Book Review: THE NEVER LIST by Koethi Zan

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Released: July 16, 2013
Source: Borrowed from the Library

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, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride 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, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.


Eek, this was a creepy, disturbing book, but in an edge of your seat, can’t turn the pages fast enough kind of way. These two young women, Sarah and Jennifer, end up torture slaves in the cellar of a sadistic sociopath for three years, even though they took safety precautions to the extreme. Still, it can happen. Scary. Ten years later, Sarah is still mourning the fact that Jennifer never made it out of the cellar, and she’s terrified that the sicko could be free on parole very soon. *shudders*

Sarah was a well-drawn, sympathetic character, and my heart went out to her. For the past decade, she’d basically shut herself off from the rest of the world, preferring the solitude of her apartment to having contact with other people. It’s the threat of having her abductor paroled that forces her out of her shell. He has been sending cryptic letters from prison to Sarah and the two other cellar survivors, Tracy and Caroline. Sarah is convinced these letters hold clues to his true motives behind the madness, and finally, she may be able to lay Jennifer to rest.

THE NEVER LIST is a chilling read that alternates between Sarah’s present day quest to discover the truth and flashbacks to her time in captivity. I’m thankful the author left out really gory details, but she did give readers enough that we could imagine the horrors going on. The plot was fast paced with many twists and surprise revelations along the way, and the ending was brilliant!

I have two complaints about the book. First, there was a scene toward the end that just didn’t add up. I can’t go into details without spoilers, so I’ll just say that either the police missed something major, or I missed something! Secondly, I wish that Jim the FBI agent’s character had been developed more. He seemed like a big part of the case and one of the few people Sarah trusted, so I wanted to know more about him.

Overall, this was an awesome thriller, one that will haunt my brain and keep me looking over my shoulder for a long time to come.

Rating: 4 Stars