It is not often that I get to bring you a book that is a hands-down, five-star, should’ve-got-it-in-print read. Don’t get me wrong, I do bring you lots of wonderful, interesting, original and exciting books on this here shelf, but today I’ve got one of those special ones. It’s a keeper. The kind you buy in hardback and keep on the “special” shelf (wherein lie the oldest knick knacks with the most sentimental value). Basically, this one is a guaranteed re-re-re-re-read. (NB: that last bit wasn’t a hitherto unencountered stutter that I’m developing, just a fancy way of saying “book that you will read multiple times”).
I give you….The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco. This book has loose ties to the Japanese film The Ring, that was later remade in English and if you know anything about that film, you will immediately gain the understanding that this book is not all flowers and sunshine. If you don’t know anything about that film, it is apparently spectacularly terrifying and psychologically scarring. I haven’t seen it, because I am far too sensitive to expose myself to horror films of this ilk. Having said that, I am SO GLAD I requested this book to review because it is fan-fugu-tastic (as they say in the Simpsons). Allow me to
synopsise synopsisise tell you about the plot. And if you live in the US or Canada, stay tuned for a chance to win a copy at the end of this post.
Tarquin is a teen who has trouble fitting in. His mother has recently been sectioned in a psychiatric hospital for (among other things) attempting to kill her son, he and his father have just moved interstate to try to start a new life and, oddest of all, Tarquin has to try and fit in to this new life while attempting to hide his tattoos. The tattoos that his mother put on him when he was a little boy. Callie is Tarquin’s older cousin, who works as a teaching assistant at the junior section of Tarquin’s new school. When she’s not dealing with kids who have decidedly odd abilities, she attempts to watch over Tark and try to help him fit in. Okiku is dead. But she’s still here. After a long, long, long time, she’s still here. And she knows that there’s something weird going on with Tarquin and his tattoos. As the story unfolds, the reader is treated to a tale filled with kidnap and murder, ancient evil, creepy dolls, ghosts hell-bent on revenge and happenings that lead Tark back to his native Japan. But unless he and Cassie can find the right people to help them overcome a lurking, malevolent presence that is desperate to escape into the world, they may find that their lives will suddenly become a lot shorter than they expected.
Read it if:
*you like a scary story that has the potential to be terrifying and psychologically scarring, but also has a few elements thrown in to ensure you won’t be dragged screaming and ranting to the loony bin after reading it
*you’ve always been creeped out by Granny’s collection of hideous porcelain dolls staring with their blank, dead eyes from behind their glass cases
*you’ve ever had (or seen, or been told about) a tattoo that you later thought was a spectacularly poor idea…and that’s before it starts bubbling and moving under your skin
*you’re looking for a lesson on Japanese culture, history and legend that is not the kind you’ll find in history classes at school
The first and best thing I can tell you about this book is that it is compelling. Compelling is the word that I use to describe books that I either (a) can’t put down or (b) keep thinking about and being drawn back to whenever I’m not reading it. This was definitely the latter. The Girl from the Well is a chunky read that took me a number of reasonably long sittings to get through, but whenever I took a break I was thinking about the story, the characters and how the book was going to end. That, in my opinion, is the mark of great writing.
There is so much going on in this book, and I think that’s one of the reasons I was so drawn into the narrative. We start off meeting Okiku, a spirit who is on a mission to hunt down and murder those who have threatened or killed children. Now, while this might seem immediately off-putting (or fantastic, depending on where you sit on the love-of-horror-o-meter), there’s a real vulnerability about Okiku that had me sympathising with her and her situation right from the start. Then we meet Tarquin and his weird tattoos, Cassie and her kids that appear to have ESP, and a sinister man who one can only conclude is up to some serious mischief involving helpless children. We meet Tarquin’s mother, and discover that Okiku is not the only murderous spirit getting around. And when that part of the story gets resolved, the narrative shifts everyone to Japan where the action kicks off again with ancient evil aplenty and the aforementioned creepy dolls and slashing and hacking and terrifying action. I can’t say much more because it would be a definite spoiler, but there is plenty to keep you awake at night in this book – and not just from abject terror, either.
Because really, the story isn’t that terrifying. Sure, there’s horror-type stuff going down and a number of scenes of violence and murder, but I never felt like it was over the top or too scary that I had to put the book down – and that’s saying something, coming from Mr Scaredy Pants extraordinaire. I think that because most of the book is narrated by Okiku, and even though she’s a vengeful, murderous spirit, there’s something comforting about her ethical. justice -driven approach, and the posthumous journey of personal growth that unfolds for her over the course of the book.
And finally, I loved the Japanese elements of the story. It was thoroughly refreshing to experience a contemporary YA novel with such an integrated focus on an Eastern culture and their legends and history.
In short, get this book. Get it now! If you live outside the US or Canada, preorder it now, because it’s not released until August 5th. If you happen to live in the US or Canada, enter this giveaway and possibly WIN a copy now! Simply click on the rafflecopter link below and cross your fingers:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Many thanks to SourcebooksFire for providing a copy of the book for this giveaway.
I, as an outside-the-US-and-Canada-dweller will just have to acquire it myself in print, as I received it as a digital copy from the publisher via Netgalley.
Until next time horror-lovers,