The Well by A.J. Whitten

the wellReading level: 4.8
Genre: Horror
ELL-Friendly: Yes
Library recommendation: Middle school

Goodreads summary:

If Hamlet thought he had issues, he should have talked to Cooper Warner.

His mother’s normally sunny demeanor has turned into something—homicidal.

And what’s worse, she has help in her hunt for Cooper: A ravenous monster living at the bottom of the old well in the woods behind their house. She’s determined to deliver her 14-year-old son straight into the creature’s eager clutches. Cooper turns to his girlfriend, Megan, for help, but then, to his horror, the creature takes her prisoner.
Now, it’s up to Cooper to fend off his murderous mother, finish his Hamlet paper, and enter the putrid lair at the bottom of the well to rescue Megan. And when he confronts the creature, Cooper must make the toughest decision of his life: kill, or be killed.

I’m not a fan of horror, but I thought The Well showed promise. The back cover is all about Shakespeare, suspense, a homicidal mother, love, and some snark.

I got to about page 76 and had to stop. The tipping point (aside from the writing that was dragging on and on and on) was when Cooper sees the Myspace icon (little red flag going up already) of the well, and slime starts oozing over the computer screen. It was then that I realized I’m just not a horror person, so I gave up.

That said, I think The Well could be engaging for young readers (it’s definitely a middle level book) who enjoy suspense. It does have some curse words, but it’s not excessive. However, at the beginning, Cooper jokingly says something about orgies, at which point I wondered about the author, who wrote the book for her daughter. What? If it’s a book for CHILDREN (the cover says ages 12 and up), whether or not your child is involved, why even write something about orgies? But that was the only real point of contention I saw in the whole 70-something pages I read. It’s also kind of gory, but sex is scarier to parents (and kids…) than violence, so…

It is ELL friendly in that it’s got a low reading level without being a baby book, and the vocab is simple. The bad news is that many of the sentences are in fragments to reflect Cooper’s train of thought.

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