Series: The Girl from the Well #1
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on August 5, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal
Format: eBook, Kindle Edition
I am where dead children go.
Okiku is a lonely soul. She has wandered the world for centuries, freeing the spirits of the murdered-dead. Once a victim herself, she now takes the lives of killers with the vengeance they're due. But releasing innocent ghosts from their ethereal tethers does not bring Okiku peace. Still she drifts on.
Such is her existence, until she meets Tark. Evil writhes beneath the moody teen's skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. While his neighbors fear him, Okiku knows the boy is not a monster. Tark needs to be freed from the malevolence that clings to him. There's just one problem: if the demon dies, so does its host.
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco started out as a really solid read that had me totally captivated, but then it all fell apart. Let’s all take a moment to mourn the lose of such promise.
So here’s the deal. The Girl from the Well is a novel that pulls heavily from Japanese folklore and J-horror movie tropes. In the novel, our narrator is a ghost named Okiku, betrayed and murdered centuries earlier, and now consumed by rage and an unyielding desire for vengeance. She roams the earth with a singular purpose: to free the souls of other victims and exact a horrific justice on those who would abuse and murder others, specifically children.
Many, many years later and far from her homeland of Japan, Okiku catches sight of Tark, a young boy with strange tattoos and a (literal) demon on his back, and for the first time she is compelled by something other than her own rage. She wishes to help the boy before the marks on his body fail and he is overwhelmed by the terrible burden he has been forced to carry – one made of good intentions and impossible sacrifice. With the help of his cousin, Callie, and a ghost that is little more than a demon herself, Tark might just escape his horrific fate before all Hell breaks loose.
That all sounds really amazing, right? For the first two-thirds of the book, The Girl from the Well totally is. Chupeco doesn’t shy away from vivid imagery or startling scenarios. She wants you to know that Okiku is not going to be a heroine of this tale by any standard definition. Okiku is terrifying, and I loved it. She was what I wanted Chupeco to deliver as a ghost, something more than what is usually found in a YA genre paranormal novel. Tark and Callie are also incredibly flushed out characters, and I liked how Okiku describes them in her narration, giving what felt like really reliable access to how these two characters truly were. Much more reliable, really, than what I felt we as readers would have gotten had we been inside Callie or Tark’s mind. Okiku doesn’t care about speculation and looking good. She cares about seeing the truth, the reality, of a person instead.
And with Okiku’s narration and the introduction and buildup of The Girl from the Well‘s world, I felt that the novel was really going places. I was following along with what was happening. I wasn’t questioning motives or reasoning. It was smooth sailing.
That was, until, View Spoiler »Tark’s mother is killed trying to perform a ritual « Hide Spoiler. It was at this point, when Callie and Tark find themselves in Japan, that I get completely lost. It seemed as though Chupeco was rushed with the last third of the book, trying to fit Okiku’s backstory, the demon’s backstory, Tark’s quest to remove the demon, and a plausible explanation for while Callie is there at all, all into the span of a few pages that weren’t nearly enough. The core values that I loved in the beginning of The Girl from the Well were lost in translation when the setting moved from America to Japan, and it was really disappointing.
When I started to lose clarity in the story, I began to lose interest. But determined to finish, I pushed forward and decided that, in the end, everything felt too rushed and forced to be truly satisfying. This means I probably wont’ be picking up The Girl from the Well‘s sequel, The Suffering, any time soon.