Title: Living Dead Girl
Author: Elizabeth Scott
My grade: A-
We tend to throw around the word “disturbing” a lot. Movies, TV shows, books, the way certain celebrities dress. We’re disturbed by a lot of things.
So when I say that Living Dead Girl is a disturbing book, it won’t sound that powerful. A lot of things are disturbing, but they’re not, really.
Let me put it another way, then. After finishing this book, I went about my business—checked my email, crossed it off my list of books to read. And then I started to cry. Some things don’t hit you at the time, because you just can’t deal with it all at once.
There isn’t a whole lot of plot in the sense of a sequence of events, but here’s what the book is about. It’s about a girl, age 15, who was kidnapped five years earlier. During these five years, she has been abused—physically, sexually, emotionally, spiritually, in every way possible—by her captor, renamed “Alice,” and forced to stay a little girl. She describes herself as a living dead girl, because she’s “only partway there,” wanting death with every breath, but unable to get rid of that survival instinct. She tells this story, and her narrative voice is bare, jaded, old, but still so young.
She’s getting too old, though, getting too tall, too fat, too mature. So her captor, Ray, wants a new girl, and he wants “Alice” to help him find her and teach her how to be his. And of course, she agrees, because at this point, she doesn’t know how to do anything else. Ray has been telling her over and over again that he’ll kill her family if she does anything wrong. Also, she hopes that he’ll leave her alone if there’s a new girl. “Better you than me,” she thinks. The book dares you to blame her, but you can’t. How could you?
It’s a short book with short chapters, and I’m glad, because too much, and it would lose its power. Less is more here, because any more would be way too much. I don’t think I could have handled more.
What makes this book so good and horrible at the same time is its tired narrator. “Alice” is a walking cry for help, but no one hears her, and that’s why even though this book is so hard to read, I think it should be read, even by young adults, if they can handle it. This is the only voice she’s allowed to have in the book, and it’s more than what actual victims of abuse have.
I have to say, though, that I didn’t love the ending. I felt like I had to suspend my disbelief one too many times. And it wasn’t exactly a satisfying ending, but I’m still trying to figure out if I should fault it for that.
I feel like I can’t say I liked this book. I didn’t enjoy it. The subject matter is not something to be enjoyed. But it’s good. It’s good, and it’s worth reading, for some, because it’s a voice that shouldn’t be silenced. It’s hard to read, though. Easy and hard, I should say. The pages fly by, and you have to finish it, because if you don’t keep going, it feels like you’re leaving her there, and maybe if you get to the end, she can be free. Maybe. I’ll let you find that out for yourself.