“Callie looks back just in time to see the lid slide off the urn, dropping with a noisy thump onto the carpeted floor. From inside, a jumble of hair rises out of the opening, inch by slow, protruding inch. As she watches, horrified, a drooping eye emerges from underneath that matted hair, and then next, a gaping mouth. It is Yoko Halloway’s head.”
The Girl From The Well was a very entertaining YA horror novel which, at first glance, seemed like it could be one that was pretty easy to stick your nose up at. In thanks to the fact that the cover is such a rip-off of the Japanese horror film classic “Ringu”. I am amazed the publisher hasn’t faced a lawsuit it’s so similar. However, from the back sleeve this novel is pegged at “Ages 14 and up” so I’m guessing that age group of 2016 may not be as familiar with slow walking young women, with very long black hair, climbing out of wells as us adults who became jaded with J-Horror once it ran out of ideas a good few years ago and started repeating itself. Age certificates on books do make me smile though….
Also, call me a snob, but I’m instantly suspicious of a novel which at first glance is inspired by a film, however, once I dug a little deeper I realised there was much more going on a lot of Japanese folklore written into the context of the book. This novel has as yet to be published in the UK and even has a sequel which is a relatively direct continuation of the story in the USA. I’d never heard of this author, but she has a rather quirky website, and even I was shocked to read that she first read Stephen King’s “Pet Semetery” at six years old!!!!!!! She’s a native of the Philippines and seems to be making a name for herself on the YA scene across the pond. She also has wonderful taste in fiction ranging from David Eddings, Charles Bukowski to Neil Gaiman. So go check out Rin’s website.
So what is the connection with “Ringu”? This novel is primarily narrated by a ghost named Okiku, who being dead for several hundred years, was originally killed when she was thrown down a well. That’s the most obvious connection with “Ringu” everything else revolves around vengeful spirits and demon possession, so the similarities with “Ringu” are quite minimal when it comes to the plot. The main thrust of this story revolves around the ghost who rather brutally kills child murderers and rapists. She can see the dead children almost hanging around the neck of killers and the way she seeks revenge is pretty nasty and gruesome and does recall “Ringu” slightly. When Okiku goes to work, she doesn’t hold back! Killing the murderers frees the spirits of the children which is what she wants to do.
This very original novel has a lot to offer, and the ghost Okiku is attracted to a teenage boy whom she can sense the aura of death around, but he is no killer but is most certainly troubled. Also, the boy can see her, as can the boy’s cousin, a trainee teacher. So these are the three most important characters as we enter the realms of demon possession, exorcisms and some pretty bloody killing. The book is initially set in America, before moving to Japan, where there is lots of stuff about Japanese culture involving the supernatural. It’s a well-paced read, and you really feel for seventeen-year-old Tark who really has to face his inner demons. Literally.
I really liked this book a lot, I thought it was very well balanced, and the quirky three-way friendship with the ghost (who was a multiple murderer remember) worked really well, as did the family dynamics of the boy who doesn’t realise he comes from a family who has powerful connections with the dead. Ok the book is billed as ‘14+’, but I would be happy enough giving it to most kids who like horror, have a passing interest in folklore and legends, or just want an entertaining page turner. It stands up as a very good story in its right and the American publisher didn’t need to oversell the “Ringu” stuff with the lame copycat cover.