Book Review, Horror, Thriller

REVIEW: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum


Synopsis from
“Suburbia. Shady, tree-lined streets, well-tended lawns and cozy homes. A nice, quiet place to grow up. Unless you are teenage Meg or her crippled sister, Susan. On a dead-end street, in the dark, damp basement of the Chandler house, Meg and Susan are left captive to the savage whims and rages of a distant aunt who is rapidly descending into madness. It is a madness that infects all three of her sons and finally the entire neighborhood. Only one troubled boy stands hesitantly between Meg and Susan and their cruel, torturous deaths. A boy with a very adult decision to make.”


Have you ever read a book so upsetting that all you can do afterward is just sit there and stare into space? One that fills you with the urge to read the happiest novel you can find afterward in an attempt to counteract what you just read? Well….This book is that bad.

Now dont get me wrong, the writing itself is amazing. It is detailed without being pornographic or too crude for the sake of it, it makes you feel all of the emotions and drags you along for a rollercoaster ride of horror. This book is amazing in that sense, the subject matter is just horrific.

Before I started this book I read some interesting reviews. The vast majority of them were from people saying they had to stop reading or simply asking “what the hell is wrong with this book?!” Others labelled it “gore porn”. I think the latter is going a bit too far. I would consider books like Clockwork Orange or American Psycho more pornographic than this. They are entirely fictional, sexual, novels written about some sort of fantasy. This book avoids that title because it is not entirely fictional. It is based on something that happened in real life, and even though some scenes are added in or exaggerated for dramatic effect, it really happened to a real person, Sylvia Likens. I think this puts the book more in line with other upsetting abuse novels like A Child Called IT, than gore porn.

Did I enjoy it? It is hard to say. The writing was brilliant, like I said earlier, and I enjoyed it enough to finish it. But I also had an advantage going into this novel because I had read about the real life events before.  I am a bit of a crime junkie so I knew what I was going into. It is just hard to say you “enjoyed” a novel that is about a teenage girl being abused and tortured. It was upsetting but that is a good thing because it made you get upset. It takes a good writer to make you feel that way.

The only real flaw I found in it was the ending. It annoyed me. I don’t believe in giving spoilers in my reviews but I will just say that I feel like justice was not served in the end. If you have read this book you will know what I am talking about.

If you are tempted to read this book and are anyway sensitive prepare for the worst, or even better, just put it in your freezer and forget about it. Bury it under a pile of frozen peas and go read something happier.


EVERYTHING! Strong language, child abuse, torture, sexual abuse, sexual language, sexual scenes, genital mutilation, rape, and emotional abuse.


 3 out of 5

This book might have upset me but it kept me hooked and reading. I like when a crime novel gives me all of the nitty gritty details rather than show me things through rose tinted glasses. We might hate it and it might be upsetting but this sort of thing sadly happens in the real world. And sometimes we just need to read a book like this to satisfy morbid curiosity about what that sort of situation is like. If you are up to it, go give this book a read.

…Now I off to pet a bunny or something to cheer myself up.

As always feel free to follow me on GoodReads. What is the most upsetting novel you have ever read?

8 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum”

  1. Pingback: Spine Cracker
    1. I havent seen the film yet but I really need to. The book will probably be burned into my head forever though

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