The Never List

( 16 )

Overview

“Psychological thriller writing at its best. Cancel appointments and give up on sleep. It’s that kind of book.” —Jeffery Deaver

For years, Sarah Farber and her best friend, Jennifer, kept what they called the Never List: a list of actions to be avoided at all costs, for safety’s sake. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride—one with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like ...

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The Never List: A Novel

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Overview

“Psychological thriller writing at its best. Cancel appointments and give up on sleep. It’s that kind of book.” —Jeffery Deaver

For years, Sarah Farber and her best friend, Jennifer, kept what they called the Never List: a list of actions to be avoided at all costs, for safety’s sake. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride—one 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, Sarah’s abductor is up for parole and she can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends to her from prison. But when Sarah decides to confront her phobias and reconnect with the other survivors she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

A blazingly fast read with eerie similarities to the recent kidnapping case in Cleveland, The Never List is a smart, riveting, and bold pageturner that will leave readers awake all night with the lights on.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Less could have been more in Zan’s riveting but flawed debut, a psychological thriller. A decade after Sarah Farber helped convict Jack Derber, a University of Oregon psychology professor, for keeping her, along with her best friend Jennifer and two other college-age girls, shackled and naked in the cellar of a remote cabin for almost three years, in between bouts of torture, Sarah leads a hermetic existence as an accountant with a new identity in New York City. Meanwhile, Derber manages to send creepy letters to Sarah and his other former captives via the FBI while imprisoned. With Derber’s first parole hearing looming, Sarah resolves to fly cross-country and attempt to follow the clues in these missives to find evidence that might put the sadist away for good. As Sarah and the other three victims probe Derber’s ties to a cultlike church that his wife attends, Zan delivers harrowing, if often far-fetched, and not for the faint-hearted, action. 5-city author tour. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (July)
Library Journal
Best friends Sarah and Jennifer should have paid attention to one entry on their "Never List": never accept a freely offered cab ride. With two other girls, they ended up being held prisoner for three years by a sadist, and Jennifer didn't survive. Now their abductor is about to be released from prison, and Sarah, frightened by the scarily freakish letters he's been sending her, launches a cross-country investigation of her own. If you've got steel nerves, which I don't.
Kirkus Reviews
Ten years ago, Sarah Farber escaped a madman's cellar in Portland, Ore., where, for three years, she and her best friend, Jennifer, and two other girls were raped, tortured and starved. Now 31, the psychologically frail Sarah rarely budges from her supersecure New York apartment, where she goes by the name Caroline Morrow. But after she receives an insinuating letter from her imprisoned abductor, a college professor who was convicted only on kidnapping charges and may soon be paroled, Sarah risks re-entry into the world to find evidence that he murdered the still-missing Jennifer. Inspired by the stories of real-life abductees, including Jaycee Lee Dugard, Zan affectingly puts us inside the damaged Sarah's skin. The book depicts with harrowing efficiency the professor's sick brainwashing experiments involving mutilation, starvation, beatings and stabbings. We have to wonder whether someone still recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder would be so bold (or dumb) as to return to the scene of the atrocities and put herself in harm's way in investigating a bizarre BDSM cult with links to the evil professor. The title of the book is taken from a list of no-nos Sarah and Jennifer drew up before they were trapped in a cab and abducted: Never hitchhike, never enter parking garages at night, etc. Sarah handily overcomes other fears by flying around the country in search of answers after recruiting her other former cellar mates, edgy goth punk Tracy and oddly readjusted investment banker's daughter Christine. The cast of characters keeps the plot afloat. There certainly is something to be said for a mystery that features as many strong females as this one. Zan's first novel is a haunting depiction of the emotional scars left on women held in captivity.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670026517
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
  • Publication date: 7/16/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 353,185
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Koethi Zan was born and raised in rural Alabama, then moved to New York City after earning a J.D. from Yale Law School. She has practiced entertainment law for more than fifteen years, most recently at MTV. She now lives in upstate New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

There were four of us down there for the first thirty-two months and eleven days of our captivity. And then, very suddenly and without warning, there were three. Even though the fourth person hadn’t made any noise at all in several months, the room got very quiet when she was gone. For a long time after that, we sat in silence, in the dark, wondering which of us would be next in the box.

