The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door

by Jack Ketchum

Un 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.

Only one troubled boy stands hesitantly between Meg and Susan and their cruel, torturous deaths.

A boy with a very adult decision to make.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Horror
  • Rating: 3.97
  • Pages: 370
  • Publish Date: June 1st 2005 by Leisure Books
  • Isbn10: 0843955430
  • Isbn13: 9780843955439

What People Think about "The Girl Next Door"

Meg and Susans parents were killed in an auto accident and the only relative to take them in is Ruth, a single mother of three boys. (a judge has not ruled on their mental ability to stand trial as of 5/5/11) What made me think of this story in relation to the book was my wondering about how the hell anyone could ever passively watch someone tortured or slowly dying and do nothing about it. Davy knows that Meg is being tortured and I was fascinated with his reasoning about why everything was happening and whether he should do anything about it. But there were/are just so many other people involved in crimes like this--are they all mentally unwell? I cant pretend to know how much work police men and women have but it is horrible to hear of events like this happening and to know that they were absolutely preventable if someone had intervened. A lot of people probably wont make it through the whole book.

This book is as disturbing as anything I have ever read. The book is a fictionalized account of the real life torture and murder of a teenage girl in Indiana. During the course of a summer of slowly escalating depravity, Ruth, her children and a group of neighborhood kids under Ruths direction brutally torture and murder Meg. The story is narrated decades after the fact by one of the neighborhood boys, Davy, who suffers extreme guilt because he was aware of the torture but didnt do anything to stop it until it was too late. The story is horrific, graphic, disturbing and as far from a pleasurable experience as you are likely to get. However, I do want to make this very, very clear...this is NOT TORTURE PORN or gratuitous violence for its own sake (which I call movies like Hostel and Saw, etc.). His deftly accomplished escalation of the horrors suffered by Meg is masterful and allows the reader to see through Davys eyes as he constantly convinces himself that everything is okay or not as bad as it looks. This escalates into constant verbal abuse and harsh spankings which are seen by Davy as "the way things are for kids. When I read this story, I was reminded of two things about myself. However, it is also an excellent book and one that I think has an important lesson to impart about the depths of human depravity and the need for good people to confront the brutality when they see it happening.

I get this feeling when theres something important I know Ive forgotten, or when I sense that something is gravely wrong in my little world. The feeling was stronger - it started to pull at my guts like it does when Ive really messed things up somehow or have neglected something major. I kept reading, things were grim in the novel, but it wasnt too bad....yet. Am I glad I read this book? I still feel the urge to check on my people, to make sure all is well in every nook and cranny of my little life. For those who havent read it - please check all the trigger warnings provided by so many of the reviews of this book before beginning.

As much as I think Ketchum is a powerful, brave writer who drew me into this story even as I was dragging my heels, I just couldn't hang with those details anymore. I just don't want to know.

Before reading this book, you need to prepare yourself.

If you feel uncomfortable reading about child abuse of a sexual nature, you might want to skip this one. The one criticism I have is that Ketchum, like Ruth, is a heavy smoker. Here's where the personal info comes into play. You can skip to "In summation" if you like. Jamie's brother Ryan soon confessed that, yes, Eddie had been messing with both of them. After that, all the kids in the neighborhood came crawling out of the woodwork with stories of how Eddie had been at them. That was my only odd experience with that family, meaning Eddie never got a hold of me. Rumors flooded the street about how the father was Eddie. The girl's mother had had a thing for him and used her daughter as a bargaining chip to win Eddie's attention. When Eddie got out of jail a few weeks later, he would park on the cross street and walk up and down our block.

The story is told through the eyes of David, the boy who lives next door and who is witness to the escalating abuse and torture that these girls endure at the hands of the aunt and the rest of the children in the neighbourhood. I did not enjoy reading this book, it made me angry, upset, and downright incredulous that people are capable of such inhumane actions, because this is not just some sick and twisted idea that Ketchum came up with, it is based on a true story. I read up on this case after finishing the book and somehow the events that actually happened are even worse. The girl who bore the brunt of the abuse, Meg, is heroic in my eyes. However, I found it hard to stop reading, and it evoked such a strong emotional reaction in me that can only be gained from solid writing and a well-executed story, with empathetic characters (in this case, Meg and her sister).

A onetime actor, teacher, literary agent, lumber salesman, and soda jerk, Ketchum credited his childhood love of Elvis Presley, dinosaurs, and horror for getting him through his formative years. Ketchum worked many different jobs before completing his first novel (1980's controversial "Off Season"), including acting as agent for novelist Henry Miller at Scott Meredith Literary Agency.