it nonetheless and unleashes something horrible. But Sleator adds a twist: Annie has a second box. Moreover the telepathic crab-like beasts that came out of the first box may appear to be the evils of the world but turn out to be the protagonist's only hope for self-actualization. As in The Beasties, Sleator creates a community of strangely empathic monsters and a teenager who, when pressed into their service, discovers the mission isn't noxious but fulfilling. The creepy-crawlies worship a god/plant/clock that lives in the second box. They build a subterranean palace, order Annie about and enact enigmatic rites, saying things like: "The Lord will be very happy about the swing ritual, and the two more who are sacrificed to the Lord's goodness" (in reference to two creatures who are swung in a suspended boat and fall to their deaths). Unfortunately, a stereotypical crew of evil land developers and a less than compelling wizard figure (Annie's nearly absentee Uncle Marco) keep the tale on a superficial level. And readers may be disappointed in the ending, which sends Annie off on a cliffhanger of an adventure and never explains the process between creatures and clock, or Uncle Marco's role in it. Perhaps Sleator has a sequel in store; in the meantime, this is his signature high-style ick and suspense, but without sufficient payoff. Ages 10-up. (May)
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Uncle Marco, off on one of his whirlwind trips, has left two boxes with Annie, and he made it very clear that she was not to open them. But like Pandora, Annie succumbs to temptation and opens the boxes. The crablike creature that scuttles out of the first box hides itself somewhere in the basement. The second box contains what looks like propeller blades with roots. Every time Annie looks at it, the blades seem to have changed position, and the roots have moved. Then Annie feels as if one of the boxes is speaking to her. "I am happy you finally showed up. Have you eaten yet?" Annie has been chosen to act as the nervous system for these creatures. The upstairs box is the "Lord," the ruler of the creatures in the basement box. The Lord will cause a "slowdown," in which everything literally slows down. Annie and her friend Henry are the only ones who notice. Many more creatures are "born" as they create a palace in the basement. The story is very confusing. But Sleator's use of language and his creation of characters, both human and alien, are captivating. For sophisticated readers, preferably those already familiar with Sleator's other work.
VOYA - Ann Bouricius
When Annie's uncle goes on one of his mysterious business trips, he leaves her in charge of two strange boxes. Although he has told her not to open them under any circumstances, like Pandora, Annie finds herself irresistibly drawn to the boxes and decides that one tiny peek cannot hurt. At first Annie is charmed by the little creatures she finds in the boxes, but she soon learns that they have the ability to change the entire planet, and even time itself. She also learns that someone is trying to steal the boxes and the creatures inside in order to use them for his own evil purposes. It is up to Annie and her friend Henry to save the creatures and the world. Sleator has written a page-turner where the right choice is not always clear, and the wrong one could lead to disaster. His writing is crisp and clean, letting the story speak for itself. Annie is a likeable character who valiantly tries to correct her mistakes in a world that has become slightly surrealistic and gone awry. The good guys are good, and the bad guys are deliciously evil. The Boxes should be enjoyed by readers who appreciate strong heroines and unusual, intricate plots. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8Orphan Anne Levi tolerates her distant Aunt Ruth, with whom she lives, but adores her mysterious Uncle Marco, who flits in and out of their lives at irregular intervals. When he gives Anne two unusual boxes with strict instructions not to open them, curiosity gets the better of her. Opening the first one, she releases an unusual crablike creature that grows and reproduces rapidly; the life form and its offspring construct a fantastic palace in the basement and communicate with Anne telepathically. Dismayed by what she has done, Anne opens the second box, which she had hidden in her closet, revealing a clocklike object that has the ability to slow down time at the basement creatures' request, but only when Anne agrees to carry messages between the creatures and the clock. Unfortunately, the owners of a suspicious development company are intrigued by the time slowdowns and increase their ominous efforts to control Anne, her home, and the strange devices within it. Through her adventures, Anne grows into a self-confident teenager who is able to stand up to her overbearing aunt and trust her own instincts. Reminiscent of the complexity of Sleator's early science fiction, The Boxes introduces intriguing characters and unique situations but it leaves many loose ends and unanswered questions. Readers never find out just who or what Uncle Marco is, where he and Anne go when they enter the palace at the end, or where the boxes came from in the first place. The Boxes may be popular with Sleator's fans, but be prepared for requests for a sequel.Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
Kirkus Reviews
Sleator (The Beasties, 1997, etc.) offers a strained mix of aliens and time travel in this tepid work of science fiction. When Annie, 15, is entrusted with two mysterious boxes by her secretive, young-looking Uncle Marco, her reaction is entirely understandable: She opens both. The first crate releases a crab-like creature that asexually reproduces in the basement of her Aunt Ruth's house; the second, in her bedroom, reveals a clock-like device that can slow the flow of time. Of course, the boxes are somehow connectedþthe clock, which the crab-creatures refer to as "Lord," enables them to erect a miniature palace within a very short time. Rather than focus on the aliens, the story shifts to the evil Crutchley Development Corporation, which, while buying up local houses to erect a super mall, discovers the secret in Annie's basement, and steals the clock device. With her friend, Henry, Annie escapes the clutches of Crutchley employees and relatives, and returns with the clock, which, Uncle Marco divulges, is the key to his youthful appearance. As the Crutchley team bursts in, the crab creatures create a vortex through which the three humans escape. That lets Sleator off the hook for the moment, without providing any real explanation, and negates all chances for a satisfying ending. Readers will have to wait to see if there's a sequel. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
File size:
190 KB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

"I typed my first story when I was six -- the beginning of my dependence on keyboards. It was called "The Fat Cat," and it read: "Once there was a fat cat. boy was she fat. Well, not that fat. But pretty fat." Even then, I needed an editor.

