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The Never List

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The most relentless, deeply disturbing thriller writer since Jeffery Deaver and Gillian Flynn

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

A shocking, blazingly fast read, Koethi Zan’s debut is a must for fans of Karin Slaughter, Laura Lippman, and S.J. Watson.

303 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2013

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About the author

Koethi Zan

5 books284 followers
When Koethi Zan was born in the sleepy farming town of Opp, Alabama, the “City of Opportunity,” her mother was Valedictorian of the local public high school and her father the star of its football team. Her parents named her after the homecoming queen of Lurleen B. Wallace Junior College, perhaps hopeful that some of that glory would rub off on her.
But Koethi would never be a homecoming queen. In fact, she spent most of her youth in her room, reading, listening to Morrissey, and avoiding everything connected to high school football—not an easy task in those parts.
After graduation, Koethi put herself through Birmingham-Southern College with scholarships and a small “cow fund” courtesy of Molly, the Charolais heifer she’d received as her third birthday present. She used the money wisely, travelling to New Orleans on the weekends to hit the club scene, almost always in silver-sequined costume, surrounded by transvestites, Goth kids and her gay male entourage. Perhaps, in some roundabout way, she had fulfilled her homecoming queen destiny after all.
Then, in what may have been a misguided fit of pique, Koethi threw away her all-black daywear and her thrift-store evening gowns, and went to Yale Law School, with some vague idea of becoming a film producer. Afterwards, however, she unexpectedly found herself twenty-eight stories up in the Manhattan offices of Davis Polk & Wardwell, a prestigious white shoe law firm that represented mostly investment banks. She regularly pulled all-nighters working on secured financings and revolving credit facilities. She tended to wear demure black pantsuits, with her hair up.
It didn’t take her long to realize corporate life wasn’t for her, and Koethi spent the next fifteen years practicing entertainment law both in private practice (at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison and, later, Schreck Rose & Dapello) and in-house business and legal affairs positions (for the film producer, Ed Pressman, and, most recently, at MTV), with a slight detour along the way to study cinema at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
As an entertainment lawyer, Koethi attended glamorous premieres and openings, international film festivals and celebrity-filled parties. She dealt with gritty production issues as varied as suicide threats, drug overdoses and sex-tape allegations. She warred with Hollywood agents and befriended reality stars.
Then, while Senior Vice President & Deputy General Counsel at MTV, she decided to fulfill a lifelong dream on the side, and in the early mornings she wrote a crime novel, The Never List.
Now, coming full circle in a way, Koethi, her husband, Stephen Metcalf, and their two daughters, live in an old farmhouse in a rural community in upstate New York. Her husband occasionally watches a football game on television. But her daughters have never even heard of homecoming queens.

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5 stars
2,861 (21%)
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3 stars
3,935 (29%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,842 reviews
Profile Image for Alisha Marie.
827 reviews76 followers
July 11, 2016
I'm just gonna come out and say it: For the love of all that is good and holy, can we please STOP comparing every single psychological thriller that has come out recently to Gone Girl?! It's starting to get really annoying. Especially to me since I found Gone Girl to be just okay. And considering that every book I've read that has had that particular disclaimer in it has also been just okay, I'm starting to view it as the kiss of death...just sayin'.

Here's the thing about The Never List...it starts out great...amazing even. And it leads you to believe that this book is going to be that way in every single page...but it's not. And I think that's why The Never List ended up being somewhat disappointing, because it started out so magnificent.

I guess my major gripe with The Never List was that halfway through a pretty great first half, the feeling of dread and suspense that I was supposed to feel stopped and I felt like the story was being rushed to cram every single thing in it. I was also turned off by the main characters doing really dangerous things without having the cops on speed dial...or right next to you. It just didn't mesh for me and so I started viewing some of the characters' actions as inconsistent.

Now the HUGE reveal (which I WON'T reveal here) was not that revealing. In fact, I sort of figured that reveal out right at the beginning and kept reading in hopes that the plot wasn't going to be as predictable as it was seeming to be. I hoped that my prediction would actually turn out to be a red herring and that I would be shocked at a completely unpredictable reveal that made sense.

For me, the thing that The Never List had going for it was the fact that it was a huge page-turner. Sure, it ended up being slightly cliché, the characters weren't all that developed, but none of that bothered me at the time I was reading because I was so focused in the story. I was aggravated when I had to stop reading and the only thing I could think about was getting back to the book because I had to see the way it was going to play out.

