Friday, October 2, 2009

Teen/YA Review: Living Dead Girl

Living Dead Girl, a novel by Elizabeth Scott about a kidnapped girl held captive, is so deeply disturbing that I considered whether or not to review it here. My goal with this blog, as its name implies, is to recommend great books. To me, a great book is one that makes me feel something – hope, anger, excitement, sadness. A great novel is one where you get pulled into the story so completely that you forget it’s fiction. With those criteria, Living Dead Girl certainly measures up.

It is the story of a girl who is now known as Alice, though that’s not her real name. She was abducted five years ago, when she was only ten years old, and has been held captive ever since and raped daily. Reading about the details of her life was horrifying and heartbreaking, especially in the wake of the recent news story where a California abductee was found 18 years later.

Here, Alice starts her day and thinks about her advancing age:

Eventually I get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. We don’t have a tub, just a shower, but I ignore it and brush my teeth, swallowing the toothpaste instead of spitting it out. I hear it can be poisonous, but I guess it’s only if you’re really young.

I am 15 now, and I keep waiting for Ray to tire of me. I am no longer short with dimpled knees and frightened eyes. I am almost as tall as he is, and his license says he is 5’7”. He likes the picture. He says no one ever takes a good driver’s license picture except him.

I am 15 and stretched out, no more than 100 pounds. I can never weigh more than that. It keeps my breasts tiny, my hips narrow, my thighs the size Ray likes.

I am 15 and worn out, tired of everything.

I am 15, and I figure soon he will let me go.

In putting the reader inside the head of an abducted child, Scott also provides some insight into the most puzzling aspect of cases like this – the question of why the victim didn’t run away. Alice’s answer to that is both pragmatic and haunting. Ray controls her and keeps her there through a combination of physical and emotional threats, but more importantly, Alice feels invisible. As she says herself:

Three Life Lessons:

1. No one will see you.
2. No one will say anything.
3. No one will save you.

When Ray starts to talk about finding a new little girl, Alice thinks she finally has a way out; she’ll do anything to stop her daily torture. But Ray wants her to help him find a new girl and take care of her. Alice’s reaction shows just how much her lengthy torment has damaged her.

The language and format of the novel mirror Alice’s feelings of being a living dead girl. Her words are terse and unemotional, the chapters brief (that first passage quoted above is a full chapter). Despite her spare words – or perhaps because of them – the effect is disturbing yet completely compelling. I finished the book in less than a day, partly because I didn’t want to read it before bed another night and partly because I had to keep reading to find out what happened to Alice. If you’re wondering, as I was, why the author wrote this novel, read how she got the idea for the book – the story is as chilling as the novel itself.

For more information about this and other books by the same author, visit Elizabeth Scott’s website.

NOTE: This book is recommended only for older teens, young adults, or adults as it contains many scenes of rape and violence, although it is not graphic.

Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), 170 pages.


Andrea said...

Wow, that sounds both amazing and deeply disturbing. I don't know if I could read it but this was a great review. Although I am curious about how Alice's story ends.

Natalie said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Wow, this book sounds really good, though heartbreaking as well. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm going to have to add it to my TBR list! Thanks for the post!

Mindful Musings

Anonymous said...

I added this on my wishlist. It certainly looks like a dark powerful read. great review.

Leslie said...

man i have this on my book shelf! ur review gave me chills!