ISBN-13: 9780843960976
Publisher: Leisure Books
Published: January 2008
370 pgs
Movie Tie-In Edition
Source: Personal Library

This is a horror book. No, it does not have anything to do with ghosts, zombies or anything that goes bump in the night. It is a horror story about a very sick family and what they do to a pair of helpless young girls.

The Girl Next Door is told in a first person POV, under the narrative of the main protagonist, David. The story begins with an intriguing opening when an older David speak of his past.

You think you know about pain?

From there, David share with us about his life in the suburban during the 50s, as well as his childhood friends and the Chandler family. David first met fourteen-year-old Meg when he went fishing for crayfish by the brook. She was the prettiest girl he has ever seen, despite she is two years his senior. They became friends quickly, and he learnt she is staying with Ruth Chandler together with her younger sibling, Susan, after their parents' death in a horrific automobile accident. Ruth and their parents are distant cousins and it seem natural that both Meg and Susan are under her care considering they have no other relatives.

David knew the Chandler family well, after all he is close friends with Ruth's children, Donny, Willie and Woofer. Being a single parent and now having to look after five children, Ruth's unhappiness and rage increases as the time passes (and not to mention she gets a little sick in the mind), and she began to take her anger out on her new charges as she physically and mentally abuse them.

David is not aware of the abuse in the beginning, after all Ruth did it discreetly and Meg does not share their problems with anyone. However, the abuse began to worsen when Ruth seem to allow her children to abuse the two girls and to the stage where she does not care if David is there to witness everything.

Though David loathes what Ruth is doing to the girls, yet at the same time he is also fascinated by the notion of power one could have over someone. He became the witness, for he neither abuse nor help the girls and this behaviour finally drew him to an end. Is it too late for him to lend a helping hand to the girls finally? And what happened to Ruth and her three children in the end? All these would prompt the readers to continue reading despite the gruesome read about the abuses and torture endured by the two girls.

Frankly speaking, I did not know what to think of David in the beginning. He gave me the impression of being weak and intimidated, but as I read further, I also find him righteous, though he does not always express himself well and I wished someone had stand with him from the beginning so he would not seem so helpless (or clueless).

I liked the narrative setting between the older David and the younger David. Though the older David narrates only once in a while in some chapters, this actually reflects about his past life and how he had really felt then.

The Girl Next Door is a powerful book; one that simple leave me speechless when I turned the last page of the book. I cannot remember when was the last time a book has ever left this kind of feelings in me, where I felt horrified, angry, and sad at the same time. I quite liked the ending, though it leave you wondering about certain aspects (for this I will not reveal), but I think it also works well if you look from a different perspective.

This book also contains two short stories and an interview with the author. Based on the book cover and the interview, I knew there is a film adaptation but I have not watched it, have you?

Other review:
(Let me know if I missed yours.)
11 Responses
  1. Alice Says:

    Great review, Melody, but I think I'll pass...

  2. Sandy Nawrot Says:

    I like for a book to shake me up. Keeps me on my toes! It does sound totally frightening, and you've done a good job with the review. I know nothing about the movie.

  3. bermudaonion Says:

    That sounds so creepy! I can read (and enjoy) books like this, but I could never watch the movie version. Thanks for the review.

  4. Violet Says:

    Really good review Melody, you've made me want to read the book even tough I know it will be very sad and creepy. Love the first cover too...

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Not sure if I'm in the mood for this right now, but glad that you liked it. I'd never heard of it or the movie.

  6. Great review, Melody! I have heard of this author but not read anything by him. My experience with horror is so limited. I can see how this one would bring out such strong emotions in the reader. It probably would in me too.

  7. Iliana Says:

    Oh this does sound quite creepy. I think it's one I'd definitely have to be in the mood for.

    I always find first person POV to be interesting. Sometimes you wonder whether the narrator is trustworthy or not. Just another dimension to the story.

  8. The Bookworm Says:

    this does sound scary! I hadnt heard of this one before. I'd really have to be in the mood to read this.
    Great review!

  9. Melody Says:

    Alice - Thanks, my dear friend!

    Sandy - The book is good, but I'm not sure if I'd want to watch the movie though, I think it'd be too scary for me!

    Kathy - Yeah, I feel the same way too!

    Violet - It's indeed a creepy read. I hope you'll read it.

    Stacy - I agree one has to be in the right mood to read this kind of book.

    Wendy - I've not read a real horror book in a long while, and while this book doesn't really fit into that category, it's a horror to me all the same.

    Iliana - I love reading first person POV. I know some readers are bothered by it but it doesn't affect me at all.

    Naida - Jack Ketchum is a new-to-me author and after reading this book, I'm definitely intrigued to read the rest of his books.

  10. Julia Says:

    Hmm as I read the review, I can't help but think and wonder if it the same story that I've seen from a movie that I recently saw on TV in the past month ago. What I saw in the movie, was too much. I probably well emailed you and discuss this further to see if it the same one :)

  11. Melody Says:

    Julia - That'd be great, Julia!

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