LIVING DEAD GIRL by Elizabeth Scott
Published September 2nd, 2008 by Simon Pulse
I’m going to start this one off with the Amazon summary:
Fans of Scott’s YA romances Perfect You or Bloom may be unprepared for the unrelieved terror within this chilling novel, about a 15-year-old girl who has spent the last five years being abused by a kidnapper named Ray and is kept powerless by Ray’s promise to harm her family if she makes one false move. The narrator knows she is the second of the girls Ray has abducted and renamed Alice; Ray killed the first when she outgrew her childlike body at 15, and now Alice half-hopes her own demise is approaching (I think of the knife in the kitchen, of the bridges I’ve seen from the bus… but the thing about hearts is that they always want to keep beating). Ray, however, has an even more sinister plan: he orders Alice to find a new girl, then train her to Ray’s tastes. Scott’s prose is spare and damning, relying on suggestive details and their impact on Alice to convey the unimaginable violence she repeatedly experiences. Disturbing but fascinating, the book exerts an inescapable grip on readers—like Alice, they have virtually no choice but to continue until the conclusion sets them free.
There’s something intrinsically haunting and beautiful about this book. Alice’s voice is bitter, broken, and devastating, and cuts through you as you read. You can feel her pain. Her fear is palpable. She’s someone you want to save, right from the very beginning. Every time Ray laid a hand on her, I cringed. My skin crawled. It’s a book you find yourself sinking into, deeper and deeper, until you’re absolutely lost in it. You wind up lost in Alice’s mind, and by the time you’re finished, all you can do is sit for a moment and just be.
Be thankful you are free.
As Amazon’s summary says, the prose is sparse, which leaves the reader to imagine lot of things. Sometimes, what you don’t see is worse than what you do. A line as simple as “he touched me” had me in near convulsions, and made me even angrier with Ray. Which I didn’t think was possible. But my hate for him grew as the story went on, until by the end I wished I could get rid of him myself. I felt as though he was a real person. And in a way, he is. There are Rays all over the world, living their sordid lives undetected. And the thought of that makes me sick, and makes me hate this Ray even more. I think it’s a sign of superb writing when you can make a reader feel that strongly about a character you only see for the length of one book. Even after I finished, I couldn’t get him out of my head.
The same goes for Alice. I couldn’t stop thinking about her either. This book isn’t just a story, it’s someone’s story. Not just Alice’s. Somewhere out there, there’s a girl just lke her, and what happened in the story is happening to her. The way Elizabeth Scott wrote the book really makes you think. And you realize that while this is a piece of fiction, for some little kid out there, it isn’t. And that added knowledge sits in the back of your mind, festering while you read, giving the story an added weight you don’t find in other novels.
Besides the story itself, the writing is incredible. The tiny details Alice notices stick with you. The way things are described are not your standard combination of adjectives, but the phrases are so beautiful and evocative that you know exactly what the words mean. A flower isn’t just a flower. Silence isn’t just silence. There’s always something more behind it. Alice’s thoughts flow from one to the next with ease, and you really get the sense that this poor, damaged, vulnerable, ruined girl is talking to you. I cried while reading it because I felt so connected to what was happening. And though I won’t give away the ending, I can’t decide whether my tears at the end were happy or sad. Maybe a mixture of both.
There really are no limits to what can be written about, but I especially applaud people like Elizabeth Scott who tackle subjects like this one. Lucy Christopher did it too, with STOLEN, another book I absolutely adore. People always ask things like, “why didn’t they try to escape?” “Why didn’t they fight back?” But how could you possibly understand if you’ve never been in that situation? I feel as though this particular book really answers that question. Or at least offers one possibility.
If I had to rate this book, I’d give it a 10 out of 10. Without blinking an eye. I said at the beginning that the story is haunting, and it will stay with you well after you’re finished. For those of you who enjoy the gritty, realistic side of YA, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy. And even if you aren’t, you probably should. You won’t regret it.