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The Girl Next Door


Jack Ketchum

The Girl Next Door
average rating is 5 out of 5

Horror, Extreme, Disturbing

R. Alex Jenkins

God damn, what did I just read?

Compelling and addictive, this reads from a childhood first-person perspective about kids growing up in the same street, including dreams and mischievous adventures, which slowly builds up into a relentless page turner as you get to know, marvel at and totally despise some of the characters.

If I were a 12-year-old boy caught up in that - hormones raging - I may have acted in the same way. That's my dilemma! Having the courage to ask/demand the bigger kids to stop? No way, but instead counting yourself lucky to be part of the gang and not on the receiving end.

As an adult, at a certain point I wanted to stop. You know it's going to get worse, but like the kids enmeshed in the action, there's no turning back, and who knows, it might turn out OK, although instincts tell you otherwise.

I wanted to be entertained and was, massively, but as with drugs and cheap sex, there's a buildup followed by a cutoff point as the high drops off once the rush has gone. Is it worth it, you ask yourself? There's no cumulative benefit, just regret. And that's the point, the rush isn't sustainable, just messed up with no escape, endless abuse, bullying and ultimate disgust and remorse.

Jack Ketchum tells such a good story that it's almost impossible to put down, having zipped through this in two days - I wanted to stop, but couldn't, even though things got REAL bad. You tell yourself there might be rescue when someone responsible (finally) steps in and, who knows, backlash and revenge?

Instead, a continually harrowing experience.

Because this story is told from a third-person perspective, it's impossible to comprehend the true horrors of what went on that summer - thankfully - as involuntarily experienced from a distance, perverted to the core. We watch and see and feel. Enjoy! We observe and puke through observation-glass relish.

The most shocking part of the book is that we, the readers, are complicit by simply turning the page, and just like David, who doesn't talk to his parents or take direct action, we could and should put down the book instead of continuing with our voyeuristic behaviour of wanting to know what happens next. There's little point being angry or disgusted at everyone's behaviour, though, when we probably would have gone along with it as too frightened and excited to do anything else.

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