So overall, I found The Never List to be slightly disappointing. The first half was amazing, the second half was a bit on the meh side. The premise was completely intriguing, yet the execution left a lot to be desired. I will, however, read the next book that this author publishes since I feel like there's enough potential with what was in The Never List for me to believe that the author can probably write a better book.
Profile Image for Clumsy Storyteller .
348 reviews729 followers
May 31, 2016
the book was Ok ! i liked the end of the story ( i had to skip so many pages to get to it ) that was unexpected turn of events , there was some boring scenes i felt like nothing was really happening !! i had really hard time finishing this one

the book is about two girls Sarah and Jennifer who made '' The Never List" a list of things they would never do to avoid puting their lives at risk till "Jack Derber" who abducted and tortured them day after day for years , the first part was all about kidnapping and sexual abuse, Sarah and Jennifer were not the only two victims , jack abducted many young girls but only two others were still alive "Christine and tracey" ,Sarah managed to escape leaving jennifer behind thinking that she was dead. the second part of the book was kind of weird i mean the characters was unrealistic, they were traumatized for years and then all of sudden they became sherlock holmes and they are investigating on their own, and putting their lives on the line

Author 11 books16 followers
May 27, 2014
This novel has a plot that won't quit. Ever. Just when you think things are wrapping up, something else goes wrong, and the storyline zips off in a new direction. To me, The Never List read more like an outline for an action movie than a complete novel. Characters and plot points are fast moving but not very fleshed out, there are deus ex machinas every few chapters, and new characters are introduced and thrown away so fast I started to forget even the ones who had been there the whole time.

The plot was intruiging enough without having so many new elements thrown in page after page. There were so many twists and turns that the final "twist" was at once predictable and forgettable. It was like the author read so many Gillian Flynn novels that she forgot she could write something of her own.

The Never List has potential. With a new editor, a few rewrites and expansions, this book could lose its breakneck pacing and gain my confidence. Until that happens, don't bother.
Profile Image for Sharon.
948 reviews183 followers
July 8, 2014
Childhood friends Sarah and Jennifer have lived their lives by a strict set of rules which they created from when they were younger. Now college students they still stick to their rules which they call The Never List. The items on the list would remind them of certain things that that they should never do which would always keep them safe. But one night after attending a party their lives would change forever.

Sarah and Jennifer are kidnapped by a sadistic psychopath named, Jack. They are taken to a basement where there are two other women named Tracy and Caroline. From here the women's lives turn into a living nightmare. The women are tortured daily. The pain and suffering these women go through is unimaginable. Then one day Sarah discovers that, Jennifer is missing. No one knows where or what has happened to her and, Sarah fears the worst and realises she may never see her friend again.

Ten years later and Sarah still carries the scars of those horrific years in that basement. She's been hiding away in her apartment unable to live a normal life as panic attacks prevent her from leaving her apartment. When the FBI agent who is taking care of her case informs her that Jack is up for parole, Sarah knows it's time to confront her fears and do all she can to keep this psychopath where he belongs, but will Sarah be strong enough or will her fears get the better of her?

What a fantastic thriller. This gripping and very chilling story had me on the edge of my seat right to the very end. I was blown away with the twist at the end as I would never have guessed it and nor did I see it coming. If you enjoy a good thriller then make sure you read this brilliant book you won't be disappointed. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Profile Image for STEPH.
210 reviews30 followers
November 21, 2021
There is evil in this world more than I can comprehend and it scares me.

These poor poor girls. Abducted, tortured and humiliated for years. OMG. Sold and used, deprived of freedom. The sad thing about all this is; It is happening in real life. Innocent women are being held against their will, suffering alone. Hopeless and wretched. To think that powerful and influential people are using Religion to cover up and disguise their true motives is beyond me.

The crimes presented in this book were repulsive and I had to look away for a few moments to gather my bearing and continue to be plunged into yet another sinister world. Phew.

The Never List tells the story of Sarah, Christine and Tracy who were held captive, tortured and kept for three years by a madman. 10 years after the damaging ordeal, the three women are still haunted by their trauma. When Sarah decided to find out more about the man who abducted them, she was propelled into a dangerous world of BDSM, secret societies and underground network. A shocking secret far more terrifying than the ones she'd known.

Sad and heartbreaking. Gave me flashbacks about a book I read a few months ago with a similar theme.
Profile Image for Carol -  Reading Writing and Riesling.
1,126 reviews114 followers
July 6, 2013
My View:
The novel was not as “dark” as I expected, in fact after reading the back cover info I almost decided against reading this book, I thought it would be too gruesome and horrific for my taste. However as in all good psychological thrillers the tension and drama is created by what is not said, but what is alluded to or made reference to, and Zan uses this method to good effect.

The introduction to this novel provided the hook to claim my attention and get me reading at a cracking pace. However I did not feel that the tension or energy was sustained. I was somewhat disappointed, expecting the atmosphere to always be on high alert, the tension to be at knife edge. The plot was a little thin in places and required some stretches of the imagination to maintain the story (no spoilers here).

