The Never List by Koethi Zan
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.
I’ve had this book on my bookcase for a long time now and had been told to read it because it’s brilliant. They were the words a friend said. But there was something about the blurb that put me off. It seemed too dark for me and I just didn’t want to go there, so it sat there and it sat there some more, until one day I was stood looking at my books trying to choose my next read when I decided it was time to take it off the shelf. You know you have to be in the mood to read some books.
Well, imagine my surprise when it wasn’t as dark as I expected. It is brilliantly written and is written in first person narrative from Sarah, after she has escaped this hell-hole she was contained in for years. She is obviously a different person and has her issues, but the book wasn’t what I’d expected. Especially when on my copy there is a blurb from Tess Gerritson saying it is “One of the scariest thrillers I’ve ever read.”
The journey starts because Sarah is visited by the FBI agent that was involved in her case as the offender’s parole board hearing is due. With him he brings a letter from him and from there the story really starts. Sarah is wonderfully three-dimensional character in a sad kind of way. She’s scared and changed, but brave and clever. And she sets out to right some wrongs and finds that it wasn’t all as she remembered it to be.
The writing is clean and sharp and intelligent. I couldn’t help but keep picking this book back up and reading on.
The only time I found it difficult was when Sarah recounted some of the trauma she had gone through at the hands of her abuser. Because the story is told in first person it is very raw and hard to read. You have no distance from it and you are reading it knowing she was a young college girl at the time. It was really uncomfortable and I don’t think we needed quite so much detail.
Zan has crafted a brilliant story though and if you have the stomach for it, I can highly recommend it.