Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

I gave myself nightmares reading this last night. Very psychologically disturbing to imagine anyone has the capacity to do in real life what Ruth and her sons did to Meg and Susan. And I mean in real life. This novel was based on a true story. The horrors that Meg and Susan endured actually happened to two young girls. I felt nothing but sadness for them, and for David who was just a kid thrown into what he thought was a game, only to realize how serious it was, and how severe the consequences would end up becoming.

It was also interesting to see how David grows and matures as the plot unfolds. At first, he has contempt for the two girls, knowing they must have done something really bad for Ruth to be so mean to them. By the end of the book, however, he's well aware that something is not right in Ruth's head, and Meg and Susan are to be empathized with, and helped in any way possible. Unfortunately for everyone involved, David realizes this just a little too late. And of course,
This was really well written, and I enjoyed the contrast between the casualness and the happiness displayed in the first part of the book, and the darkness and evil of the second part of the book. I also just really like books that make me think of my childhood, and the segments about playing outside from dawn till dusk, having a pact with all the neighborhood kids.. yeah, it stirred up good memories. And no, I wasn't part of any kind of crazy abuse scandal like in this book, I assure you.

By the time I finished The Girl Next Door, I was more disturbed than after some of what I've learned in my forensic psychology classes. Very well played, Jack Ketchum. I can't wait to read more of his work. Oh, and they made it into a movie apparently. I'm imagining "Hostel", only more disturbing because it's happening to a 9- and 14- year old. "The Night Circus" is a much more uplifting book; I don't recommend The Girl Next Door if you're easily squeamish or troubled.

- Justin

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