The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco is a horror book for people that don’t like horror books. Described as “The Grudge” meets “Dexter,” it is based on a Japanese ghost story (Banchō Sarayashiki). This is the story of Okiku, a Japanese spirit who has spent the centuries after her death hunting and killing child murderers, and freeing their victims’ souls. She isn’t able to find the peace she seeks, so she continues to drift on, fading in and out of consciousness, until she meets Tark. Covered with strange tattoos that seem to move, Tark is feared by classmates and neighbors, and lives with the knowledge that his mother wants to kill him. Okiku is drawn to the boy, and follows along as he travels from America to Japan in order to find out exactly what evil his tattoos have trapped inside him.
*This review may contain spoilers*
The Girl from the Well is an intriguing read. I typically don’t like horror books or movies, but I really liked this novel. Although it did contain horror elements and had some graphic violence, this wasn’t too scary and read more like a mystery. Sure, Okiku kills people, but she is a spirit of vengeance and it was easy to root for her (especially once her past was revealed). I liked following Tark, his cousin Callie, and Okiku on their journey and as they figured out what was happening, although I wish Okiku was a little more involved in what was going on. Some of the plot twists were obvious (like what Tark’s tattoos were for and why his mother kept trying to kill him), but it was still fun to read. The characters weren’t completely fleshed out, but they were still likeable and it was easy to understand their motives. I liked that Okiku was a bit of an enigma to everyone (a spirit born from violence who wants to kill but also wants to help). The ending wasn’t what I expected and it ended a little abruptly. I would have liked to see more of Okiku and Tark after the ritual took place. This is a very visual novel (it is easy to picture exactly what is happening) and I could see this becoming a movie. I really enjoyed the story and liked seeing it unfold.
4 out of 5, a great read for Halloween.