Jennifer and I, of all people, should not have ended up in that cellar. We were not your average eighteen-year-old girls, abandoning all caution once set loose for the first time on a college campus. We took our freedom seriously and monitored it so carefully, it almost didn’t exist anymore. We knew what was out there in that big wide world better than anyone, and we weren’t going to let it get us.

We had spent years methodically studying and documenting every danger that could possibly ever touch us: avalanches, disease, earthquakes, car crashes, sociopaths, and wild animals—all the evils that might lurk outside our window. We believed our paranoia would protect us; after all, what are the odds that two girls so well versed in disaster would be the ones to fall prey to it?

For us, there was no such thing as fate. Fate was a word you used when you had not prepared, when you were slack, when you stopped paying attention. Fate was a weak man’s crutch.

Our caution, which verged on a mania by our late teens, had started six years earlier when we were twelve. On a cold but sunny January day in 1991, Jennifer’s mother drove us home from school, the same as every other weekday. I don’t even remember the accident. I only recall slowly emerging into the light to the beat of the heart monitor, as it chirped out the steady and comforting rhythm of my pulse. For many days after that, I felt warm and utterly safe when I first woke up, until that moment when my heart sank and my mind caught up with time.

Jennifer would tell me later that she remembered the crash vividly. Her memory was typically post-traumatic: a hazy, slow-motion dream, with colors and lights all swirling together in a kind of operatic brilliance. They told us we were lucky, having been only seriously injured and living through the ICU, with its blur of doctors, nurses, needles, and tubes, and then four months recovering in a bare hospital room with CNN blaring in the background. Jennifer’s mother had not been lucky.

They put us in a room together, ostensibly so we could keep each other company for our convalescence, and as my mother told me in a whisper, so I could help Jennifer through her grief. But I suspected the other reason was that Jennifer’s father, who was divorced from her mother and an erratic drunk we had always taken pains to avoid, was only too happy when my parents volunteered to take turns sitting with us. At any rate, as our bodies slowly healed, we were left alone more often, and it was then that we started the journals—to pass the time, we said to ourselves, both probably knowing deep down that it was in fact to help us feel some control over a wild and unjust universe.

The first journal was merely a notepad from our bedside table at the hospital, with Jones Memorial printed in Romanesque block letters across the top. Few would have recognized it as a journal, filled as it was only with lists of the horrors we saw on television. We had to ask the nurses for three more notepads. They must have thought we were filling our days with tic-tac-toe or hangman. in any event, no one thought to change the channel.

When we got out of the hospital, we worked on our project in earnest. At the school library, we found almanacs, medical journals, and even a book of actuarial tables from 1987. We gathered data, we computed, and we recorded, filling up line after line with the raw evidence of human vulnerability.

The journals were initially divided into eight basic categories, but as we got older, we learned with horror how many things there were that were worse than Plane Crashes, Household Accidents, and Cancer. in stone silence and after careful deliberation, as we sat in the sunny, cheerful window seat of my bright attic bedroom, Jennifer wrote out new headings in bold black letters with her Sharpie: Abduction, Rape, and Murder.

The statistics gave us such comfort. knowledge is power, after all. We knew we had a one-in-two-million chance of being killed by a tornado; a one-in-310,000 chance of dying in a plane crash; and a one-in-500,000 chance of being killed by an asteroid hitting Earth. In our warped view of probability, the very fact that we had memorized this endless slate of figures somehow changed our odds for the better. Magical thinking, our therapists would later call it, in the year after I came home to find all seventeen of the journals in a pile on our kitchen table, and both my parents sitting there waiting with tears in their eyes.

By then I was sixteen, and Jennifer had come to live with us full time because her father was in jail after his third DUI. We visited him, taking the bus because we had decided it wasn’t safe for us to drive at that age. (It would be another year and a half before either of us got a license.) I had never liked her father, and it turned out she hadn’t either. Looking back, I don’t know why we visited him at all, but we did, like clockwork, on the first Saturday of every month.

Mostly he just looked at her and cried. Sometimes he would try to start a sentence, but he never got very far. Jennifer didn’t bat an eye, just stared at him with as blank an expression as I ever saw on her face, even when we were down in that cellar. The two of them never spoke, and I sat a little away from them, fidgeting and uncomfortable. Her father was the only thing she would not discuss with me—not one word—so I just held her hand on the bus back home each time, while she gazed out the window in silence.

