The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was one of those books that I had a hard time reading, but couldn't bring myself to look away. I had to know what happened next---even though, I had a pretty good idea of how things were going to turn out. I just kept hoping I was wrong.
David grew up next door to the Chandlers and is accustomed to them playing fast-and-loose with rules about what children should and shouldn't do. Single mother, Ruth Chandler, lets the boys drink beer and rough house. In other words, they think she's awesome. Everything seems fine until two young girls move in with her, Meg and Susan. Meg is sassy and beautiful. Susan is sweet, but the accident that killed their parents left her on crutches. Over time, it becomes clear that Ruth resents the additional burden of two more children, and starts taking her frustration out on Meg through physical and psychological abuse that continues to escalate until David tries to step in and end it.
For anyone who is wondering, The Girl Next Door is a novel. It's not real. However, author Jack Ketchum, explains in his note that it was inspired by what he has learned over the years about sociopaths who assume the role of caretaker for children.
I don't recommend this to anyone with a weak stomach, but I think it is a valuable addition to the horror genre (it's scary). Also, Ketchum paints a vivid portrait of what happens in way too many homes across America even though it's not polite to discuss.
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