Terrifying. Devastating. Tragic.
Those are the three words that come to mind when I think of Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl. After finishing it in one sitting late last night, I'm still trying to catch my breath and desperately trying to get rid of the weight that seems to have settled on my chest. But I think it will be a long time before this happens because what has happened to "Alice" in the book can happen to a child in real life...probably has happened.
The book is told from the point of view of "Alice" a fifteen-year old girl who was kidnapped on an elementary school field trip when she was 10. Her captor, Ray, has sexually and physically abused her every day since he kidnapped her. He starves her because he doesn't want her to physically mature, he terrorizes her and tells her that he'll kill her parents and burn their house down if she tries to escape. I'm putting "Alice" in parentheses because that is not her real name. It's the name Ray gave her, the same name he gave the girl he kidnapped and killed before he kidnapped the second Alice.
Alice calls herself a "living dead girl." She's numb inside, she's hungry, she's been tortured so much that she wishes for death. She's waiting for it, hoping for it, expecting it any day; but Ray has something different in mind that is even more terrifying to the reader, and he needs Alice's help.
I've always heard stories about people getting kidnapped and having many opportunities to escape, but they don't. This is Alice's case. There are multiple opportunities for her to tell someone, to run away, to ask for help, but Ray has instilled so much fear in her that she doesn't even think about it anymore.
She truly believes that he will kill her parents, and at one point she says, "I could run, but he would find me. He would take me back to 623 Daisy Lane and make everyone who lives there pay. He would make everyone there pay even if he didn't find me. I belong to him. I'm his little girl. All I have to do is be good" (p. 34).
What is most profound is that Ray has brainwashed her to the point of her believing that she's bad, she's selfish, and that it's all her fault. On the day of the kidnapping, she wouldn't share her lip gloss with her friends. They walked away from her, leaving her alone and exposed to a monster, but she blames herself, thinks if she wouldn't have been so selfish, her life would be different. It's truly heartbreaking.
But the worst part is that people look the other way. They know something's not right, but don't step in.
Scott's writing is gripping, captivating, and horrifying. She draws you in from the very beginning, and Alice immediately becomes real, someone you ache for, someone who you want to make it, someone you want to pluck out of this nightmare of a life. If you're wondering about the language and descriptions in the book, it is evident that Ray is sexually abusing Alice. It's evident that sexual acts are being performed, but the language itself is not graphic.
When discussing why she wrote Living Dead Girl, Elizabeth Scott says, " I wrote Living Dead Girl because it demanded to be told, and I hope it speaks to you as strongly as it did to me." (read more at Simon & Schuster's website).
Did I like the story? Honestly, no. I don't like stories about children being sexually abused. Was it well-written? Absolutely. Should every parent read it? Absolutely. Should teens read it? I want to say yes. I want to say that it could potentially save lives, but it's scary. All I want to do is scoop my daughter up and never let her go.
What Other Bloggers are Saying:
(There are book reviews all over the blogosphere. Here are some of the most recent.)
Bookshelves of Doom: "I'd maybe recommend it to older teens who aren't prone to nightmares. Because this book is way more scary than any horror novel I've ever read." (read more...)
Book Envy: "This is a powerful, horrifying, extremely well written book. It is not for the faint of heart." (read more...)
Presenting Lenore: "This is a heavy, heartbreaking novel, but one that reinforces my belief that the human spirit finds ways to triumph even in the face of great evil. Short and spare, yet powerful and moving, Alice’s story lingers long after the last page is turned." (read more...)
Jenn's Bookshelf: "It has been quite some time since a book has impacted me so powerfully." (read more...) Jenn is also giving away an ARC of the novel if you leave a comment by 10/4.
The Book Muncher: "While it’s not right to like a story such as this, I think Living Dead Girl should be read by everyone, if not for enjoyment then to inform readers. It is a short but fast read, beautifully written and impossible to ever forget." (read more...)
Teen Book Review: "It’s thought provoking, and, well, as I said before, disturbing. Elizabeth Scott is an amazing writer, and she makes this story into exactly what it is supposed to be." (read more...)
Becky's Book Reviews: "Scott's writing is incredible. If I were in charge of handing out awards, one would be heading her way. " (read more...)
If I missed you, leave your link in the comments, and I'll post it.
- Reading level: Young Adult
- Hardcover: 176 pages
- Publisher: Simon Pulse (September 2, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416960597
- ISBN-13: 978-1416960591
- Source: Library