Thursday 28 November 2013

Review: The Never List by Koethi Zan

Best friends Jennifer and Sarah keep a "Never List" - they are all-too-aware of the dangers in the world and have implemented restrictions on every aspect of their lives in order to keep themselves safe. Sadly it doesn't stop them from being kidnapped and locked in a basement, along with two other women. They are tortured for years before Sarah and the two other women escape - but not before Jennifer is murdered. Ten years later, Sarah has escaped and is trying to put her life back together, but is rarely able to leave the house. She is very much still a prisoner, only this time it's self-inflicted, a result of her severe PTSD. When the possibility arises of their torturer getting out of prison, Sarah makes it her mission to leave her comfort zone and find out what happened to her best friend once and for all - for her own peace of mind, and also in the hopes that uncovering Jennifer's body will allow murder charges to finally be laid.

The Never List unfolds in the present, as Sarah sets out to find the truth, with flashbacks to what happened to her and the other women in the past. We slowly find out what Sarah went through, how she escaped, and why the other women she was trapped with hate her. Sarah is deeply, understandably, traumatised, and the exploration of her anxiety is confronting but well-handled. I did feel like there were times she was able to get past it a little too easily, putting herself in extremely dangerous situations after years of not even being able to leave her apartment, but at the same time it was great to watch her gaining power back over her life.

Alongside psychological trauma, forgiveness plays a big part of the story. It delves into just how far people will go for freedom - and how much they're willing to forgive, not only of others but of themselves. Many of the revelations about the past are quite horrific, and you get a strong sense of Sarah's internal struggle to come to terms not just with what was done to her but also what she herself did.

I really liked the twists and turns of The Never List for the most part, and there were a few great surprises, although some plot points were a bit unbelievable. There was also a few times it veered into torture porn territory, which made me incredibly uncomfortable. Plus the dialogue was very clunky and distracting in places, and some of the characters were pretty flat. What I liked most was following Sarah's journey and the ups and downs of her inner conflict. The Never List is a disturbing thriller about the horrible things humans do to each other and themselves, and the lengths we go to in order to survive. While it is incredibly bleak at times, it's also bittersweet and ends on a somewhat hopeful note.

Rating: 3/5

Fine Print
Published: 2013, Pamela Dorman Books
Source: Netgalley
Get It: Book Depository

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