The summer before we went to off to Ohio University, our anxieties reached a fever pitch. We would soon be leaving my attic room, which we shared, and go into the vast unknown: a college campus. in preparation, we made the never List and hung it on the back of our bedroom door. Jennifer, who was plagued by insomnia, would often get up in the middle of the night to add to it: never go to the campus library alone at night, never park more than six spaces from your destination, never trust a stranger with a flat tire. Never, never, never.

Before we left, we meticulously packed a trunk, filling it with the treasures we had collected over the years at birthdays and Christmases: face masks, antibacterial soap, flashlights, pepper spray. We chose a dorm in a low building so that, in the event of fire, we could easily make the jump. We painstakingly studied the campus map and arrived three days early to examine the footpaths and walkways to evaluate for ourselves the lighting, visibility, and proximity to public spaces.

When we arrived at our dorm, Jennifer took out her tools before we had even unpacked our bags. She drilled a hole in our window sash, and I inserted small but strong metal bars through the wood, so it couldn’t be opened from the outside even if the glass was broken. We kept a rope ladder by the window, along with a set of pliers to remove the metal bars in the event we needed a quick escape. We got special permission from campus security to add a deadbolt lock to our door. As a final touch, Jennifer gingerly hung the never List on the wall between our beds, and we surveyed the room with satisfaction.

Maybe the universe played out a perverse justice on us in the end. Or maybe the risks of living in the outside world were simply greater than we had calculated. in any event, I suppose we stepped out of our own bounds by trying to live a semblance of regular college life. Really, I thought later, we knew better. But at the same time the lure of the ordinary proved to be too irresistible. We went to classes separately from each other even if we had to go to opposite ends of the campus. We stayed in the library talking to new friends well after dark sometimes. We even went to a couple of campus mixers sponsored by the university. Just like normal kids.

in fact, after only two months there, I secretly began thinking we could start living more like other people. I thought maybe the worries of our youth could be put away, packed safely in the cardboard boxes back home where we stored our other childhood memorabilia. I thought, in what I now see as a heretical break from everything we stood for, that maybe our juvenile obsessions were just that, and we were finally growing up.

Thankfully, I never articulated those thoughts to Jennifer, much less acted on them, so I was able to half forgive myself for them in those dark days and nights to follow. We were just college kids, doing what college kids do. But I could comfort myself knowing we had followed our protocols to the bitter end. We had, almost automatically, executed our protective strategies with a military precision and focus, every day a continuous safety drill. Every activity had a three-point check, a rule, and a backup plan. We were on our guard. We were careful.

That night was no different. Before we had even arrived on campus, we had researched which car service in town had the best record for accidents, and we’d set up an account. We had it billed directly to our credit cards just in case we ever ran out of cash or had our wallets stolen. “Never be stranded” was number thirty-seven on the list, after all. Two months into the semester, the dispatch guy recognized our voices. We only had to give him a pickup address, and moments later we would be safely shuttled back to our dormitory fortress.

That night we went to a private party off campus—a first for us. Things were just getting going at around midnight when we decided we’d pushed the limit far enough. We called the service, and in record time, a beat-up black sedan arrived. We noticed nothing out of the ordinary until we were in the car with our seat belts fastened. There was a funny smell, but I shrugged it off, deciding it was within the realm of the expected for a local livery company. A couple of minutes into the ride, Jennifer dozed off with her head on my shoulder.

That memory, the last of our other life, is preserved in my imagination in a perfect halo of peace. I felt satisfied. I was looking forward to life, a real life. We were moving on. We were going to be happy.

Ii must have drifted off too because when I opened my eyes, we were in total darkness in the backseat, the lights of the town replaced by the dim glow of stars. The black sedan was hurtling forward on the now-deserted highway, with only the faint trace of the horizon ahead. This was not the way home.

At first I panicked. Then I remembered number seven on the never List: never panic. in a flash, my mind retraced our steps that day, pointlessly trying to figure out where we had made a mistake. Because there had to have been a mistake. This was not our “fate.”