The character of Sarah was quite well developed and empathetic, her two other companions in the cellar were not quite so appealing as there was little character development and little of their voices heard in the story. I felt the ending was rushed and tied everything up (story lines) a little too neatly. Perhaps the story and tension could have been enhanced by including more of the perspectives of the other main characters, especially the villains.

I did so want to really enjoy this book but did not think it quite reached the potential the opening chapters alluded to. A quick, interesting read that did not keep me awake at night or raise my pulse. However as a debut novel I think that this writer shows great potential and I will look out for her next work.
Profile Image for Whitney .
433 reviews80 followers
July 29, 2013
When I was in 6th grade I wrote a paper on medieval torture, I have no idea why I chose the topic as I was always a happy, nonviolent kid. Perhaps, it was because The Man in the Iron Mask starring Leonardo DeCaprio had just come out, still the intrigue held. I feel sick even admitting my interest in the subject, but I still find it eye-rising to this day; although now I think it is more of a psychological stand point -- what would posses someone to torture another human being? The thought repulses me.

As young girls Sarah and Jennifer created a "Never List" a safety list of don'ts ranging from natural disasters to rape and kidnapping. The list of precautions they take is extreme and leads them through college until one night they get into a cab taking Sarah and Jennifer to an inescapable Hell.

After years of captivity, only three of the four girl emerge from the cellar with Jennifer's body never being recovered. Ten years later, Sarah has formed a new identity as Caroline but the scars still remain. Sarah/Caroline never leaves her Fort Knox apartment and has an even longer "never list". When she is given the news that her abductor is up for parole she sees this as her opportunity to avenge Jennifer's death, and for her friend, Sarah fights back her phobias to learn the horrid truth.

Due to the success of Gone Girl last year, many thrillers have been touted as "The next Gone Girl" or "If you liked Gone Girl" while I would love to find a Gone Girl equivalent the promo has been thrown around so often that it feels redundant and less believable. Although there was something unique about The Never List that set it apart from the pack. This is most likely due to the fact that it did not succumb to the recent trend of spousal revenge, going off on a limb with a topic that is disturbing and rarely talked about. Whatever the reason, The Never List is a contender.

Koethi Zan's novel was set at a suspenseful pace heightening the reader's senses. My ears would prick up intently listening for a creak down the cellar stairs to a dungeon eerily described. I could feel the heaviness in the air and the dirt on the bottom of my feet, trying to itch away the bugs. My eyesight was foggy with everything coming in sepia tone, giving the time in the cellar an out of body experience. When we are removed from the cellar and it is clear how messed up Sarah, Tracy and Christine are no matter how they try to mask it, I was heart-broken.

When Sarah and Tracy decide to do some detective work of their own and are taken into another horrific lifestyle it began to fall apart for me. The scenario felt disjointed, seeming out of place and overall thought it was poorly planned. Although it found its purpose in the end.

The conclusion was marvelously creepy, going back to the house of horrors where the truth comes out, revealing that no one is as innocent as they seem. The happenings of the fateful day of escape that the novel has been leading up to is outstanding with a twisting finale worthy of fireworks. The Never List is a book that should be on every mystery-lovers must read list.

I received a reader's copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review

View all of my reviews on my blog She is too fond of books
Profile Image for ally  ¯\(ツ)/¯.
191 reviews36 followers
February 19, 2015
This book was unbelievable, and not in a good way. This book to me had zero redeeming qualities. It was not a "Thriller". The author spoon fed you the entire story. Awful Fiction Crime Memoir is a more fitting category.
The main character, Sarah, makes a "Never List" with her friend Jennifer. Then breaks every imaginable Golden Rule in the book and gets kidnapped. Then breaks every rule again and gets kidnapped. Then breaks every rule again and gets locked in a house. She's far to irrational to be believable as an OCD PTSD character.
This story makes people with Ph D's look like idiots and FBI agents look like morons. FBI agents aren't going to hand over evidence and say "You didn't get this from me". FBI agents don't put you under surveillance, but you can tell the cop to leave and they do.
I wouldn't recommend this book to my worst enemy.
Profile Image for Maxine (Booklover Catlady).
1,286 reviews1,249 followers
February 9, 2017
Firstly - can we stop saying books are "the next Gone Girl" it's getting tiring. This one is certainly not on par with Gone Girl at all. I read it over a few hours on a long coach trip, it kept me interested enough to keep going but I felt it lacked substance.

Due to reviews I had expected it to be scary, shocking, horrifying even. Maybe I'm a hardened crime/ thriller reader but nothing in this novel shocked me, or disturbed me (disappointed about that)

The plot starts to get a bit unbelievable after a while, I did a bit of internal eye rolling at situations that just were not, well, believable really. Sad that, as the book could have been so much more. I found the author lacking in some writing skills, for example one of our female characters is described in the beginning as having OCD, PTSD and Agoraphobia, well without giving much away it seems she's free of that pretty quickly, like the author forgot she had those disorders for the rest of the book.

