The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door - Jack Ketchum This book should be required highschool reading. Forget Knowle's A Separate Peace and Golding's Lord of the Flies. This is the book to read if you want to explore the space between empathy, peer pressure, cruelty, and the turmoil of adolescence.

This book tells a fictionalized story of two girls,10(?) and 14 years old who are horribly abused, one of whom ultimately dies at the hands of her sociopathic guardian. In the epilogue, Jack says his book is based on a true story, and he strove to maintain the sickness of the mother figure and the suffering of the victim while changing the setting and characters to exorcise some of the demons of his own childhood. The mix works perfectly; the sanitized and compartmentalized 1950's small town life hurled against the insanity of the abuse creates a contrast that forced me out of my own comfortable perspective of the "objective reader" and took me front and center into the drama and inhumanity that unfold on these pages.

A large part of the effect this book has on me are my own experiences growing up in an intensely dysfunctional home with a "mentally imbalanced" parent. I am finding the experience of reading this book cathartic, memories and feelings buried deep inside me are bubbling up to the surface for the first time in decades.

I literally could not put this book down. It's not especially suspenseful; you know what's going to ultimately happen. But the journey to the tragic last pages were like a walk through my own closets and hidden places, and I'm glad I made the journey. The three or four hours I spent with this book are helping me come to grips with my own past more than any three or four hours in therapy.

I recommend this book to everybody.