The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door - Jack Ketchum this was one of those books that everyone who found out i was reading it seemed a little uncomfortable about, because damn near everybody has heard of this book by now, especially with the (mediocre) movie being such a hit a few years back. so naturally, i steeled myself up in preparation for it, so i could look at everyone who told me how horrifying it was with a sneer and say something like that wasn't even that bad or i've seen worse. to be honest, it wasn't "that bad" and i have, in fact, seen worse, but... there was something about this book that still managed to make me uncomfortable.

maybe it was the relentlessness of meg's attackers, or that these unspeakable acts were committed by her own family, or even just that i was given roughly 30-40% of the book to get to know meg through david's eyes (and everyone else in his weird little neighborhood too) and then i got to watch all of them slowly lose their humanity and turn into monsters.

the innocence of children is lost in this book. there is no such thing as an angelic little cherub with ten tiny fingers and toes and a limitless fountain of hopes, dreams, and kindness. no, no. these boys are rough and fucked up and dastardly long before meg shows up - they sexually abuse the girls on their street, their sisters, and it honestly just seems like meg falling into their lives was a twist of fate. these things were always inside them. her presence didn't bring it out. something about that was particularly troubling, for me.

the way ruth spoke about not only meg but girls in general spoke volumes about the way she was as a person, her own inner torment and her broken mentality. it was... chilling, actually, the way she seemed so possessive and nearly infatuated with "her boys," and how her attack on meg almost seemed like she felt threatened by her, and had to do away with the threat.

there was no shortage of torture here - hot water, feces, rape, burning, cutting, insects, verbal abuse. it was brutal and ruthless. there was no breaking point, no ceiling. it was heartbreaking and disgusting. it was exactly what you think a book with this kind of title and reputation, including all of the negative parts: unrealistically bad cops, a whole legion of people (adults and children) who were indifferent to and/or supportive of what they were doing to meg. and those parts are, of course, why this has been given four stars instead of five: my suspension of disbelief has a definite limit, and around the time that literally every child in the neighborhood was involved and bloodthirsty, i decided that this was definitely a bit fantastical, which i do like, but since i expected more... realism, i was a little disappointed.