Bitterly, I realized we had made the most basic and fundamental error of all. Every mother taught her child the same simple safety rule, the most obvious one on our own list: never get in the car.

in our hubris, we’d thought we could cheat it—just a little— with our logic, our research, our precautions. But nothing could change the fact that we’d failed to follow the rule absolutely. We’d been naïve. We hadn’t believed other minds could be as calculating as ours. We hadn’t counted on actual evil as our enemy rather than blind statistical possibility.

There in the car, I drew three deep breaths and looked at Jennifer’s sweet sleeping face for a long, sad moment. I knew as soon as I acted that, for the second time in her young life, she would wake up into a life utterly transformed. Finally, with great dread, I took her shoulder in my hand and shook it gently. She was bleary-eyed at first. I held my finger to my lips as her eyes focused and she began to process our situation. When I saw the look of realization and fear dawning on her face, I whimpered almost audibly, but stifled the sound with my hand. Jennifer had been through too much and suffered so hard. She could not survive this without me. I had to be strong.

Neither of us made a sound. We had trained ourselves never to act impulsively in an emergency situation. And this was definitely an emergency.

Through the thick, clear plastic partition dividing us from the driver, we could see very little of our abductor: dark brown hair, black wool coat, large hands on the wheel. On the left side of his neck, partially hidden by his collar, was a small tattoo that I couldn’t quite make out in the dark. I shivered. The rearview mirror was angled up so we could see almost nothing of his face.

As quietly as we could, we tested the door handles. Safety-locked. The window mechanisms were disabled as well. We were trapped.

Jennifer slowly leaned down and picked up her bag from the floor, keeping her eyes on me as she rummaged in it silently. She pulled out her pepper spray. I shook my head, knowing it was of no use to us in our sealed-off space. Still, we felt safer having it.

I dug into my own purse at my feet. I found an identical canister and a small hand-held alarm with a panic button. We would have to wait it out, in silence, in terror, with our shaking hands clutching our pepper sprays and sweat beading our foreheads despite the October chill outside.

I scanned the interior of the car, trying to come up with a plan. And then I noticed it. There were small open air vents in the partition on my side, but those in front of Jennifer were connected to some kind of homemade metal and rubber contraption. Valves were connected to a pipe that disappeared from our view into the front floorboard. I sat very still, gaping at this intricate mechanism, my mind racing but unable to grasp a coherent thought for a moment. Finally, it sank in.

“We’ll be drugged,” I said at last, whispering to Jennifer. I looked down at the pepper spray in my hand with regret, knowing I’d never be able to use it. I stroked it almost lovingly, then let it drop to the floor, as I stared back up at the source of our impending doom. Jennifer followed my glance and registered at once what it meant. There was no hope.

He must have heard me speak, for just seconds later, a slight hissing sound told us we were about to get very sleepy. The air vents on my side slid shut. Jennifer and I held hands tightly, our other hands gripping the outer sides of the faux leather seat as the world slipped away.

When I came to, I was in the dark cellar that was to be my home for more than three years. I roused myself from the drugs slowly, trying to focus my eyes in the sea of gray that swam before them. When they finally cleared, I had to shut them tightly again to stop the panic that threatened to take over. I waited ten seconds, twenty, thirty, and opened again. I looked down at my body. I was stripped naked and chained to the wall by my ankle. A chill prickled up my spine, and my stomach lurched.

I was not alone. There were two other girls down there, emaciated, naked, and chained to the walls beside me. In front of us was the box. It was a simple wooden shipping crate of some sort, maybe five feet long by four feet high. Its opening was angled away from me, so I couldn’t tell how it was secured. There was a dim bulb hanging from the ceiling over us. It swayed just slightly.

Jennifer was nowhere to be seen.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This is the story of three women, held captive and tortured for

    This is the story of three women, held captive and tortured for years by a sadist, and now 10 years free and still attempting to deal with the results of their ordeal. One of the women is on a quest to find out what happened to her friend Jennifer, the fourth girl who died during their captivity.

    Of course, first I must state the obvious and point out the crazy coincidence that this book was released right around the time that the three girls were rescued in Cleveland after ten years of captivity.

    The story was intriguing. And at times the writing could be quite engaging. However one thing that really bugged me was the dialogue between the girls. It felt unauthentic, stiff and formal. Usually I am a dialogue reader-- it's what I prefer. Not this time. I came to dread the dialogue, as everything else in the story was so much better written. And there were times the story was just plain preposterous.

