August 5, 2014
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You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.
A dead girl walks the streets.
She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.
And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.
Because the boy has a terrifying secret - one that would just kill to get out.
The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as "Dexter" meets "The Grudge", based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.
"I am where dead children go," begins this tale full of atmosphere, superstition and horror. The Girl from the Well takes a ghost story from Japanese folklore and brings it into present day. The story was not one I knew prior to reading the novel, but, after looking it up, it seems Chupeco used it for brilliant inspiration.
Yet the old tale is not the story line that The Girl from the Well follows. Instead it is a character from that ghost story that is a part of the novel. The character, the 'dead girl who walks to streets,' stays true to the character from folklore while being developed enough to be a great, fully realized character integral to the story. (You can see a brief summary of the legend here - though if you don't know the story I think it's more fun to do after reading the novel.)
The dead girl, this vengeful ghost, is only one of the well done characters. While I enjoyed most of them - even some with very small parts - my other favorite character was Tarquin. How his story, his life and the story of the ghost girl* intersect is really smart. And something we do not fully realize until the end of the book. His character's history - the mysterious tattoos that he's had for years, even being now only fifteen, his mentally ill mother, his secrets - all combine for a very interesting character.
His character experiences great growth over the course of the story. From the beginning when he's distant and withdrawn (though with some great snark) to who he becomes, it's a great transformation. His tale is even better when paired with those of the other characters and the horror, haunting aspects.
The ghosts, horror, possessions and practices of this book are done fantastically. It is scary. That things are so established in fact, so well explained by past events, really makes for a creepy, startling story.
When everything finally comes together, it is somehow both reassuring and terrifying, at the same time.
The Girl from the Well is absolutely not to miss. It is what I want ghost stories to be: scary, but with great characters, some mystery or suspense and a plot that makes sense. If you enjoy ghost stories, horror stories, folklore or just love characters with unique tales, this is a read for you. I'm excited for the next book and its tale.
*While most reviews - even some synopses have the ghost girl's name, it isn't in the book until almost half way. I liked reading it and not having a name for her until then, so I'm keeping it out of my review.
received for review from publisher, via NetGalley