I liked it, didn't love it but it does have some good points too. It's readable, it doesn't require a lot of brain strain and it's got a reasonable plot (once you ignore the lack of realism in places). Three stars, was expecting a lot more from this book than what it delivered.
Profile Image for Carol (StarAngel's Reviews) Allen.
1,681 reviews595 followers
November 2, 2013
**** 4 Torturous Stars ****

I'm on a streak of reading some pretty messed up Psychological Thrillers and I had to pick this one up and take a ride!

The book was overall very good - but not fantastic and a "must keep reading" to find out what happens next.....until the end. 

I loved the story premise and it did take the reader on a journey through rough terrain never detouring through smooth roads.

I liked how the author flip-flopped back to the past within the present story as flashbacks instead of switching it between chapters. 

I only had one dislike and that is major and it is the book didn't hold my attention the whole time.  I was able to put the book down and do other things without anticipating the next page.

I also had a bit of a problem that the girls made nice-nice so fast.

Jennifer and Sarah are best friends growing up and they experience a fatal accident which makes each of them paranoid to do anything that may end in death.  They make a "Never List" to try and keep them safe - until they reach college and get a little lax on safety issues.  They find themselves abducted and thrown in a cellar with 2 other girls.

During this time, Jennifer and Sarah are seperated while Jennifer lives in a box and her life ends by the hands of their sick abducter, The Professor. Sarah and the other 2 girls, Tracey and Christine are tortured weekly while The Professor takes notes on the reations of them along with brainwashing.  This continues for 3 years and during this time, Sarah never finds out where Jennifer's body is buried but manages to escape and save the other girls.

Switch back to the present, 10 years later, and Sarah lives as a hermit in her highrise condo in New York.  It is time for The Professor's parole hearing and Sarah is being coaxed to speak at the hearing to make sure he isn't let out of jail especially since he was able to marry a girl while incarcerated.  She still gets puzzling letters from The Professor and it keeps pointing for her to return to the homestead.  She still wants to find Jennifer's body and feels that if she can finally find it, then he will never be let out of jail.

Sarah travels back and finds out that a strange religious cult may play a part in The Professor's missing wife and maybe just maybe be tied to The Professor.  Sarah asks for the help of Tracey and Christine to solve the puzzles.

What else transpires while the girls are back in the homestead will keep you on the edge of your seat!
Profile Image for Natalia Luna.
257 reviews111 followers
May 3, 2021
Bueno, pasable. Me ha costado algo terminarlo y admito que he leido partes en diagonal. Muchos lugares comunes en esta novela, cosas mil veces leídas...
Se deja leer pero para nada lo recomiendo.
Profile Image for William Lawrence.
276 reviews
May 28, 2019
I burned through The Never List. I didn't want reviews, author bio, or any other comparisons to effect my genuine experience of reading this book, so I shut it all out and went through with the five stars. It could've been a four star, may really be a 4.5 stars, but I gave it a 5 because it was a gripping, fast read, and A LOT of books just don't do that for me. Do I care much about Zan's Yale education or her MTV background? No, I could care less, though I honestly might not have read it if I had known. The fact is I enjoyed the book. That's all that matters. Zan mastered the art of pulling the reader into a suspenseful plot and sustained the mystery throughout.

Is it perfect? No. I could have deducted for some failures in detail about Oregon (I lived there); in fact, I'm not even sure the author visited there because it doesn't sound at all like Oregon, except for some of the winding dark roads, but that could be anywhere. Some of the character transformations are quick and not as careful. The entire book shifts around page 200 and goes into an abrupt resolution dive that could've devastated the entire story, but the author pulls it together for a satisfactory and surprising conclusion. Not a book I want on my home shelf (far too creepy for that), and not a literary classic I will come back to in a decade, but certainly an unforgettable modern thriller I enjoyed.

One strange note to add: the story reminded me of the Kevin Williamson Netflix series The Following, which aired only months before this novel was published. [Zan's second novel is titled The Follower]. It probably isn't possible the author revised anything in such an amount of time after watching the series, since these kinds of commercial books take months and years to go to press and would've already been finalized by the time the Netflix series hit, but they both have the cultish criminal professor thing going with a Joe and a Jack (who also both happen to be in prison still scaring the daylights out of people). Joe Carroll (brilliantly played by James Purfoy) in The Following was a deeper character with more appeal who almost stole the spotlight over the hero whereas Jack in the The Never List was not someone you wondered much more about. The brutal details of Jack's crimes didn't lend to advancing any kind of interesting back story. The spotlight of The Never List is all Sarah as she takes you through the story in her first person narrative with such voice.
Profile Image for Kristin  (MyBookishWays Reviews).
601 reviews202 followers
July 17, 2013
You may also read my review here: http://www.mybookishways.com/2013/07/...

