The Never List by Koethi Zan

Nineteen years ago, best friends Sarah and Jennifer were in a car accident that killed Jennifer’s mother. The two girls, bound together, made a list of things to never do that would keep them safe. Sixteen years ago, the list was obeyed religiously, but it didn’t save them from Jack Derber, or the chains in his cellar.

Thirteen years ago, Sarah escaped. Jennifer did not. Now, Sarah has a new list. Don’t touch people. Don’t go outside. Always be prepared, for anything. But Jack’s parole hearing is coming up and to stop him being released she is going to have to break some rules.

The Never List is tense and horrifying. Sarah and her fellow captives are physically scarred and each has an enormous emotional burden that comes at you like a lunged knife. There are parts where you’ll be as nervous and frightened as the characters themselves, though there are parts where you’ll be shaking your head in frustration (they’re overtly cautious sometimes, but nonsensically brazen at others).

Despite the topic – kidnapping of this kind is not for the faint-hearted – it is, thankfully, free of the extended torture-porn writers seem to think is always necessary, with only mere glimpses into the past to reveal what the girls suffered and what they carry to this day.

Fiona Hardy