    My final word: This story had its moments. It wasn't generally gratuitously violent or gory. (Considering the context, I feared I may be walking into something like the movie "Hostel", and was happy to see it was not.) Some of the writing was pretty good, and the story kept me guessing, wondering what would come next. There was a nice twist at the end that made the story ultimately satisfying. But I struggled with the dialogue and some of the characters, and some things were just plain ridiculous. I recommend this book, but not without reservations.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Don't bother. Plot Twists are predictable. Story kind of boring.

    I admit that the book kept me entertained and reaeding until the last chapter. However, that was only because I thought the author was going to have these major plot twist and everything I predicted would turn out to be wrong. Well I was wrong. All of the "plot twists" that were in the book... I figured out in the first few chapters. There were also major holes and flaws in the story. Stop reading this review now if you haven't read the book... In other words.. SPOILER ALERT...

    My first problem with this book, and it may sound depraved but... I wanted the excruciating details of what these girls went through. I wanted to see how this horrible guy (Jack) was able to manipulate and torture these girls. The only thing the author says is "terrible things happened." What terrible things? What did he do to them? Most of the book just talks about how Sarah is scared of everything (human contact, traveling, etc) I guess I was more expecting a physcological thriller instead of just reading about how badly Sarah was affected by PTSD.... I could get over that... but the story had flaws in it...

    Which brings me to my second problem... How the hell did Sarah reveal Tracy's secret to Jack back when they were being held in his house? The author repeatidly says that no one knew Tracy's secret and they always referred to it as "The Disaster" (or whatever can't remember) but the reason they refer to it as this is because THEY HAVE NO IDEA what happened to Tracy. The author even says that the first time for Sarah to hear about the terrible event in Tracy's life is in the "present time" when Tracy drags Sarah to New Orleans where they sit by the lake and Tracy tells the story. In the last few chapters... Tracy accuses Sarah of telling Jack that Tracy's brother (her only family and the only person she ever truly loved) had committed suicide and that Jack used it against her to torture her. Admittedly... the author says that Sarah has tried to block out as much as possible from that time... but it still doesn't really make sense and it's not enough of a shocker to be a twist... Ohhhh big shocker... a girl that was held captive, beaten and tortured... only thought about her own survival until she escaped. That's stupid and it's not a twist (which I think the author intended it to be). My third and last problem was that I saw everything coming from the get-go. As soon as Noah Philben's character was introduced and the author revealed his family had foster kids... I knew one of those kids was Jack Derber. As soon as the author brought Sylvia's character into the mix and revealed that she hadn't been seen around town in a while... I knew that it would turn out to be Jennifer. The fact that Sarah never actually saw her dead body made that painfully obvious. This was supposed to be the ultimate plot twist.. but I was so dissappointed because it was extremely predictable.

    The only reason I kept reading the book was because I hoped that the author would prove my suspicions false.... make this incredible plot twist and blow my mind... WRONG. This book had potential but it fell short of my mark.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2013

    Loved it

    Could not stop reading

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 31, 2013

    Actual rating: 2,5 stars The opening chapters of this book were

    Actual rating: 2,5 stars

    The opening chapters of this book were amazing, dark, horrifying and terrible. Like in any good psychological thriller, the terror is in what isn’t said, as opposed to what is said. Best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept a “Never List” for years. These were actions all to be avoided at all costs, to keep themselves safe. One night, against all rules of the Never List, they accept a cab ribe that has terrible consequences. For the next three years they’re held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a man who torments them both physically and emotionally.

    First of all, I found it heartbreaking that it was those two girls, who always kept a list of strict rules, who were eventually kidnapped. This is actually an evil thought for me. Why would it be less horrible if a party girl who never cared about consequences was kidnapped and tortured than Sarah and Jennifer? I have no idea, but that’s how I felt – and it’s a horrible thought to feel that way. Secondly, my stomach almost turned inside out when I read about Jennifer’s fate, and the other girl’s reaction to it. The other girls in the cellar were relieved to have Sarah and Jennifer join them, because days before their tormenter had left a box in the cellar, and they’d grown afraid one of them would have to go inside the box. When it turned out it was Jennifer, they were relieved.

