Review: The Never List by Koethi Zan

Posted August 22, 2013

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Never List by Koethi Zan The Never List by Koethi Zan
Genres: Crime, Thriller
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

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, each of us wondering what this meant for her and for us, and which of us would be the next in the box.


For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the ‘Never List’: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, they failed to follow their own rules.


Sarah has spent ten years trying to forget her ordeal. But now the FBI has news that forces her to confront her worst fears.


If she is to uncover the truth about what really happened to Jennifer, Sarah needs to work with the other women who shared her nightmare. But they won’t be happy to hear from her. Because down there in the dark, Sarah wasn’t just a victim.


When a tragic accident changes the lives of Sarah and Jennifer they decide to protect themselves from anything similar happening again. They calculate the risks of everything they do, they create a “Never List” of things that they must avoid to keep themselves safe. Things were all going well until they get into a taxi one night, only to wake up and find themselves in a cellar with two other girls.

This story is told ten years down the line, from Sarah’s perspective. She survived, she was freed from that cellar prison and the man responsible is in jail. Jennifer wasn’t so lucky.

I must admit when I first picked up the book I wasn’t sure about it. I was probably a quarter of the way through the book before I really felt invested in it. Sarah’s life is in her apartment. She works from home, she orders food in, she never leaves her nest. Quite understandable when you read of the things she has been through. There’s one thing that pushes her out of that comfort zone though – the man who kidnapped them, held them hostage, abused them, is trying to get out of prison. A reformed character apparently. However Sarah knows from the letters that she gets from him that isn’t the case. She decides she owes it to Jennifer to find her body, to prove the man is a murderer, to keep him behind bars.

The only thing is she can’t do it alone and her two fellow survivors would rather not have anything to do with Sarah…the reasons for which slowly emerge.

I like the way this story is told. 10 years down the line, looking back at that cellar, drip feeding the reader the circumstances, the trauma and the life as a hostage. Driven by a fear to keep the man who abused them in jail Sarah sets off on a journey to uncover the truth.

The reflections of the cellar can be hard to read. I think in part all I could think about while reading this was the Ohio Kidnappings. I couldn’t help but think of those victims. I felt it was wrong to be reading a book for entertainment on the subject while these people were suffering. Does that make sense? I hope so.

Anyway, the journey continues to find Jennifer’s body. It reunites the girls and they uncover something much larger than they had anticipated!

I had mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed the mystery side of it, finding the truth. However I kept wondering what others felt about this book. Let me try and explain. Is it a good thing that there is more and more literature being written on the subject? Quite possibly yes as it means that a wider audience can acknowledge what victims have been through. However with these stories, and I’ve read a few so I’m not just referring to the Never List, are they true to form? By which I mean do they do justice (is that the right word?) to everything that a victim suffers? Part of me wonders if it’s just scraping the surface, if by reading such novels we are getting a false impression of the suffering of the victims? Or indeed maybe it’s chillingly real?

Either way it did make me think, and that, after all, is what a good book should do. It made me think about the victims, it made me think about the kind of people that do these things, so I guess it opened my eyes.

With regard to the case of Jennifer’s murder, I enjoyed sifting through the evidence with Sarah, trying to find out the truth.

When I picked up this book I didn’t realise it would raise so many questions for me. Indeed the author has made me consider the subject more deeply than I have in the past. Quite possibly the purpose of this book? Looking back from a survivor’s point of view is an interesting angle as you know that Sarah will survive the ordeal….no matter how damaged she may be.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Did you have similar feelings about it or just enjoy it for the piece of fiction that it is? I would love to know.

We received an electronic copy of The Never List through NetGalley for our consideration.