March 22, 2014

Book review: The Never List by Koethi Zan

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For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

The Never List started out great. I loved reading about the compulsive way that Sarah guarded herself from potential dangers through following a list of things to never do in order to stay safe. From the first few pages, I had the impression that this would be an awesome psychological thriller/mystery.

However, as the story unfolded, I found myself asking why Sarah was doing the things she did because they seemed to fly in the face of the regimen she established for herself. In one scene after another, she thrust herself into situations that a brave person wouldn't enter, much less someone as compulsively cautious as she was. I know that these events had to happen in order for there to be a story, but it still bothered me as I read it.

While the book was well written and entertaining throughout, I just found it too unbelievable given the makeup of the main character. Nevertheless, I recommend The Never List if you can suspend your beliefs.

Note that while this book isn't for the squeamish, I was grateful that the author didn't go into details about the tortures that various characters endured. Most of it was left to the reader's imagination. Well done in that respect.

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