The Girl from the Well

December 1, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

wellThe Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco


Whoof, what a mess. It feels like there could be a decent story buried in the narrative — a young boy with tattoos on most of his body begins to see a ghost who is avenging other dead by killing their murderers — but the writing is so bad it’s hard to find it.

The ghost is our narrator, which is part of why it doesn’t read well. Our main character is the young boy, Tarquin, and his aunt, Callie, but we never see what’s happening in the story through their eyes. Instead, we have the ghost telling us what’s happening with them, so we’re removed from the events and emotions of the story. The only real connection we have with the characters is through their dialogue, which is so poorly written that it’s embarrassing.

The dialogue feels consistently stilted and forced, and winds up coming across as insincere. Tarquin’s main way of communicating is through sarcasm, which doesn’t come across well in the story, and since we have to learn of their backstories through conversation, we get a lot of info-dumps through the dialogue. The story moves quickly as a result, so there’s no subtlety, no easing our way into the story. Instead, we get a teacher who immediately believes one of her students when she tells her she can see a ghost, and a therapist makes an immediate breakthrough against a patient’s hostile reticence to talk. We don’t see any struggles or introspection about any of this; we’re expected to take it at face value.

As a result, the characterization is flat. Callie cares for Tarquin, as does his father, but we don’t get a sense of that emotion; we only know that about them because we’re told it’s so. Tarquin seems to come to care for the ghost who is our narrator, but again, we don’t get a real sense of why. Despite her being a murderous thing, the ghost takes to Tarquin and Callie immediately; she even admits to them that she’s not sure why she feels that way. In the end, neither do we.

Chupeco has an odd style to her writing, where she will



her sentences across paragraphs, apparently as a means of drawing attention to the tension of a moment. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as well as she thinks it does. For me, it just slowed me down, forcing me to parse the sentence instead of experiencing the story.

In another author’s hands, The Girl from the Well could have been a fantastic horror story. As it is, it’s clunky, poorly developed, and poorly written. The book is marketed as YA book, which means I maybe should give it some slack for being more direct, but there are plenty of YA and juvenile books that don’t pander that way for me to ignore it. Chupeco has written a sequel and an additional book, but I won’t be reading either.

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