Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review & Giveaway: The Girl from the Well - Rin Chupeco

Release Date: August 5, 2014
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire

Japanese Legend That Inspired The Ring Is Retold from Murdered Spirit’s Perspective in Debut Horror Thriller.

The Girl from the Well - Rin Chupeco | Goodreads

The Ring meets The Exorcist in this haunting and lyrical reimagining of the Japanese fable.

Okiku has wandered the world for hundreds of years, setting free the spirits of murdered children. Wherever there’s a monster hurting a child, her spirit is there to deliver punishment. Such is her existence, until the day she discovers a troubled American teenager named Tark and the dangerous demon that writhes beneath his skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. Tark needs to be freed, but there is one problem—if the demon dies, so does its host.

With the vigilante spirit Okiku as his guide, Tark is drawn deep into a dark world of sinister doll rituals and Shinto exorcisms that will take him far from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Japan. Can Okiku protect him from the demon within or will her presence bring more harm? The answer lies in the depths of a long-forgotten well.

I'm not someone who reads or watches a lot of horror. Horror movies terrify me; sometimes I'll have nightmares about thrillers, so I stay away from a lot of visually startling things (even someone calling my name when I'm really focused on something will startle me). I can't speak to the comparison of "The Ring" meets "The Exorcist," since I have not watched either, but I can say that this book worked well for me and it definitely had a lot of creepy scenes that I think would work well for an accustomed horror fan. Faye at the Social Potato also has a review with thoughts mirroring my own.

  • The Writing. This seems to be the most divisive aspect among my fellow reviewers. The Girl from the Well switches from a formal first person present to third person present with an omniscient overview. This is because Okiku, the main character, is a ghost who has lost a lot of her sense of self except for her drive for vengeance, and so when she is not avenging other children, she fades out to observe two particular characters, Callie and Tarquin. For me the narrative style worked really well. I'm a non-visual reader. Being able to step away from first person perspectives, which sometimes tire me, and see the world at large, made a lot of the horrific scenes come to life. I visualized most of this novel as a movie, and that is a very rare quality for me when I'm reading. The shifts between tenses are also foreshadowed. Chupeco inserts (numbers) into the narrative to remind us that Okiku is still present and may suddenly do something dangerous if provoked; and after a while, I started to expect Okiku to appear to Callie and Tarquin or do something to draw attention so that the narrative shifts ended up feeling smoother to me than they might have to others. 
  • Main Character/Ghost. I really liked Okiku. Alongside the revenge story is one in which Okiku is trying to regain her sense of self and a different purpose besides vengeance. For three hundred years, she's wandered the world, unable to leave in the same way that those who she frees do. As with all stories, something's got to give. This leads to some really great philosophical elements beside the horror, an altogether different atmosphere permeating this YA horror story. I thought that the hero's journey aspect melded well with the horrific scenes and mounting mystery (who is Tarquin? How did this evil spirit become attached to his body? What are these tattoos?); and though I was sometimes detached from Okiku because of the perspective shifts, I was always reminded of why I liked her as a main character because of how Callie and Tarquin saw her.
  • Well Researched. From the way Chupeco describes Japanese customs and culture as well as the legends and the background that she has established for this novel, I got the sense that Chupeco had done her research and incorporate well into her novel. Several times I wanted to send snippets of the novel over my friend in Japan and say, "hey, when I'm visiting, can we check this out? Also is this true?" (Okay, that was the underwear vending machine section). The cultural aspects are seamlessly woven into the story. Though the second half had lagged a bit in comparison to the first (for me), quite honestly I was much too enchanted with Chupeco's description of Japanese life to care.
  • Creepy. Yeah, I've not watched a lot of horror movies and I'm perhaps more sensitive to horror scenes, but I don't know. Dolls are always terrifying. Dolls used in exorcism? Yeesh. As a clumsy person, I'm terrified that I'm one day going to trip with pretty bad consequences, so wells and their accompanying horrific backgrounds are also terrifying. The murder scenes? The pedophiles and bloody legends and spirits? And isolated shrines and... *shudders*. I seriously wonder how, if this was a movie, you wouldn't be terrified.
  • Comparison Titles. I would not compare this novel to Anna Dressed in Blood. The narrative styles are completely different. I think, bottom line, how much you enjoy this novel depends on your expectations. Anna, as a ghost, retains some sense of self, if I remember correctly; Okiku, here, does not, which means that the stories will diverge in noticeably different ways. If you were drawn to Ink for its Japanese mythology, you'll probably enjoy the same in The Girl from the Well. Other than that, I can't think of many other YA books which are like this; and maybe that's my fault for not reading a lot of YA horror, but I also think that The Girl from the Well has a unique atmosphere. About all I knew of this story before reading was Japanese ghost story and vengeance, and it worked out well. I hope it'll work out well for you too!

Praise for The Girl From the Well:

“[A] Stephen King–like horror story…A chilling, bloody ghost story that resonates.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Chupeco makes a powerful debut with this unsettling ghost story…told in a marvelously disjointed fashion from Okiku’s numbers-obsessed point of view, this story unfolds with creepy imagery and an intimate appreciation for Japanese horror, myth, and legend.” –Publishers Weekly,STARRED

“The Girl from the Well is part The Ring, part The Grudge and part The Exorcist…A fantastically creepy story sure to keep readers up at night… Okiku is one of the most interesting YA characters to date.” RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ STARS-TOP PICK!

“A dark novel that will appeal to horror fans, lovers of Elizabeth Scott’s ‘Living Dead Girl.’” –School Library Journal

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Rin Chupeco: Despite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living. The Girl from the Well is her debut novel. Connect with Rin at

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky US/CA reader.


  1. What a wonderful review, this book was already on my radar but I want to read it even more now, thank you xx

    Thea @ Gizzimomo's
    Book Shelf

  2. I'm certainly not a fan of horror books, but you made this one sound pretty good. I have never read a book that has so much about the Japanese culture, either. I may have to add it to my TBR list!

  3. I've never watched THE RING. They made fun of it in SCARY MOVIE 3, which I watched right after I had gotten over my fear of the dark. Guess who had to go back to lights? But in recent years, I've kind of wanted to read the book. This new twist on the tale sounds awesomely quirky and more in my preferred genre.

  4. I'm a huge horror fan, have seen both The Ring and The Exorcist numerous times, and would LOVE to read a POV from "the girl from the well."

  5. ooooh... this looks and sounds fanastically creepy :) thanks for sharing!

  6. I like scary books and the idea of combining Japanese culture in there, that intrigues me. I have had this book on my TBR pile for quite a while- can't wait to read it!

  7. Nice review. I wish I'd liked this one more. I loved the Japanese cultural aspects (much more than in Ink; I actually DNFed that one) but I couldn't really get into the plot. It felt piecemeal. I'm glad the creepy horror aspect worked for you!


  8. Aw :( the whole plot or did you get the sense that you liked one part better than the other? I think Ink & this book focused on different elements on Japanese culture, but both did a good job of portraying a bit of culture shock + immersing us in Japan. Here's to hoping your next book turns out well if this didn't :)

  9. I think the fact that the main character IS a ghost piqued my interest right off the bat!
    Plus I'm still too chicken to watch the Grudge, so maybe reading this will help me overcome my nervousness lol ;) Also that cover rocks!

  10. Just about everything. It's creepy, scary and based on a classic. I'd love to win a copy. Thanks.


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