It’s been 10 years since Caroline (now Sarah) escaped from Jack Derber’s basement of horrors, where she spent 3 years. She’s gotten her degree and is now ensconced in her tidy little New York City apartment, where she can order in, and the doorman, Bob, screens for any unwanted visitors. Plus, there are lots of people in New York, lots of people to hear you scream. A wrench is about to be thrown into her little construct of a life, however, in the form of Jack’s parole hearing. Caroline reasons that the likelihood of him getting out is very low, but it’s there, and she needs to be on hand to testify. 10 years isn’t enough for what Jack did to her, and it’s sure not enough for what she’s sure he did to her best friend, Jennifer, whose body was never recovered and whose death they never managed to charge him for.

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite end when Jack went to jail. He’s been sending taunting little letters to Caroline. In fact, he’s been sending them to Tracy and Christine too, who were the other two girls that Caroline and Jennifer were trapped with. Caroline is convinced they hold the clues to Jennifer’s fate, and she’s determined to find her body and make sure Jack never gets out of prison, but she’s going to need help. She manages to enlist the help of Tracy, who isn’t Caroline’s biggest fan, and against the advice of the agent responsible for Jack’s prosecution, they set out to follow the trail that Jack has left in his letters, as well as the woman he married in jail, but it may lead them right back to the very terror they narrowly escaped from so many years ago.

I seem to have had really good luck with books lately. Recently it was the absolutely superb Night Film by Marisha Pessl, and following that up with The Never List was like the cherry on top of a particularly creepy hot fudge sundae. The Never List is narrated by Caroline, and while she does give us glimpses into some of the things that happened in that basement, for those of you that are squeamish, the author spares us any gory details, which I think was a wise move and actually added to the overwhelming creepiness of the story. There is something to be said about leaving some things to the imagination. While the book is certainly about a charming madman, a professor who enchants his students in the classroom and abducts young women out of it, it’s really about Caroline and her coming to terms about the insular life she’s constructed for herself, and of her need to understand they why of what happened to her and the other girls. Caroline goes wayyy outside of her comfort zone during the investigation, and I found myself wincing a couple of times when they put themselves into some pretty dicey situations. Caroline is nothing if not determined though, and the fiery, brittle, and outspoken Tracy provides the perfect contrast to Caroline’s (in the beginning), timid, borderline OCD personality. In Tracy’s eyes, Caroline is a betrayer, and the author does explain why she thinks this, but don’t expect lots of hugs and smiles at the end of their journey together. They don’t become besties. Instead, there develops more of an understanding between them, of how the experience with Jack shaped them and ultimately made them who they are today.

Trust me, though, I thought I knew where this one was going more than a few times. I didn’t. The suspense is nearly unbearable, and the terror of their situation is very real, and it makes for an edge of your set reading experience. By the way, the Never List refers to the endless lists Caroline and Jennifer made as young girls in order to stave off all manner of bad things: Never leave the door unlocked, never get in a car with a stranger. You get the picture. Those are simplified, and their lists are extensive, and yet, it’s ironic that it’s their very caution that gets them abducted in the first place. You’ll root for Caroline and you’ll cringe at some of the situations she finds herself in, and the twists are stunning. You’ll definitely want to include The Never List in your summer must-read plans!
Profile Image for The Book Maven.
496 reviews50 followers
February 20, 2015
In the light of recent news events, the timing ofThe Never List’s release is a little unnerving, to say the least.

Currently, it’s the horror story of the year: On May 6, 2013, people heard screams coming from a house located in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. They managed to free one female, who then called the police. After the police came, they freed two more females and a child. It turns out that the adult females had been kidnapped in 2002, 2003, and 2004, and had been in captivity ever since. One of the captives actually gave birth to a child in captivity.

And then, two-and-a-half-months later,The Never List was published. Told in the first person, it’s the (fictional, thank god) story of Caroline Morrow—or Sarah Farber, as she was known before she and her best friend Jennifer were kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured, and manipulated, along with two other girls, for the next three years. Sarah made it out, along with Christine and Tracy, but Jennifer never did. And they never found a body, either. Ten years later, Sarah is living a cloistered life under an assumed identity, and her kidnapper is up for parole. When he begins to send her cryptic, taunting letters, Sarah decides to gather the strength to sift once more through the evidence and delve into Derber’s head to locate Jennifer’s body. What starts as a simple quest for justice quickly becomes more sinister when she uncovers a hidden world of BDSM clubs, secret societies, obsession with torture, and a scores of missing girls.

Was this book a page-turner? Oh lord yes. Did it warm the cockles of my heart? God no. But in a way, I found it less frightening than reading about Ariel Castro.

