Review: The Never List by Koethi Zan

Every girl has a list of ‘nevers’ that they follow to keep themselves safe.

Never walk to your car alone late at night. Never accept an open drink from a men you don’t know. Never get into cars with strangers. Never, never, never.

Everyone’s never list is bound to be different. For me the cardinal rule is never get into a car with strangers and that is the same rule that best friends Sarah and Jennifer violate one fateful night.

Sarah and Jennifer have a lengthy list of ‘nevers’ that range from avoiding natural disasters, to avoiding rape and kidnapping. Their never list has served them well all the way up into college until one night they decide to take a cab.

That cab ride turned into the ride from hell, literally.

For three long years, Sarah and Jennifer endure torture, disturbing sexual acts, beatings, and starvation. Sarah was eventually released along with some other girls, but Jennifer’s body was never found.

Ten years later, Sarah has tried to move on with her life and forget the past. She has assumed a new identity as “Caroline” but unfortunately, she is struggling to live her life. Her never list is longer than ever, she rarely leaves her apartment, and is struggling for closure since Jennifer’s body was never found.

Then the unthinkable happens…..Sarah finds out her abductor is up for parole! Sarah and the other survivors see this as a way to gain closure and make sure that their abductor never sees the light of day again.

There is only one word to describe this novel: creep-tastic!

I loved the complexity of the plot and characters. This book has been compared to the runaway best seller Gone Girl and I would have to say it does have a lot of similar qualities. It’s definitely a darker psychological thriller with an unreliable-ish narrator which of course I love.

I liked getting to know Sarah’s character. Zan does a nice job allowing the reader to explore her character and yet creates just a small veil of uncertainty about her character. The reader can’t help but feel like Sarah is holding some things back, but not too much that you feel like you can’t trust her at all. I loved that about this novel. It was equal parts reliable and unreliable narrator.

Sarah’s paranoia and PTSD came across brilliantly in the novel and added so much depth and anxiety to the book. I really enjoyed her development.

One thing I really enjoyed about Zan’s writing style was that it was really understated. There is enough description to give the reader an idea about what’s going on but a lot is left up to the readers imagination.

For example, the sexual and physical assaults in the novel were explained but not written in graphic detail leaving it up to the reader to imagine which for me made it all the more chilling.

The story was realistic and believable which gave the story merit for me. This is something like that could easily happen to any unsuspecting young woman and because it’s so viable and for me, it made me all the more creepy!

The only things that I didn’t care for in the novel was that some of the supporting characters were a little flat for me and the ended wrapped up a little too quickly.

There was such a large build up to the end of the novel with a lot of twists and turns but when it finally all culminated together….I found myself wondering–‘is that it? Already?’ The build up was great but the actual climax/action sequence needed a little more development.

Initially when I read the description of the novel, I thought it was going to be much too dark for my taste and perhaps too dark to appeal to a wide audience. However, those preconceived notions were quickly dispelled.

The novel was dark and psychologically thrilling but it wasn’t overly macabre or anything like that, at least for my taste anyway. There are some aspects of the novel that might not appeal to a wide audience such as some of the BDSM stuff, but if you are about to look past some of the unconventional material, a mind bending thrill awaits you!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Never List by Koethi Zan

  • Hardcover, 320 pages
  • Published July 16th 2013 by Pamela Dorman Books (first published April 25th 2013)
  • ISBN 0670026514 (ISBN13: 9780670026517)
  • Review copy provided by: Publisher (Penguin/Viking) in exchange for an honest review

This book counts toward: 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 4 out of 5

Genre: Thriller, Psychological thriller

Memorable lines/quotes: NA

4 thoughts on “Review: The Never List by Koethi Zan

  1. I’ve read a number of reviews about how good this is, but I’ve been wondering just how dark it would be…if it would be too much. I think I could appreciate the story! Great review.

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