Living Dead Girl, by Elizabeth Scott – Book Review

Living Dead Girl, by Elizabeth Scott
Simon Pulse – September 9, 2009 – Paperback – 170 pages
Source: Personal Collection

This book is a stunner.  I am not even sure what to begin saying about it except that I started reading it, and couldn’t tear myself away.  The only reason that I didn’t finish this book in one sitting is that I had to go out and meet a friend.  Needless to say, I was a little late to that meeting.  I picked it up the first thing this morning and finished it very quickly.  I am in awe.

Living Dead Girl is not the type of book that you can say that you enjoy.  The subject matter is grim and Scott never flinches in this brutally honest portrayal of Alice, a fifteen year old girl who is abducted from the aquarium during a school field trip when she is just ten years old.  No one is more aware than Alice that she had been thoroughly damaged through the years of of vicious beatings, rapes and starvation that she has to endure from her captor, Ray, a man that her neighbors think is her father.  The corrosive and soul destroying effects of her situation make it all but impossible for Alice to hold on to her humanity, and especially her individual identity.  There was an “Alice” before her and now Ray wants her to find a replacement, which will mean her own death- a death that Alice welcomes.

Scott has crafted an amazing character and Alice’s voice is so very strong and present that you always feel where she is coming from. Even though most of the choices that she has in her life are limited and at times despicable, you empathize with her and wonder how it would even be possible to do or feel differently in her circumstances.  Alice’s moments of personal power are few and far between, and it is hard to begrudge her those brief opportunities to exercise control in a way that we take for granted.

One of the strengths that stand out for me in Living Dead Girl is the way that Scott holds the reader accountable for pointing fingers and assigning blame in experiences we can’t possibly understand.  We don’t look closely and investigate other experiences that seem difficult and more scary than our own.  There is a communal blindness that allows this type of wrongness and abuse to continue for as long as it does.  Through Alice, Scott addresses the way we as a society question victims and hold them responsible for not escaping their captors, for not speaking up more, for not telling people about the trouble that they are in.  This novel is probably as close as any of us will ever come to knowing why these things don’t happen. We refuse to see and then we blame them for not being rescued.

This is a difficult read, and while I see its value I also cringed in its presence.  As I read, I wondered to whom I would recommend this book and what purpose it might serve.  I gained something in sharing in Alice’s experience – a bit of depth that might not have existed before which will hopefully translate into a longer look at people I encounter and where they are really coming from, that will hopefully translate into more compassion.  Still, I am hesitant to make that choice for another , and say read this.

This is a young adult fiction novel, and even though the author says that teens are aware of what’s going on in the world (which I agree, they are) I would be hard pressed to put this in my cousin’s hands in six years, when she is sixteen.  I do highly recommend this novel if you like to experience other perspectives and lives, no matter how gritty and bleak they can be.  But be warned, Living Dead Girl is not for the faint of heart.

Highly Recommended.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane

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  1. Wow. I surprise myself sometimes when I read something that is harrowing, but I can’t put it down. Columbine was like that. I had nightmares, but was compelled to read it whenever I possibly could. This one sounds equally as disturbing, even though it is fiction. But YA? Seems a bit of a stretch. I will take your recommendation to heart.

  2. Now this sounds like one of those books I desperately want to read, and then once it sits on my nightstand, I’m just a little afraid to open up and delve inside.

    Great review Nicole.

  3. This book was very disturbing indeed, but a story that needed to be told. I’ve yet to recommend it to someone too only because of the subject matter. For me the twist was how much Alice was willing to do to get someone to take her place…excellent review!

  4. Great review, though I had a much harder time with this one. I found it a little more sensational so I had a hard time getting a clear message. Lots of shock and less of a lesson from my perspective. However you did remind me of the lesson about being ignorant or turning a blind eye to these situations. It certainly does get one’s attention and do away with apathy!

  5. Powerful review Nicole. I think I would like to try reading this one. Books like this are so hard to describe how they make you feel – I have reviewed books with hard subject matter and words like “I enjoyed, this was fantastic”… just can not be used. You did a good job on describing a tough read.

    Adding to my list to look for at the library.

  6. I don’t read much YA fiction, but I might make the exception here. It sounds similar to Still Missing, which I read last month. Great review, so thanks for the introduction!

  7. I will read this one. This reminds me of a true story here in California of a young girl kidnapped at 10 or 11 who was held captive by her kidnapper and his wife. She had two children with the man and eventually (through a series of circumstances) was found 15+ years later. The State of California just agreed to pay her and her two daughters a $20 million settlement because the parole officers did not take numerous opportunities to realize that her kidnapper ( a convicted child molester) had his kidnap victim and the children living in his backyard. An unbelievable story that had many questioning how the young lady never tried to run away, even when she had opportunity. It is amazing how people will blame the victim and not understand what they went through. Anyway, your book review reminds me of this true case.

  8. Even though I know this one is wonderful, I just can’t make myself read it. It makes my stomach clench just thinking about it. I don’t know. It’s too much for me or something.

  9. I was wounding if this book is good for a teenager girls to read this book at there ages ?