If you enjoyed Chelsea Cain’s Heartsick or Chevy Stevens’ Still Missing, this will be a quite satisfying (and yes, disturbing) alternative.
20 reviews1 follower
February 20, 2014
Don't quite know why there is so much positive, elative hype to The Never List. Zan's writing is quite juvenile and amateur; so "trying too hard" that I found it severly difficult to take her narrative seriously without rolling my eyes every other page. The characterizations are nowhere near as feministically empowering as you would hope for such disturbing subject matter. The dialogue and Sarah's thought sternography are - especially for the first half of the book - superficial and lifeless at all levels. Which automatically takes it out of contention with Gone Girl (which is in a completely different EXPERT and PROFESSIONAL league of it's own).
The narrative does pick up tension and engagement in the last 1/3. But the climax is unsatisfying; an obvious conscious attempt at plot resolution, tying up all narrative and character loose ends.
The biggest criticism of The Never List is that Zan's throws EVERYTHING imaginable and essentailly impossible into it. As if she had a checklist laying beside her as she wrote TNL word for word, chapter by chapter: BDSM; witness protection plan like secret identities; Cults; torture; middle of the woods homestead with a secret captive prision cellar of chains and dirty mattresses; characters that are not who they really are; enprisioned mastermind; faulty psychological escapism; novicer than Nancy Drew detective attempts; warped "girlfriend" support booster rat pack; vindictive female revenge action thriller ... I'm sure I'm missing others. OH YES! Young female torture trafficking.
Overall a paltry read. The one positive thing I'd say is that I didn't waste much time reading it (i.e. it's a pathetic quick read)
Profile Image for Patrice Hoffman.
552 reviews253 followers
August 13, 2013
*Won through a Goodreads Giveaway*

I have finished The Never List by Koethi Zan and I have to admit it was quite a rollercoaster ride. Sarah begins to tell us readers about her past and how ironic it was that someone such as herself and her best friend Jennifer were forced into a cellar for 3 years, 13 years earlier. What prompts her to tell her story is because Jack Derber, the man who abducted them, is up for parole. She's received letters from him over the years but with urgency of his possible release, Sarah decides these letters may in fact be a game and could possibly lead her to the body. The body could give the FEDs the case they need to keep him in jail under murder charges as opposed to the lesser charges he's currently serving.

Koethi Zan paints an intense portrait of a woman who's still battling the demons of being subjected to heinous cruelties when in captivity along with three other girls. She embarks on a journey that could either kill her or liberate her. She's become a recluse who doesn't leave her home (for obvious reasons). Although she has moved on with her life under and assumed identity, she's definitely hit a wall with her therapy. Researching the possibilities in the leters, and enlisting the help of the other girls is essential in deciphering the clues, gives her a purpose and redemption.

My major flaw with this novel that I found to be a stretch of the imagination, although necessary to move the plot forward, is the fact that someone who's been living, working, and possibly agoraphobic could find the courage to leave their home. I mean one moment she's compulsively anticipating the click in a locked door to her home, to someone who jets from Boston, to Oregon, to New Orleans, to wherever the call of duty requires. Once she's in these places, she placed into extremely uncomfortable situations that anyone suffering from PTSD would never want to be in. But... in an effort to move the story forward... she recovers. I understand this goes to show the strength in her character, I just found it to be too unbelieveable. Or maybe not developed fully enough.

The story goes back and forth between the past and tells the story of the "Never" list. I think it adds great insight to the personality of our heroine Sarah, so I won't tell it. I'm sure other reviews may.

One other gripe I have is that the climax happened and then it was over way too fast. I think it was over the same page it began. I like gradual buildups more so than a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am. I do like the ending. I don't think it could have gone any better than it did I just wish Zan had savored the moment longer.

The blurbs got it right when they say The Never List is a page-turner. There wasn't a moment something wasn't going on. Sure, character development suffers when this is the case, but I still found Sarah to be quite enjoyable. I worried for her the entire time she went from seedy BDSM clubs, to even scarier places all in the search for truth. She wasn't as whiny as many characters are written to be when they are survivors. What I've learned from The Never List is that there is no amount of preparation or any list that can save someone from fate.
Profile Image for Sharon Bolton.
Author 35 books3,832 followers
March 24, 2013
‘There were four of us down there for the first thirty two months and eleven days of our captivity.’

Thirteen years before this story begins, Sarah was confined in a cellar, the prisoner of Jack Derber, a sociopathic sadist, who exerted absolute control over his four victims, starving and torturing them relentlessly. One of them, Sarah’s best friend Jennifer, disappeared.

When Derber comes up for parole, Sarah knows she has to act. She has to find Jennifer’s body and prove that Derber was not just an abductor and torturer but a murderer too. Helped reluctantly by her two fellow captives, she goes on a hunt to learn more about the man whose slave she once was.

