We came from a family of writers. Alas, we can't write. So we blog about our love for books instead.
I got roped into watching Hostel when it was out a few years back. See, as much as I love the horror genre, I remember being absolutely disgusted with that movie. I just cannot stand the slow torture of individuals. Give me a slasher film or a movie about a ghost girl with long creepy hair any day. This book reminded me a little bit of that movie but better; I think because it was not the book's intention to shock and disgust me with blood and gore, I was able to go beyond the torture and focus on the story. And what a thrilling, creepy ride this book was.
"Jennifer and I, of all people, should not have ended up in that cellar. We were not your average 18-year-old girls, abandoning all caution once set loose for the first time on a college campus. We took our freedom seriously and monitored it so carefully, it almost didn't exist anymore. We knew what was out there in that big wide world better than anyone, and we weren't going to let it get us."
Growing up, Sarah and her best friend Jennifer survived a car accident that killed Jennifer's mother. Since then they were obsessed with staying safe and making sure they never did anything on the Never List that they created... until that one fateful day when they unthinkingly rode a cab that delivered them into the hands of a sadistic monster. Along with two other girls, they were locked and starved in a cellar...tortured physically, mentally and emotionally for years.
"There were four of us down there for the first thirty-two months and eleven days of our captivity. And then, very suddenly and without warning, there are three."
10 years later, Sarah (now Caroline) is still struggling from PTSD, combined with the guilt that Jennifer died in that house but they still couldn't find her body. Tracey and Christine, the two other girls in the cellar, survived, but don't want anything to do with her. The man who tortured them mercilessly is up for parole and has been sending them disturbing letters over the years.
This book isn't overly graphic but it still managed to be disturbing when describing their time in the dungeon-like cellar. Somehow, because the torture is left to our imagination, it was creepier than ever and I shudder whenever I think about it, even now. If I was in their situation I honestly don't know if I could survive a month of what they went through. Sarah was in there for three years, Tracey and Christine even longer than that. The book cuts between the past and the present, with Sarah finally choosing to overcome her fear of the outside world to figure out the letters their captor has sent.
In her search, we find out more about their sadistic captor and we meet more characters that are connected to his past and his present. We see how differently the three survivors dealt with their freedom and the aftermath of the horrific things that was done to them, as well as what they've done to each other. I love how well-paced the book was and how it kept me on the edge of my seat with different mysteries presented throughout the story. There were so many plot twists in this book that I did not see coming that I literally could not stop reading it until I got to the very end.
My one gripe is that at times I found the survivors' actions too illogical. For individuals who were locked up and tortured for years, they sure made a lot of stupid actions and decisions that placed them in extreme danger. At times it felt that what they did was too out of character, even for someone trying to break free of her PTSD. Nevertheless, I liked all three survivors and I like how readers were given the chance to get to know all three girls in this book even if it's just Sarah's POV all throughout. Their captor, though physically absent during the present, was believably scary and truly felt like this big, looming, dark cloud of evil... one you wouldn't want to let loose on parole.
This is a great psychological thriller from a very talented debut author. It was so effective in its unpredictability that I did not see each plot twist coming. Creepy, dark, and disturbing, this book was a true page-turner and I will surely read more titles from this author in the future.
A copy was provided by PENGUIN GROUP Viking via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.