    It’s a horrifying, but all too human thought to be relieved when someone else is tortured instead of yourself. I could relate to the girls stuck in the dungeon. What happened to Jennifer was horrible, and the descriptions of the box, the feelings of the main character when she saw her friend locked up inside, all made me feel nauseous. Then as the story progresses, we get descriptions of the horror the tormenter put them through, and this put my stomach on edge as well.

    However, whereas the first part of the novel is unbelievably strong in a raw, emotional way, the second part falls flat. Apparently the person responsible isn’t done tormenting them yet, and he’s enlisted the help of others to confront Sarah and the other girls with their past and lure them back into the mansion where he tortured them. There’s a blatant Deus Ex Machina moment when one of the women shows up just in time to save Sarah and the others. Right.

    Then, at the end there’s a big reveal I saw coming from miles away and doesn’t rank highly in terms of originality. The book definitely goes for a big reveal and climatic ending, but definitely falls short.

    All in all, the book started out strong, had a mediocre middle and a low ending. It’s all right if you’re in the mood for a thriller, I guess, but if the book had stayed strong, it would’ve definitely been exceptional. Now I’m a little disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2013

    A topical story with all the recent news bulletins about young a

    A topical story with all the recent news bulletins about young abducted girls held captive. The terror and despair is very apparent in this captive turned detective story, you live through Sarah's, Tracy's and Christine's collective ordeals with Jack Derber. At times, I warn you may wince at their experiences. Jack is behind bars but eligible for parole and Sarah feels she cannot rely on the FBI to stop this happening. Overcoming all her fears she leads her cellar mates in finding the truth about her friend Jennifer. An excellent book and thoroughly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2013

    The Never List

    The Never List is true creepy story. The strong female leads grip you and don't let you go. This book is fast paced and keeps you guessing to the very end. It has its scary gruesome moments, but its good overall.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2013

    Good read

    Read while vacationing in aruba. Was a cross of james patterson and the following tv series. Fast read but not as scary as i expected.

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  • Posted August 23, 2013

    great story with a twist ending

    The Never List by Koethi Zan did not disappoint. With well developed characters the story starts with two girls who survive a tragedy. This draws them closer as friends and on the brink of being a bit crazy. The Never List is about survival and trust. It also covers how people recover from crimes against them. Don't read the reviews that give character names and the whole plot -- let it be new and fresh for you and the thriller of a read will be a good thing -- like new blood in your body when you breathe. Good book for a book club. Readers who like surprise endings and thrill and mystery readers will love this book.

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  • Posted August 17, 2013

    What starts out as an intriguing plot line quickly disintegrates

    What starts out as an intriguing plot line quickly disintegrates into a tale that lacks character development and believability. While it was somewhat of an entertaining read there were just too many flaws in the writing to be considered anything more than a mediocre read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2013

    This  was an interesting plot and the timing to the news story o

    This  was an interesting plot and the timing to the news story of the release of the young women from CLeveland
     its startling.   The early part of the book feels a little forced and unlikely - young women don't post
    a list on their closet doors and the dialogue was awkward.....It finds its feet and marches along pretty well
    with and exciting ending with a surprise twist but I am not sure I still liked these women all that much.....It was
    O.K. but not really great.............  

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  • Posted August 4, 2013

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Sarah/Caroline

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings

    Sarah/Caroline lived through a horrific car accident and with her best friend made a list of things never to do to hopefully avoid any other catastrophes.  Something happened one night while they were at college and they end up kidnapped and locked in a basement and tortured.  The story picks up years after Sarah escapes and is thrust into a hunt for information to avoid her captor to be put out on parole.  She must link up with the other two girls who survived the terror to finish what she started.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 23, 2013

    Great hook, premise, and beginning from a promising new author M

    Great hook, premise, and beginning from a promising new author
    My Take:

    "Human beings are so terrible. . . . They can bear anything." - From the film The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, director and screenwriter

    (from the flyleaf of The Never List)

    Book beginning:

    There were four of us down there for the first thirty-two months and eleven days of our captivity. And then, very suddenly and without warning, there were three. Even though the fourth person hadn't made any noise at all in several months, the room got very quiet when she was gone. For a long time after that, we sat in silence, in the dark, wondering which of us would be next in the box.
    Sarah "Caroline" and Jennifer have been best friends since elementary school. On the way home from middle school one day, a tragic accident brings them even closer than before. In the wake of the accident, they became extremely cautious and compiled a "Never List" - a sort of safety list of things both to do (in case of accident/natural disaster/kidnapping, etc.) as well as things never to do to avoid being in any of the aforementioned situations.

