I just finished reading The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. I have seen countless horror movies and read a few horror novels and I have to say this book was more disturbing than anything I have previously seen or read. I picked it up knowing little to nothing about it. I only knew what was written in the brief on the back and that was something about a girl locked in a basement and the neighborhood boys torturing her. As horrible as that sounds it did nothing to prepare me.
The book is written as a sort of confession by a man named David. He is now in his 40s, but all of the novel’s events in the take place when he was a young boy in the 1950s. For the first few chapters the story is very tame. It plays out like the beginning of a love story and it is sort of hard to tell where things are leading. Then within a few short pages that all changes and you are in over your head. Soon I found myself disgusted with what I was reading. The torture is shocking and brutal. The things that happen cause physical reactions in you as you read. I wanted it all to stop yet I was compelled to turn the page. I had to find out what happened next. With each page I turned I wished and hoped that the horror would end. It couldn’t possibly get worse. With each page I was denied. In fact, I began to expect things to get worse. I have never had a book make me feel so uncomfortable in my own skin. What I was reading made me feel like I needed, like I had to get up and do something about what was happening. But as you read you are powerless. Before you know it you are a guilty accomplice to the heinous acts just like David.
Ketchum has this amazing ability to build up your hope and then rip it away with only a few words. This book is not for the weak at heart or the weak stomached. A few times I wondered if I would be able to go on, to continue reading.
It may sound like I am giving the book a horrible review, but actually it was very thrilling to read. It created feelings within me that I don’t ever feel. This is the first Jack Ketchum book I have read and I’m hooked. Next I’m going to read Off Season, which comes highly recommended.
Side Note: Half way through reading the book I discovered that Ketchum’s inspiration came from the real life story of Sylvia Likens and that in 2007 her story was made into a movie called An American Crime. The movie version of Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door was also released in 2007.