The Never List is a very dark book, literally and figuratively. It got its sticky, sharp talons into me on the first paragraph (the opening is very strong) and wouldn’t let go until I’d finished it in less than two days.

The title and the packaging are clever and are sure to contribute to the book’s inevitable success. The Never List of the title is a childish notion conceived by the two girls as children: a list of actions they must never take to ensure their ongoing safety. It will intrigue others into compiling their own Never Lists and create much discussion around the launch. The dark slip cover with the cut-out lock should also attract a lot of attention on the shelves. This feels like a book destined to do well. And rightly so, it’s an original idea, well executed.

Where it fell down, for me, was in the opening out of the plot into something much bigger than one tortured soul tormenting others. When the entire focus of the book was on Jack Derber, it seemed much darker, more claustrophobic, more frightening, because it was so much more believable. Once the plot stretched out (for me at least) it weakened. Specifically, I was disappointed that Jack himself never appeared in the book. He remained a rather shadowy figure on the edges, rather than the monster at its heart. There were also a few implausibles, for example, the fearful woman unable to leave her apartment one minute becomes the intrepid Nancy Drew on the quest for a killer, the next. But these were small points. On the whole this is stylish and very impressive debut thriller.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,396 reviews7,270 followers
August 29, 2013
Although they had made detailed lists and took every precaution imaginable to avoid getting in harm’s way, Sarah and her best friend Jennifer were kidnapped when they went away to college and were held in a cellar as slaves for three years with two other girls. Four were kept prisoner – three made it out alive.

Fast forward 10 years to their abductor’s probation hearing. Sarah thinks it will be impossible for her to even participate, but she has no idea how many demons from her past she will actually have to face before all is said and done.

The main problem I had with this book is it was written by the wrong narrator. I realize that most psych-thrillers aren’t realistic, but having the victims morph into supersleuths (one who must cure her 10 year case of crippling agoraphobia INSTANTANEOUSLY) in order to solve their own crime was SUPER far-fetched. I mean

 photo really-snl_zps04dc2d55.jpg

Agent McCordy should have been the lead voice. It was his crime to solve – NOT the former victims. The book still could have been written in the first person and used flashbacks of him reviewing his files in order to tell us about the crime(s). The other girls’ characters could have had more depth that way as well.

If you can overlook how farfetched the story was and don’t mind the occasional eyeroll or muttering of “give me a break” through various sections, give this one a read. It was exciting - a real page turner with not a whole lot of breaks in the action and the subject matter was dark and intriguing.
905 reviews257 followers
June 7, 2015
The Never List is a debut novel and unfortunately suffers from this, as despite its promising beginning, the story’s full potential is never quite reached. The horror is kept just enough out of sight – more implied than blatant – to make parts genuinely frightening, but something about the writing tones down the terror, and the result is tamer reading than would be expected from the content. The awkward first-person narration detracts from the overall atmosphere, and I found myself underwhelmed where I should have been terrified.

Full review here

*Received from the publisher through NZ Booklovers.
Profile Image for Elif.
91 reviews8 followers
January 3, 2020
3,5. Hızla okunabilen evet son ana kadar da merak uyandıran bir roman. Fakat sıradışı bir kurgu beklemeyin!
Profile Image for Lou.
879 reviews852 followers
July 24, 2013
An apt title for this tale of desolate happenings, two friends had made a list of things, the never list, they had looked at every possibility of things going wrong, paranoia and insecurity that extra mile, they overlooked one important rule of all.
Never get in the car.
They had thought fate did not come into the scheme of things and looked at every possibility of an evil and dark end, except one.
Many years later the main protagonist is still living though her days of being gone and harmed, she had hardly left her home but as new information and possible dangers unearth she finds herself forced to retrace the past and find answers to the unanswered and learns a new set of facts.

The author has you thoroughly immersed in her narrative, she has created the need to keep reading on in her female protagonists road of survival, courage, and living.
A story told dealing with a stark set of affairs but very real in its emotions and trials.
A not to be missed read, a must read released the Summer of 2013.

Review also @ http://more2read.com/review/the-never-list-by-koethi-zan/
Profile Image for Tania.
1,171 reviews266 followers
April 11, 2015
A quick, but suspenseful read. I thought the characters was unrealistic, and could not really identify with any of them. The story was interesting though, and I did not expect the twist at the end.
The Story: There were four of us down there for the first thirty-two months and eleven days of our captivity. And then, very suddenly and without warning, there were three. Even though the fourth person hadn't made any noise at all in several months, the room got very quiet when she was gone. For a long time after that, we sat in silence, in the dark, each of us wondering what this meant for her and for us, and which of us would be the next in the box.
Profile Image for Vaso.
1,060 reviews141 followers
May 6, 2016
Πολύ καλό ψυχολογικό θρίλερ...
Profile Image for Omaira.
715 reviews118 followers
November 24, 2018
Cuánto potencial desperdiciado. Cuando vi la sinopsis de este libro, mi ganas de leerlo fueron inmensas y pensé que me iba a encontrar con una historia dura y adictiva. Qué equivocada estaba.

