Saturday, February 20, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl Next Door

A teenage girl is held captive and brutally tortured by neighborhood children. Based on a true story, this shocking novel reveals the depravity of which we are all capable.  This novel contains graphic content and is recommended for regular readers of horror novels.

There aren’t many things that surprise me when it comes to reading novels, especially of the sick and twisted kind, that is. You think, if you’ve read it once, you’ve read it a thousand times, right? Umm, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m not sure what bothered me more--the fact that an adult abused her power over young impressionable children. . .or the fact that no other adults seemed to notice (or care for that matter) what was happening at the Chandler household?

It was the 1950s in an era where people were trusting. You could leave your doors unlocked, everyone knew their neighbors. Children gathered at their friends’ homes and sometimes even stayed the night and who would be the wiser? Why, what on earth could be so bad with children having a good time playing around in the summertime? You could borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor—hell even feed your children’s friends food and their parents wouldn’t question that, right? What was there to question? It was good old-fashioned fun! 

Perhaps therein lay the problem. Everything was perfect on the outside. No one would question what went on in another adult’s home. It wasn't their business after all. What goes on behind these walls stays within these walls and no matter what; you had to save face for your community. Sure, the streets talked. Everyone had a good idea of who was sleeping with the milk man, or who was getting slapped around by their husband. Sure, there was talk of whose husband was messing around with his wife’s friend, but all those things were kept in hushed tones—a mere whisper.

So, why on earth would anyone pay attention to Ruth Chandler, a broken soul walking among the living, charged with having to take care of her two nieces due to an unfortunate incident that happened to their parents? Megan and Susan came to Ruth by accident or was it deliberate? There wasn’t any reason to suspect Ruth of being an unfit mother. After all, she had three hardheaded sons she was left to raise as a single parent. What were two more mouths to feed? Well, as luck would have it, (or unlucky) if you will, the horrendous events that took place in the Chandler household were some of the most unspeakable and unbelievable things I’ve ever set my eyes upon. The movie adaptation of the same title as the book, took me by total surprise. And, stepping outside my usual norm, I saw the movie without having read the book first. Of course, after having seen it, I immediately downloaded the book to see how much had varied from the actual words Jack wrote.

Suffice it to say, there was a great deal different. Even though this is hard to say, but the book gave much more graphic details of the abuse Meg suffered at the hands of her crazy aunt, Ruth, and cousins. The actress who played Megan wasn’t anywhere near as bad to look at as the character and visualization my mind gave me. I got chills just reading the horror this poor teenage girl suffered. I kept asking myself, “How much can one girl take?” One thing is for sure, Megan was a tough young lady. She took a lot, but she was one of the strongest heroines I’d ever read. Thinking back on what she went through, I don’t know if I would have been able to sustain the abuse for the two and a half months that she did. In fact, had she asked Ruth to kill her would have taken the joy out of it for Ruth. The things that woman did to that girl is so horrific, you just don’t want to believe anyone could do that to another human being, but do it, Ruth did and did it with gusto.

What was even sadder is she encouraged and involved the children of the neighborhood to go down to the basement and abuse Megan too. And they not only did it, but they enjoyed it. This became a game of sorts. The Game in which the young boys referred to it. Every type of horror your mind could muster up, those in humane monsters did it to Megan—everything imaginable and beyond. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I was glued to each word Jack wrote and put myself in Megan’s shoes, and I wanted to take those shoes off, much like Megan’s only friend and hero in the book, Davey. Poor Dave had a terrible burden bestowed upon him. That burden is something no human should ever have to endure, but Dave did just that. His hands were tied literally. What could a twelve year old boy do? Who would believe him? Sometimes the torture was just so much for the kids, which one boy did in fact tell his mother what was happening, and of course, that didn’t pan out too well. 

The police in the book were just like everyone else seemingly living in la-la land and not living in the real world. People just didn’t behave like the Ruth’s of the world at that time and place, but the fact of the matter is, abuse of children did happen, and everyone turned a blind eye and deaf ear to it. Kids were just kids. It was up to the adults to guide them down the right path, but when you take a sociopath like Ruth and add children in the mix, well, is it any wonder things were bound to happen?

The movie gave me chills and the book gave me a headache. But no matter how much I didn’t want to read what was happening to this child, I, like Davey, found myself so intrigued and confused by the situation that you couldn’t help but to stick around to see what the hell would happen next. The Girl Next Door was based on a true story. When I learned of that, it made my stomach turn. I know as writers we tend to come up with some of the sickest and twisted thoughts to entertain our readers, but it’s one thing to write things that are untrue and a completely different matter when it is true. My God, I don’t want to believe someone actually committed those heinous acts on another human. You have to be some kind of special to do something like that! This book was terrifying to read. I couldn’t possibly imagine what was ahead when I decided to read the story. The book was way worse than what the directors did in the actual movie. There were so many elements that never made it into the movie, which is why, you already know, I always advise read the book first and then see the movie. Umm, both are pretty hard to bear. But if you really want to know what happened and how the story truly ended, you must read the story. Hollywood as usual took licenses and changed Jack’s words around.

Mello & June gives this book five stars. It was brilliantly written and what you read will leave you speechless. You think YOU know pain, as Davey starts the book, you have no idea!  I'm here to tell you, his words ring truthful!

Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

Just Because YOU Don't See It,
Doesn't Mean It Isn't Happening!