Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
A Young Adult novel
The Ring meets The Exorcist in this haunting and lyrical reimagining of the Japanese fable. Okiku has wandered the world for hundreds of years, setting free the spirits of murdered children. Wherever there’s a monster hurting a child, her spirit is there to deliver punishment. Such is her existence, until the day she discovers a troubled American teenager named Tark and the dangerous demon that writhes beneath his skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. Tark needs to be freed, but there is one problem—if the demon dies, so does its host. With the vigilante spirit Okiku as his guide, Tark is drawn deep into a dark world of sinister doll rituals and Shinto exorcisms that will take him far from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Japan. Can Okiku protect him from the demon within or will her presence bring more harm? The answer lies in the depths of a long-forgotten well
As far as horror novels go, Rin Chupeco's The Girl from the Well is my first this whole year and I craved this book like I crave Kit-Kats. Right off the bat, The Girl from the Well opens with the lines "I am where dead children go..." and I knew this novel was going to be a great book. It's short, the killings were right on point and I wanted Okiku to keep on going, and though it has some snags along the way, it is a great adaptation for a very famous fable/horror movie.
Okiku is a ghost with a vengeance, killing men who ravage and kill innocent children. And when she spots Tark and his ominous tattoos and a demon he just can't get rid of, Okiku helps keep the boy and his cousin safe once they are in the thick of it. The names in this novel are extremely out there for a Japanese horror re-imagining from Calliope to Tarquin to Kagura to Doug. And then there is one murder's name that I won't even revel in because it is completely up and over the hill. Besides the names, the characters are easy enough to distinguish between: Tark being sarcastic and quirky, friendly towards his cousin. Callie looks out for Tark, putting herself in danger to make sure he remains safe. Okiku, and this took me a while to finally understand , has two sides to her: the gentle apparition wanting to help Tark and Callie, and then the unadulterated rage towards her murder. And I was rooting for Okiku the entire time, wanting to know more about her past, and wanting her to finally see peace.
One of the snags with this novel, though, is the narration. Okiku is the central narrator of the story. A wallflower in most scenes. Sometimes it was difficult to distinguish if the narration shifted from first person observer to third person omniscient because there were specific scenes where the narrator would know what the characters were thinking, feeling, etc. Is it plausable for Okiku, a ghost, to understand what the characters are thinking, feeling, seeing while being a disembodied narrator from across the room? I didn't think so while I was reading, and it made The Girl from the Well jumbled when POV would change from Callie and Tark straight into first person I.
And as far as pacing goes, it stars off very well in the beginning but then it feels like some pieces almost stuck together neatly, and that also goes back to narration where it isn't completely informed that Okiku can ghost from one place to another at the blink of an eye or that she knows pretty much everything that the characters say, think, do, feel, yada yada. But, once everything starts to get explained after I was thoroughly confused, the ending picks up nicely with an epic final battle. And the juxtaposition between Okiku's enraged spirit and her calm demeanor around the Callie and Tark was my favorite parts to read. Especially when the talk of fireflies comes in. Absolutely gorgeous.
Final Summation: The Girl from the Well received a plentiful amount of brownie points for re-imagining one of my favorite Japanese fables. And The Ring happens to be one of my favorite horror movies, so even more props. The balance between horrific and gentle imagery that Okiku describes throughout was one of my favorite parts of the novel. Who doesn't like bloated dead bodies one second and then beautiful firefly imagery of the souls of children departing to the afterlife. A short horror novel, easily read in one day. The Girl from the Well, does The Ring and the story of Okiku justice in a horrific yet stunning retelling.
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About the Author:
Despite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living. The Girl from the Well is her debut novel. Connect with Rin at www.rinchupeco.com.