From that point on, I was always writing or composing something. And almost from the very beginning, I was fascinated by the grotesque and macabre. One of my first musical compositions was called "Guillotines in the Springtime." At school, when we were assigned to write a story about a holiday, I always cane up with something like "The Haunted Easter Egg."

In high school I continued writing poems and stories and composing music. When the school orchestra played one of my compositions at an assembly, everybody thought I was a genius. I did nothing to correct this impression. I went to Harvard, where I was miserable -- and wrote intensely tragic novellas, as well as music for student films and plays.. I also kept a voluminous journal, hundreds of single-spaced typed pages.. I gave them different volume titles like Rats Live on No Evil Star. (That's a palindrome.) I told that journal everything, and most of it is drivel. But it was a lot cheaper than going to a psychotherapist, and maybe I'll get some usable material out of it someday.

After college I spent a year in England, where I studied musical composition and worked as a pianist at the Royal Ballet School. It was there that I had the experiences which later became my first YA novel, Blackbriar. I really did live in the middle of a forest in an ancient cottage that once had been a pest house for people with small pocks. Because I was still keeping journal, I put all the details down on paper. Back in the States, I turned the journal into a book, and I was lucky -- because the manuscript was rejected by only one publisher. The second editor who saw it, Ann Durell at Dutton, liked it enough to work with me on it through a couple of drafts, until finally she felt it was good enough for publication and offered me a contract.

My second novel, Run, also took place in a house I had lived in. After that, I ran out of interesting real places to write about. I saw if I was going to make my living as a writer, I was going to have to begin making things up, using my imagination. The result was my first science fiction book, House of Stairs. Although I invented the plot and the setting, the characters in that book were all based on people I knew. I continue to use real people in my books, and that has gotten me into trouble at times. Fortunately, most of my friends have started speaking to me again.

Gradually, without much planning on it, I began drifting more and more into science fiction, a genre I had always loved. A lot of the fun of writing science fiction is learning about real scientific phenomena, like behavior modifications or black holes or the fourth dimension, and turning them into stories. The challenge is to try to make the parts you invent as believable as the scientific laws you are using. If you succeed, then you are giving the reader something that is magical and fantastic but at the same time might actually be possible.. That's the great thing about science fiction -- someday it could really happen.

For nine years, I also worked as a rehearsal pianist for the Boston Ballet, touring with them all over Europe and the United States, and composing three ballets that the company performed. (One of them was called Incident at Blackbriar, a nice plug for my book.) Eventually I quit because it was taking too much time away from my writing, and partly because the stressful atmosphere of a ballet company began to get to me. One of the best things about being a writer is that it's a job without a lot of stress. But I did keep notes of everything that happened: the time Giselle's house tipped over and knocked a dancer out cold, the time a dancer fell into the orchestra pit, what it was like to perform in ancient Roman amphitheaters in the rain, the kinds of things dancers say to each other onstage. I continue trying to turn it all into a book, and someday I may do it.

Now I live part of the year in Bangkok, Thailand, and part of the year in Boston. I write full- time and do a lot of serious cooking. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to make a living as a writer. I shouldn't ever run out of ideas -- knock on wood -- since the universe is full of great things like strange attractors and the Mandelbrot set. I still can't get over the fact that time slows down in the presence of a gravitational field. It really does, you know. That's not science fiction. It's a fact."

copyright ? 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Boxes 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Sierra Clegg More than 1 year ago
Put it this way, i read this four years ago but remembered it enough to come write this review. Really enjoyable. WARNING: if you are not yet a sci fi fan... you will be after reading this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
awesome! Annie and her company made a time slowdown and saved her neighbors from Crutchley Development. it has amazing and fantastic story and it is a lot of fun.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best sci fi books i ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best books ever! Entertaining from beggining to end. A perfect book for sci-fi fans, or anyone. Recommended highly, freaken awesome! Praise Thy William Sleator!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book grabed me from the beging and held me there ontill the end. i loved it and want to read it over again
Guest More than 1 year ago
I feel that this noval is mysterious, mystical, and the creatures are incomprehensible. In this book, Annie had to communicate and understand the creatures, which is to her advantage. this is well crafted by William Sleator.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
i think that it had an easy story line and mr.sleator knew what he was doing i enjoyed all the suspense couldnt put the book down my parents had to take it away from me to stop reading it i loved it soooo much make more like this
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book about the way that curiosity can get the best of us is AMAZING! The suspense was absolutely off the chart for me. Not only is it a story about the cretures out of the 'boxes', it is a great story about friendship and how something that you can't do alone can bring two people together. I read this in one night, I didn't stop! A must read for anyone who is looking for a good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book so much! This book had great page turning suspense in every chapter! I couldn't put it down at all! I would definetly recommend this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book rocks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the best books ive ever read. Annie the overwieght loser is my idol.The plot and everything was the awesomest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the boxes was one of teh best boxes i ahve ever read teh powers annie is exsposed to were just....unbeliveable and increadable!! i absoutly loved this book and could not put it down!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
the best of its kind