Rummanah Aasi
 My teen book club wanted to read a horror book for the month of October and we collectively decided to read Rin Chupeco's debut novel, The Girl from the Well. None of the teens nor I are big horror fans so I was a little worried that none of us would not like The Girl from the Well, but they proved me wrong. We all loved the book and were very fortune to do a Google hangout with Rin who was so generous to spend her time discussing the book with us.

Description: 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.

Review: I am not a horror reader. I do not seek out horror books, unless it is to get in the mood for Halloween. Despite my reluctance, I was thoroughly enthralled with The Girl from the Well. The book is exceptionally written and draws from a classic Japanese ghost story while wielding an unique story of its own. Though the book gave me goose bumps, I still find myself thinking about the book long after I finished it.
  Okiku was brutally murdered 300 years ago at age 16 and has roamed the world ever since, killing child murderers. These murderers unknowingly carry the ghosts of their victims on their backs, making them easy for Okiku to identify. When she is chasing down a serial killer, she spots a boy with moving tattoos on his body and becomes intrigued by him. She follows and observes the boy, who like her is also isolated and mistreated.
  The boy's name is Tarquin and he is the son of an American man and a Japanese woman. Now institutionalized, Tarquin's mother inscribed strange tattoos on the boy as a toddler, which act as seals to imprison the evil ghost inside him. Only Tarquin and his cousin Callie believe and see the ghost in black that haunts Tarquin. The ghost in black horribly murders Tarquin's mother and Tarquin's health dramatically declines. A trip to Japan is planned to act out Tarquin's mother's last wish of scattering her ashes at a shrine, but also as a last resort to free Tarquin from his spirit tormentor.
  Chupeco infuses her story with an old Japanese folklore about a vengeful spirit named Okiku. She writes from the perspective of Okiku in a distant third person point of view while intercepting it with a first person narrative. This writing style is very tricky and could lose the audience at any given time, but it works very well in the story. As a reader you are trying to figure out what Okiku's back story is and place yourself right in the middle of the action. Information is given to you in bits and pieces while slowly revealing the severity of the danger Tarquin faces, retching up the suspense and horror throughout the story. I also loved the details about the Japanese culture that Chupeco includes in her book and truly appreciated the avoidance of a forced romance and humor in this story.
 The characters of The Girl from the Well are just as strong as the writing. Okiku is a fascinating character who is not purely good nor purely evil, but lives in the ambiguous gray area and owns it. She is never ignorant nor too proud of the fact that she too can be seen as a killer just like those whom she hunts and kills. While Okiku's own story is tragic and in which she plays the victim, as a ghost she is an avenger who holds power. It is through this realization that she finds a kindred spirit in Tarquin, a boy whose childhood was robbed of him because of the choice his mother made.
 The story ends in a nice twist and though there is a companion novel, The Girl from the Well, can read as a standalone. The Girl from the Well is a chilling, bloody ghost story that resonates and would make a terrific Halloween read. I think I will wait until next Halloween to pick up and continue Okiku's story in The Suffering. I just need a whole year to prepare myself for more horror.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, violence (most of which takes place off the page), disturbing images, and allusion to sexual assault. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Suffering by Rin Chupeco, Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich, Anna Dressed in Blood series by Kendare Blake
4 Responses
  1. Wow! I keep overlooking this series. I like the sound of the narrative, even though it's tricky, i like that it is unique. I really need to check this out.

  2. Kindlemom Says:

    Yay! I'm so glad you read and liked this! I really loved it and the second was even better in my opinion!

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I also don't read horror but was captivated by this book. I also enjoyed the second book and I think you will as well.

  4. Aylee Says:

    Oooh, I've heard some great things about this one! And you got to have a Google hangout with the author!! Way cool. I'm so not a horror reader either, but I'm thinking I need to make an exception for this one sometime.

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