Title: The Girl from the Well
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Hardback: 267 pages
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Bought
Let’s start with a brief synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
What I thought:
I am a huge fan of mythology and legends, always have been. I’ve always thought Japanese myths were particularly interesting. Their legends are complex, mysterious, and freaking creepy. There’s usually a horrible death, which makes these tales even scarier. This is why I wanted to read this book so much. It was also pitched as a mix between Dexter and The Grudge. Are you kidding? I had grabby hands for months. Even if you haven’t seen it, I’m sure most of you know what The Grudge is about or have seen the picture of the creepy girl with the long, stringy black hair. That’s Okiku, and she’s the narrator of The Girl from the Well.
So Okiku is our narrator. I enjoyed her narration and the writing style. She spoke formally, and she spells out words (it is instead of it’s). She also doesn’t call the other characters by their names at first; Tark, our main character other than Okiku, is “the boy” at first. But as Okiku gets to know Tark and his cousin Callie (“the young woman”), she starts to tell us about them by using their actual names. I thought it showed how she started to become more emotionally attached to these humans; very cool.
On the other hand, she was kind of boring. She’s supposed to be this super scary ghost enacting vengeance upon child killers. She hunts them and drowns them as she was drowned (I won’t go into Okiku’s myth here, but if you’re interested – which you should be – you can read more about her HERE). But this only happens about three times in the whole book. I really did enjoy Okiku’s development throughout the book; she starts to understand and empathize with humans, particularly Tark and Callie. But I think this happened too quickly and we didn’t get enough time with her as the terrifying ghost she’s supposed to be. I thought her development and growth was well-done, but it made her no longer scary pretty quickly in the story.
I liked Tark and Callie, but I don’t think their backstory was developed enough, especially Callie’s. We do learn a little about Tark and how he came to be possessed by a powerful spirit, but I could have used a lot more info because I think it would have been fascinating. Tark was probably my favorite character. He had this horrible thing done to him, but he isn’t a complainer. He doesn’t bother anyone else with his issues and keeps to himself. But he’s funny, smart, and independent.
I do want to say that as much as I liked the horror in this book (and trust me, parts of it were truly, truly scary – especially the first time we see Okiku enact her vengeance), some of it felt super cheesy. Like low-budget, B movie horror. I almost laughed a few times. Like I said, some of it was actually really creepy and made it so that it was hard to go to sleep, but other parts were just SO cheesy.
I won’t give anything away, but I really liked the end.
The bottom line: Creepy, psychological, horrifying, and surprisingly enlightening. Sometimes it was seriously scary, but other times it was almost laughingly cheesy. For fans of horror and mythology.
Rating: 6.5 / 10
Reading next: The Truth about Alice by Jennifer Mathieu