Review – The Never List by Koethi Zan

the never list

In honor of Halloween I’m reading some seriously scary books right now (revisiting The Shining, listening to Snow White Must Die). The Never List by Koethi Zan had been on my to-read list for a bit, and I decided this was the appropriate season to check it out. The Never List chronicles the aftermath of heroine Sarah’s traumatic kidnapping, in which she and her best friend were chained in a basement and tortured with two other girls.

The Never List is a quick read and it is hard not to fall for Sarah’s frank and wry narrative voice. You will find yourself cheering for her as she overcomes fears, deals with her past, and becomes a stronger person. I listened to this on audiobook and it was the best kind of story to listen to, as it kept me looking for chores around the house I could do while I kept listening.

Clearly, this is a book only for the bravest of readers. I was a bit hesitant about the subject matter, as I enjoy a great twisted tale of suspense but dislike the sort of gruesome and gory torture porn that horror films like Hostel have made popular.  The Never List is tastefully done for such dark subject matter, in the way that I think the best tales of suspense often are. Although we get flashbacks of what Sarah and the other girls suffered through, the focus of the book is not on human suffering.

Zan has done a great job of creating a gang of likable female sleuths who have overcome an awful trauma together. When the three kidnapping victims who escaped the basement are told their captor will be eligible for parole, they reunite to investigate loose ends of their case, assisted by a benevolent male FBI agent always a phone call away but slow to arrive in crucial moments. The Never List is the girl-power thriller that The Shining Girls wanted to be;  these women are honest, flawed, strong, taking control of their past and their future.

I heard about this book because of its odd timing – right around the time of its release (July 2013) we all watched in horror as women were rescued from Ariel Castro’s home in Cleveland. The similarities between the real life news story and the events in the work of fiction are bizarrely similar–three women kept chained in a house by a sadistic man. There is an interview on about Zan’s almost surreal reaction to watching the news in Cleveland unfold. As she says, “I’d written a book based on my worst nightmare, and there it was on the screen—real.” It was such an eerie coincidence.

I look forward to Zan’s next work, as I believe this was her first novel and it was an impressive start. Having completed the The Never List, my house is swept, my laundry is done, and I’m all ready for Halloween.

The Never List on Amazon

The Never List on IndieBound

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[…] Zan explored this territory in The Never List, where traumatized young women held in a basement for years reunite to investigate the […]

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