• The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum
• ebook: 386 pages
• Publisher: Dorchester, 2011 (first published in 1993)
• ISBN: 1428516212
• Genre: Horror/True Crime/Torture Porn
• Recommended For: Fans of movies like Hostel, Saw, and other icky movies.
Quick Review: Earns a 32 %, or 1.6 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment. The Girl Next Door Rubric
I didn’t like it AT ALL, but if you don’t mind the torture of a kid by kids and parents, have at it!
How I Got Here: I’m on a quest for a legitimate book scare. I’ve been looking for a truly scary book for some time and this one is regularly recommended. So, I bought the ebook on Amazon (wish I hadn’t).
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
A teenage girl is held captive and brutally tortured by neighborhood children. Based on a true story, this shocking novel reveals the depravity of which we are all capable.
My Analysis and Critique:
Ugh. Why didn’t I read the synopsis and think about my reading/viewing tastes BEFORE I read this one? It’s my fault really.
I like horror of the supernatural variety, or the dystopian variety, not the “let’s watch the 12-year-old narrator get a hard-on as he watches the 14-year-old girl get stripped naked and tortured in his best friend’s basement by his best friends and best friends’ mom.”
This was awful.
It’s time for some concessions though. It wasn’t written awfully. Ketchum seems to be a good writer. And when he describes childhood, it’s pretty dead-on. At times, I felt like I was reading my all-time favorite childhood story It. But…
I don’t watch movies like Hostel or Saw. In my opinion, they’re just a step away from watching Faces of Death (remember those flicks? yuck.). So, I really didn’t dig watching a young girl getting tortured by her foster family, with all of the neighborhood kids, her disabled little sister, and OUR NARRATOR watching eagerly.
And, I really don’t like stories with unlikeable narrators. I didn’t even like everyone’s favorite The Graduate because I thought Dustin Hoffman’s character was lame. But, then again, at least Hoffman’s character wasn’t getting off to the torture of a young girl.
Plus, the narrator’s actions didn’t always make sense to me. He first introduced the two boys next door disparagingly as an “asshole” and a “retard”, but then he goes on to call them his closest friends. And he continues to refer to them as such, but stands by them as they touch, mutilate, and rape a girl whom he made friends with at the beginning of the book. This doesn’t make sense to me as a critical reader. Never mind the fact that it’s atrocious.
Ketchum knew that what he was writing was awful, and tried to make excuses in his “Author’s Note” . Basically, he says “it could’ve been much worse. I left out a lot of the bad stuff.” Don’t make excuses. It is what it is, and you recreated it in your fiction pretty well. It doesn’t mean that I have to like it though.
If you don’t mind this kind of stuff, go for it. It is written pretty well, despite the problems I had with the narrator’s characterization. I don’t want to read anything like it again. I don’t want my friends and family to read it either. Maybe it’s me, but this book seems good for nothing but a short (or long, if you’re especially sensitive) depression. I don’t want to know. I don’t need to see it. I know that I’m surrounded by sickos in this world, and I’ll pass on the details until I have to deal with it in real life. Ideally, never. Obviously.