    When they are both 18, they finally step away from the comfort of home to attend Ohio University (neighborhood, car services, dorm all researched beforehand to ensure safety). Upon returning from a party (not too late and definitely without too much to drink), riding in the back of a car from a car service they had presumed to be safe, they are kidnapped and held for three years in a dark basement along with two other girls, tortured victims of a sadistic man.

    The novel begins ten years after their release, with Sarah living basically as a hermit in her NYC apartment. Food and necessities are delivered, and, since she works from home, there is basically no need for her to leave. So she doesn't. Until she is contacted by Agent McCordy, who asks her to go to the parole hearing and testify against the release of her former captor. Coupled with a recently received letter from her former abductor, this request causes Sarah to leave the safety of her "nest" in search of answers.

    You see, one of the girls didn't make it out of that basement. Since a body was never found, their captor couldn't be convicted of murder. Sarah is determined to find the missing girl to ensure that their captor is never released from prison.

    This novel begins with a lot of promise. The beginning chapters make you want to keep reading and reading until you find out what's going on. The back story of each girl is revealed in bits and pieces, and there are glimpses (not TOO detailed, but still rather stomach-churning) into their lives in the basement. As I read, I wondered why each of the surviving girls seemed to dislike each other so much - one would think that their shared experience, no matter how devastating, would make them feel close to each other, but that doesn't seem to be the case. They've each dealt with their ordeal in totally distinct fashions.

    This IS a fast read, surprisingly so considering the subject matter. Once past the beginning chapters, however, a huge chunk of the action and, most assuredly, Sarah's investigation, becomes so implausible that it breaks belief. It also felt somewhat rushed, as though the author tried to insert too many outre' plot outtakes and questions into the narrative flow: a religious cult, S&M practitioners and their club, intrigue at a college campus, the mysteriously missing wife of their captor, the relative ease with which Sarah again enters the outside world.

    There is a big twist near the end that caught me by surprise and sort of made up for the middle parts of the book :)

    I do love dark fiction, but I feel that the comparison to "Gone Girl" and "Before I Go to Sleep" are a bit stretched. This title has the promise and the hook, but flagged for a while before it picked back up, while the two mentioned titles pretty much never let up and did not stretch my credulity.

    I live blocks away (literally, two blocks over and two blocks down) from a house where three young women were held captive for over a decade. The timing of this book release was not intentional, but definitely made me even more interested. I think that this is a promising debut author and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next as she fine-tunes her art.

    QUOTES:

    The summer before we went off to Ohio University, our anxieties reached a fever pitch. We would soon be leaving my attic room, which we shared, and go into the vast unknown: a college campus. In preparation, we made the Never List and hung it on the back of our bedroom door. Jennifer, who was plagued by insomnia, would often get up in the middle of the night to add to it: never go to the campus library alone at night, never park more than six spaces from your destination, never trust a stranger with a flat tire. Never, never, never.

    He got inside your mind, crawled in like a venomous snake slithering into a hole in the desert, then twisted around in there until he was fully comfortable and at home. It had been hard to resist him when physical weakness made you turn to your attacker as a savior. Harder to push him away when, after taking everything away from you, maybe forever, he doled out the only things you needed to sustain you - food, water, cleanliness, the least sign of affection.

    We were waiting. Always waiting. As though we wanted something new to happen. Often wishing it would, because the boredom made you even crazier. But when something new did happen, it usually hurt, and then we ended up taking all our wishes back.

    Writing: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Characters: 3 out of 5 stars
    Reading Immersion: 3 out 5 stars

    BOOK RATING: 3.25 out of 5 stars

    Sensitive Reader: Maybe a bit risky. Rare profanity, an F-bomb dropped here and there, and sexual and torture references that may be a bit much for the more sensitive reader.

    Book Club Recommendation: I think this depends on the members. Some may be put off by the subject matter, but others may find discussion material such as "How would I react in that situation?", etc.

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    Posted September 3, 2013

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    Posted April 25, 2014

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