El principio fue absolutamente perfecto, de hecho, es el único motivo por el que le doy dos estrellas y no una. La protagonista principal, Sarah fue secuestrada junto a Jennifer, su mejor amiga, tras salir de una fiesta universitaria. Ambas se subieron a lo que parecía un taxi y el conductor las drogó y las encerró en un sótano junto a otras dos chicas que ya llevaban tiempo allí. Una década después, se ve que, excepto Jennifer,todas lograron volver a ser libres y que su secuestrador está a punto de ser puesto en libertad.

Lo que estoy diciendo no es spoiler , la novela alterna desde el inicio la narración de lo que ocurre en el presente con flashbacks de lo sucedido anteriormente y hasta la sinopsis lo menciona. Esto para mí fue un error que se fue notando cada vez más, especialmente porque llegó un punto en el que me di cuenta de que la autora no me iba a contar prácticamente nada de lo que ocurrió durante los años en los que las chicas estuvieron cautivas. No digo que tuviera que dar detalles escabrosos o desagradables, pero es que se evita mencionar de forma expresa qué les hizo el secuestrador y ni siquiera pude sentir la desesperación que una situación así les provocaría a las víctimas. Sarah pasa 3 años en el sótano y parecen 3 días por lo poco que se describe esa época. Además, es un poco llamativo cómo supera las secuelas psicológicas que esto le produjo, ya que de un día para otro, ante la probable liberación del secuestrador, se le pasa todo y se convierte en una gran detective que deja a la policía como auténticos inútiles.

Durante la primera mitad, la lectura mantuvo más o menos mi interés, aunque tras las 100 páginas iniciales ya empecé a notar que mi opinión del libro estaba empeorando a un ritmo preocupante. La segunda mitad fue insufrible, me obligué a continuar leyendo para ver si se daba alguna sorpresa y, lamentablemente, no fue así. Hay muchas páginas en las que apenas ocurre nada, los personajes son fríos como témpanos de hielo y, por si esto fuera poco, se nombra el sadomasoquismo y queda como algo decorativo, ya que no se ahonda de verdad en el tema y se vuelve a evitar hablar claro sobre cualquier práctica relacionada con este asunto.

La “sorpresa” del desenlace me la intuí desde el principio, y la autora volvió a cometer el error de no profundizar en lo que eso suponía para Sarah y en cómo exactamente se llegó a esa situación.

No es un libro que yo recomendaría, os juro que los primeros capítulos me parecieron sublimes y solo por ellos me contengo y no le doy la mínima puntuación.
Profile Image for Laura.
245 reviews88 followers
October 14, 2015
Todo el libro es genial, le hubiera dado cinco... si el final hubiera sido más extenso, pero se me quedo corto y rápido. Pero os lo recomiendo a todos, un thriller apoteosico.
Profile Image for Ivy.
954 reviews51 followers
March 22, 2019
Eigentlich nicht übel, die vielen Wendungen machen es spannend, deie Geschichte konnte mich aber weder fesseln noch mitreißen. Fängt super an, lässt aber total nach.

Sarah führt ihr Leben zurückgezogen und voller Zwänge. Bis sie mit ihrer Vergangenheit konfrontiert wird.
Der Mann, der ihre beste Freundin getötet und sie jahrelang gequält hat, soll auf Bewährung entlassen werden. Zusammen mit zwei anderen Opfern macht sie sich auf die Suche nach neuen Beweisen und Zusammenhängen, um das zu verhindern.

Das jahrelange Leiden ist so unglaublich realistisch geschildert und gibt der Story die richtige Atmosphäre. Auch die Auswirkungen, die die Qual auf die Frauen hatte und wie verändert sie sind, ist authentisch und glaubhaft dargestellt.

Und dann ist man mittendrin in der Story - aber da beginnen auch meine Probleme.
Das Ganze wirkt schnell unrealistisch. Die drei ermitteln selbst und bringen sich ständig in Gefahr. Vor allem Sarah wirkt plötzlich selbstbewusst und handelt unglaubwürdig.

Die Story geht auf und ab, vor und zurück, dreht und überschlägt sich immer wieder, bis das Meiste einfach konstruiert wirkt. Außerdem geht dadurch die große Überraschung, der große Plot-Twist total unter.

Die Beteiligten reimen sich dann was zusammen, was man als Leser nicht unbedingt nachvollziehen kann.
Dann scheint Sarah ein Geheimnis zu haben, das immer wieder erwähnt wird. Am Ende war es nicht der Rede wert und wurde nur künstlich aufgebauscht.
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