Anton's Reviews > The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum
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Mar 16, 11


This book is revolting. I read it knowing that it would be. If memory serves, the Village Voice once said Ketchum amounted to "torture porn." They were probably talking about this particular novel, which is based on an actual torture-murder in Indiana in which a child was imprisoned in a basement and brutalized by the woman with whom she boarded and the neighborhood kids until she died. My primary motive in reading it was a more or less clinical interest in popular horror fiction, and this guy is near the top of a lot of lists of scary books.

That said, I was not as disgusted with myself for reading it as I thought it would be. In fact, I found it pretty good. It is revolting, it is lurid, it does indeed make you wonder how the hell you can possibly take pleasure in something so macabre. But that's what saves it: the true object of horror in this story is the nature of our participation as willing witnesses in the events that it describes. The narrator of the novel, twelve years old at the time of the crime, is a direct spectator of the brutal deeds, wrestling with his own culpability. Especially well-captured by Ketchum is the psychology of the child: with such faith in the authority of adults, the narrator is led almost inevitably by the woman next door into scenes of escalating brutality. That's ultimately what is most sickening: not what is being done but THAT it's being done, that it's being done by a child, and most of all that it's all believable in Ketchum's deft and dark portrait of pre-adolescent psychology.

Also, it's a page-turner (but DEFINITELY not for the faint of heart).
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message 1: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Vanderhart You've definitely convinced me not to read this one!


Jaime Lee Just to point something out, the true story was not about an nanny tortured by her employer. The story is based on the murder of Sylvia Likens. She was a little girl that was left with a neighbor while her parents worked with a travelling carnival.

I agree, gruesome read.


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