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Review: The Well by A. J. Whitten

by Ann-Katrina

The Well Cover

Back Cover of The Well

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.

This horrific tale, inspired by Hamlet, puts a modern, terrifying twist on the Shakespearean classic.

Three Quick Points About The Well

  • Point 1: This book needs a hacksaw—a big one. And to stop trying to sound cool. Most of the words contained within The Well’s two covers is effluvium. The repetition, the analogies, and the random references to every celebrity or HPotM (Hot Product of the Moment) wears a bit thin.
  • Point 2: Why hasn’t Cooper been eaten yet? By chapter 11, that was the question I asked. I figured if he was eaten, it would put everyone (including Cooper) out of their misery.
  • Point 3: Hamlet? Really?!? The only tenuous connection I saw between this story and Hamlet was the shoe-wedged storyline about Cooper and his classmates studying the play and hating every minute of it.

Full Review of The Well

Before reading the full review, please note that there may be some spoilers. I tried to keep it vague enough not to spoil the entire story, but be warned. If you’d rather not take any chances, skip the synopsis and go straight to the final thoughts.

The Well Synopsis

The story opens with the Well-Monster telling the audience that he’s been trapped for two centuries and when he finally gets out, he’s going to do naughty things to exact his revenge.

We then switch to Cooper’s point of view as he’s trapped at the bottom the well (yes, with the Well Monster). He’s rescued by his brother Faulkner, who then goes into sudden denial about seeing their mother toss his kid brother down a well.

Of course, rather than try to convince his brother that something sinister is going on, he decides to try and run away from his problems. Unfortunately, the Well Monster has great and terrible powers and it sends creepy green oozing vines to find Cooper wherever he goes—sitting at his desk at school, viewing his MySpace page at home, having dinner with his girlfriend’s family.

Of course, no one besides him can see these creepy vines, so he appears to be going insane.

He also hears the monster’s voice inside his head, which lends to his increasing dementia.

Finally he can’t take it anymore and with the aid of his girlfriend (technically, ex, since he pushed her away to save her life), they decide to kill the Well Monster.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out as planned and Cooper is back at the bottom of the well, his girlfriend has gone missing, his stepfather is acting creepy, his mother seems randomly possessed, and there’s a big mystery surrounding the affluence of the vineyard on which the well resides.

Final Thoughts On The Well

I wanted very much to like this book. In fact, I wanted to love it.

I could do neither.

Coming in at just over 300 short pages, this should have been one easy afternoon read. It wasn’t. Everything about this book is superficial and tiresome.

The story is told mostly from Cooper’s point of view, but a few chapters switch to the Well Monster’s third person POV. No big deal, and I felt those switches helped the book entirely because those chapters were economical in their writing.

None of the characters, or their relationships with one another, were believable. Cooper is a sarcastic kid, but throughout most of the book, it reads like he’s trying too hard for a laugh. He was all over the place—character-development-wise—as was his brother.

The relationship between Cooper and Megan seemed obligatory and, again, the actions were inconsistent.

Then there are the never-ending analogies and references to celebrities, TV shows, or hot products that are sure to date this book in a few years.

“Wasn’t spelling out the school’s letters with all the passion of Fall Out Boy groupies.” –pg 58

“Made money like a Coke machine from his jobs delivering babies and making wine.” –pg 87

“It was so…ordinary, so normal, when I’d just been running from Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” –pg 122

“The truth hit me in the solar plexus like a UFC fighter.” –pg 127

“For a second, I could believe I was in a Manga comic or, one of those prisoner dudes in Battlefield Earth.” –pg 144

(*These quotes were taken from an ARC, so someone may just take a hacksaw to it before its release…one can hope.)

That’s only a small sampling—there’s plenty more, sometimes three on a page. The first couple of times, it was cute, but by chapter 11, I was skimming whole chunks of text and wishing Cooper would just be eaten already.

Here’s where it really nicked, though—there is an entertaining story in there (yes, you heard right), but it’s almost snuffed out due to poor, long-winded writing. It’s a shame really.

Rating: Save your money (?)

The Well at Amazon

Comments on Review: The Well by A. J. Whitten

  1. # jules wrote on August 12, 2009 at 4:56 pm:

    omg i couldn’t even finish reading this one. my firend gave it to me, now i know she was just trying to get rid of it. i’d like to find out what happened to cooper and what’s up with that well thing, but i couldn’t take it anymore. it was just so frustrating trying to read through all that crap about how icki the monster was or how shady the stepdad is or how his mom is crazy.

  2. # Ann-Kat wrote on August 12, 2009 at 5:58 pm:

    Just curious Jules, but how far did you get before you gave up?

    And if you really want to find out what happens, I say stick with it.

  3. # jules wrote on August 12, 2009 at 10:53 pm:

    id didn’t make it past the first 50 pages it was so bad. i can’t finish it because i already gave it away plus i ___really___ don’t think i could survive andother 300 pages.

  4. # jules wrote on August 12, 2009 at 10:54 pm:

    btw i really love your blog. the design is so pretty!! ^_^

  5. # BTT: What’s That Bad Aftertaste? - Today, I Read… wrote on August 13, 2009 at 7:39 pm:

    [...] Usually I don’t finish books if I feel I will dislike them (since life is far too short to suffer bad books), but I was actually looking forward to reading The Well since I knew A. J. Whitten was Shirley Jump’s pseudonym and during the reading I kept praying it would get better. It didn’t. [...]

  6. # Megg97 wrote on March 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm:

    I don’t get how you guys didn’t like this book! I loved every minute of it. The end was amazing! You should give it another chance.

  7. # Ann-Kat wrote on March 23, 2010 at 4:23 pm:

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting Megg.

    As for the book, I didn’t enjoy it, simple as that. The overall story was interesting, but the writing killed it. I mentioned it in a comment on another post discussing this book, but it’s worth mentioning here, too: The prose was plodding, the analogies were trite and the quips became redundant.

    This book would have been a definite winner had a good editor taken a hacksaw to it, or if it were simply edited into a short story. Many of the scenes and subplots weren’t necessary and only served to drown the entertaining story.

    There is no second chance because, frankly, there are more enjoyable books out there for me to read and time is fleeting. :D

    But I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it.

  8. # PanDa_NiNja_:) wrote on August 12, 2010 at 1:48 am:

    I actually was on and off the book for awhile.I would read 100 pages in one day and then from there on I would read maybe 15 pages in a month.While The beginning was funny, and the middle got boring which made me put the book down, but curious of what happened I FORCED myself to finish.Then once I was done reading the book I was actually glad I finished it.It turned out to be a really good book.I sound like a total nerd but very true.*A book worth reading*

    __Brought to you by the PAnda_Nerd :)

  9. # Rocco wrote on November 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm:

    I think it was a very intense book. not only a boy would be haunted by a monster, but it was based on hamlet. 5 out of 5 stars. 10 out of10 stars

  10. # janell wrote on June 3, 2011 at 9:05 am:

    This is a very good book and i can see how what happens, happen.

  11. # Cyrena wrote on August 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm:

    I mean i thought it was good, the constant references were REALLY annoying though. :)

  12. # Jessica wrote on September 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm:

    what was the resolution?

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