The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

(No Series)

Suburbia. Shady, tree-lined streets, well-tended lawns and cozy homes. A nice, quiet place to grow up. Unless you are teenage Meg or her crippled sister, Susan. On a dead-end street, in the dark, damp basement of the Chandler house, Meg and Susan are left captive to the savage whims and rages of a distant aunt who is rapidly descending into madness. It is a madness that infects all three of her sons and finally the entire neighborhood. Only one troubled boy stands hesitantly between Meg and Susan and their cruel, torturous deaths. A boy with a very adult decision to make.

 “She was grinning and she should have been pretty when she grinned. She had good white teeth and a lovely, delicate mouth. But something always went wrong with Denise's smile. There was always something manic in it.”

I was overjoyed to hear that Leisure was releasing Ketchum's The Girl Next Door. I had heard great praise for this one and felt more that eager to give Jack another chance to dazzle me after the good, but dismissal, She Wakes. Did this one stir the fires and make me hot for more of this authors work? Read on to find out!

First of all, the plot. The plot is different. Daring, yeah Ill give call it daring. Definitely. Addicting? Strangely, yeah, it was easy to get into the book and stay with it. But good? Not sure on that. Most of the book focuses on the very real issues of child abuse and do I mean severe!!! Was it hard to wade through? Hell, yeah! Now I'm all for dark and horror-ridden. I know that this is real life kind of stuff and that horror doesn't have to be about slashing and slaying to be horror, but that doesn't mean that abuse upon horrid abuse to a child is enjoyable to read.

If you want shock, you got it here, and for a cheap price. Very graphic stuff here, and very sad. Its certainly an emotional book that doesn't let up ever. Don't come here for happy endings.

Some of the messages in the book are important. Its apparent that what is happening to the children is horrid, and that monsters can be made instead of just born. I found the relationship, the secret club of the kids, simply fascinating. Ketchum explored suburbia like not many authors have before, and for this I thank you. Dark stuff here that people don't always realize is right under their noses before its too late and someone has to come up to them and actually beat the sense into them.

Characters seem real but many of their actions are not explained. Interior dialogue of the main character, David, is sometimes only briefly touched upon and then quickly dashed over again. This may have been done to help with pacing, but there were times when I would have enjoyed seeing more through the little guys head. As for the sisters, though, Ketchum did an admirable job of showing their bond and how very strong it really was. Touching, sweet, endearing.

The writing style is clear and easily read. Ketchum is obviously a master behind the keyboard and should be assigned a badge saying, good writing talent. The atmosphere is uber depressing, filling the air with the geez, this is just so wrong kind of vibes.

On the bad side, to me the book took too long to get to the plot. The pacing was hurt a bit by this; the first few chapters could have been sped up nicely to deliver a more solid punch. The ending was a fitting one, grippingly sad and certainly one I wont be forgetting any time soon.

If you have a strong stomach, check this one out for sure. Its daring, different, but disturbing as hell and not for those who want something fast paced.

   Book Quotes:

“As though all the world were a bad joke and she was the only one around who knew the punchline.”

“I lay in bed and thought about how easy it was to hurt a person. It didn't have to be physical. All you had to do was take a good hard kick at something they cared about.”