Book – The Girl Next Door (1988)
Author – Jack Ketchum
The story neighborhood children by allowing them to come freely into her home, play as rough as they wish, and even drink an occasional beer with her.
Ruth’s nieces then enter the picture; Meg, a teen girl for whom David develops feelings and Susan, a young girl who was severely injured in a car accident and still experiences complications from it. Both girls come to live with their aunt after the sudden death of their parents. All first when they arrive all seems well. However, Ruth’s mental state has been deteriorating over time, and the burden of having two more children to care for seems to accelerate her descent into madness.
Ruth begins verbally abusing Meg, calling her a slut. After an incident where Meg hits Ralphie when he touches her breast, Ruth beats Susan for “being in canivance” with Meg. When Meg tries to tell a police officer about the abuse, Ruth locks her in their bomb shelter and allows her boys to strip her, then leaves her there, bound and gagged all night. She starves her and even allows the other children to burn, beat her and even urinate in Meg’s face over the course of months, making them feel that because they have the permission of an adult, their actions are okay and will not be punished.
David soon realizes that he must do something before time runs out and he loses the first girl he has ever loved. However, despite his efforts, his plan to rescue Meg is foiled when Meg tries to bring her sister Susan with her and Ruth catches them trying to leave. As punishment, Ruth allows her son Donny to rape Meg. Willie also wants to rape her, but Ruth refuses to let him, saying it is incest for him to do so after his brother. Ruth then carves the words “I FUCK / FUCK ME” into Meg’s stomach, saying she is doing it so no man will ever want Meg. Ruth then takes it a step further and decides she will end all sexual desire on Meg’s part and gives her a clitorectomy.
In the meantime, David decides to create a plan to get Meg, Susan, and himself out of the house alive. After one final act of torture, Meg dies, shortly after the police arrive. As David and Ruth are being led upstairs, David sees Ruth wearing Meg’s mother’s wedding band. Remembering a promise to get it back to Meg, he vengefully pushes Ruth down the stairs, killing her. The officer with David realizes he did this intentionally, but knowing how evil Ruth was the officer claims that the fall was accidental, and David is never charged with Ruth’s death. As David grows up he continually tracks the whereabouts of the other children who helped to torture Meg, discovering that they either end up dying young as a result of reckless lifestyles or go on to lead lives blighted by poverty and crime. After reading of a brutal crime spree perpetuated by one of the now grown children of Ruth, David is left to wonder what has become of the children he was unable to track.