The Girl Next Door (novel)
|Genre||Crime, Thriller, Horror|
|Publisher||Warner Books, Overlook Connection Press, Leisure Books, Amazon Kindle|
|Media type||Paperback, Hardcover & E-book|
|Preceded by||She Wakes 1989 in literature|
|Followed by||Offspring 1991 in literature|
After giving the reader a quick tour of his neighborhood and childhood friends, David introduces Ruth, a single mother and alcoholic, amongst other things. Ruth has, over time, gained the trust of the neighborhood children by allowing them to come freely into her home, play as rough as they wish, and even drink an occasional beer with her.
Fast forward to Meg and Susan, Ruth's nieces, who come to live with their aunt after the death of their parents. All seems well at first: the girls make friends with the other children and David begins to develop feelings for the sweet and innocent Meg.
However, Ruth's mental state has been deteriorating over time, and the burden of having two more children to care for seems to accelerate her descent into madness.
Ruth begins verbally, then physically, abusing the two girls, often while the other neighborhood children are watching. Then she allows the other children to abuse them, making them feel that because they have the permission of an adult, their actions are okay and will not be punished.
Finally both Meg (who is severely injured and near death) and Susan find themselves locked up in the bomb shelter in Ruth's basement, and David realizes that he must do something before time runs out and he loses the first girl he ever loved. However, despite his efforts, his plan to rescue the girls is foiled by Ruth and the neighborhood children under her control. Ruth allows the neighborhood boys to toy with her. Ruth then feels that no man should ever have her and she should never have any man so she decides to end her desires. David decides to create a plan to get Meg, Susan, and himself out of the house alive. He lights some fireworks so the smoke will travel up the stairs. One of Ruth's sons warns her and as she heads downstairs, David beats her with Susan's crutches. The police then show up and David tells them what had happened so he does not get prosecuted. As he grows up he tracks the whereabouts of the other children who helped to torture Meg, discovering that they have either died young as a result of reckless lifestyles or have gone on to lives of poverty and crime. After reading of a brutal crime spree perpetuated by one of the now grown children, David is left to wonder what has become of the children he was unable to track.
Based on actual events
Sylvia Likens and her younger sister Jenny were left in the care of Gertrude Baniszewski, a single mother of seven children, by their parents, who were traveling carnival workers. As the months passed, Sylvia became the target of horrendous abuse at the hands of Baniszewski, who not only senselessly beat the young girl, but allowed her children to do so, as well as the neighborhood children who frequently visited the household. The final days of young Sylvia's life were spent locked in the basement of the home, where she was tied up, starved, beaten, burnt and tortured.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
A feature film based on Ketchum's novel was released in 2007. Entitled Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door, the film stars Blanche Baker, Blythe Auffarth, William Atherton, and Daniel Manche. It was directed by Gregory Wilson from a screenplay by Daniel Farrands and Philip Nutman. After a successful series of screenings at film festivals around the world, the film was released by Starz Home Entertainment on December 4, 2007. The film is available on DVD and was released on Blu-ray on February 2, 2010.