Reviewed by Lucy Barré
Have you ever wondered if a person you call friend is capable of murder? Author Ann Rule did not, at least at first. In her novel The Stranger beside Me, Rule recounts the reluctant, mind-boggling realization that her respected co-worker was in fact a prolific serial killer. This unorthodox style for a biography gives a detailed account of Ted Bundy’s killer career and Rule’s relationship with him.
The book begins with a brief viewing of the last days of Bundy’s life as a “free” man. After this preview into his mind, the story shifts to his sensitive upbringing and progressive independence. Despite finding hardship easily, Ted Bundy was well known and well liked among friends and colleagues. This included Ann Rule, who befriended him when they worked together at a suicide hotline. He was charming and intelligent and no one saw the warning flags until it was too late. Obsession was easy to write off as love and regret. Constant changes in lifestyle could be blamed on extenuating circumstances. Delinquent behavior was restlessness, a coping mechanism, a product of an unstable family. But even those willing to believe the best in others have to face the truth eventually.
As a young woman reading about a man known for assaulting and killing women—and getting away with it for years—I should be terrified of The Stranger beside Me. However, this biography is not designed as a horror story. Those who are willing to learn about the important factors that lead to Bundy’s life of crime and are open to hear both the good and bad inflicted by him should take the time to absorb this book. Rule is sure both to horrify and touch your heart.
Lucy Barré was a senior in the Gifted program at Hahnville High. She enjoys reading, singing in the school choir, and participating in community service events. Later this year, she plans to attend Louisiana State University to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine.
Editor’s note: Book reviews are published throughout the summer and fall in agreement with Hahnville High School gifted English teacher Deborah Unger in conjunction with the Brown Foundation Service Learning Program and Unger’s “Adolescents Advocate Literacy” Brown Service Learning Grant.